We all have a favorite tale in life. For some it is a piece of classical fiction such as “Lord of the Rings” or even something like “Animal Farm.” Others prefer nonfictional historical accounts. There are many great tales, too, in the study of world religions and mythologies. There are a few of us who even hold our preferences in guilty pleasures akin to comics or romance novels. Despite the myriad sources we draw upon, there is yet one tale we tend to treat with special regard … our own.
Mr. Koreander: Your books are safe. While you're reading them, you get to become Tarzan or Robinson Crusoe.
Bastian: But that's what I like about 'em.
Mr. Koreander: Ahh, but afterwards you get to be a little boy again.
Bastian: Wh-what do you mean?
Mr. Koreander: Listen. Have you ever been Captain Nemo, trapped inside your submarine while the giant squid is attacking you?
Mr. Koreander: Weren't you afraid you couldn't escape?
Bastian: But it's only a story.
Mr. Koreander: That's what I'm talking about. The ones you read are safe.
Bastian: And that one isn't?
That’s right, Bastian, this one isn’t.
The lesson we can take from this quote (“The NeverEnding Story,” fantasy/adventure, 1984 – a year that is a good read in itself) is that we are all living our own stories – but must realize we can’t just close the cover on them. They entwine, flare up, settle down, and sadly at some point end. So it is imperative we make the most of our storytelling time together, especially if you are looking to go into business for yourself.
Human beings are hardwired for this stuff. Storytelling is, arguably next to opposable thumbs, what differentiates us from the other animals. In business this is why ad agencies thrive or owners tie themselves into their brand. This is why creative architecture exists. Great Wolf Lodge most likely wasn’t built with the simple thought of “log cabins look cool” (if it was then I appreciate your taste and respect your luck). Instead, it invokes memories we have in fantasy and history and is a takeaway souvenir we can share with our friends back home.
So, as an individual and/or business owner, you must be willing to invest in your own story. Inspire your patrons. You don’t need a million-dollar ad agency to help with that. Put up personal artifacts around your shop. Not just a picture of your family. Maybe you collect dream catchers? Put a few up. Not for sale, but for inspiration and a visual aid and illustration to your story. Let it invoke questions and draw your reader, er, I mean customer, comfortably into who you are and what you do. If you have been in local, small businesses like Jo Wok or Munchie Monkey you will see this; and if I just reminded you of what I reference in each it worked, didn’t it?
Also, be sure to use tools that will enable your story to be heard and more importantly – retold. Facebook is excellent for this if you are consistent with posting times and content (please don’t use it to share your FarmVille accomplishments). Twitter can help and even many point of sale software packages allow you to email and/or text your registered customers with news and offers! Going back to Facebook, if you use a business account you can receive all kinds of relevant data about your followers to better tailor your goods and services. You don’t want to read “It” to a room of fifth graders after all.
Do you have any stories you’d suggest to others?
“Ishmael” – Daniel Quinn (philosophy)
“We3” – Grant Morrison (fiction, graphic novel)
“The Accidental Office Lady: An American Woman in Corporate Japan” – Laura Kriska (cultural, nonfiction)