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5 Stories Every Entrepreneur Should Be Able To Tell

August 6, 2013 Leave a comment

Nothing has the power to engage people like a great story. From a carefully crafted elevator pitch to the perfect customer testimonial, a great narrative can propel your brand and business like nothing else. Stories that resonate attract incredible teams, devoted customers, investors, and press. Identifying the authentic, compelling stories of your company is something every entrepreneur should take the time to do. Here are five stories you should be able to tell at the drop of a hat:

1. Your origin story.

TaskRabbit was born on a cold Boston evening in 2008. My husband and I were about to leave for dinner when we realized that we were out of food for our giant yellow lab, Kobe. I thought about how great it would be to have the heavy bag of dog food delivered right to my home. Then I thought about how one of my neighbors was probably at the store at that exact moment — and they’d probably be willing to pick up Kobe’s dinner if only they had some way of knowing that I needed it.

From this idea I built TaskRabbit, a platform for delegating tasks and errands to friendly, background checked neighbors. The company has grown tremendously since then — we’re now live in nine U.S. cities with dedicated experiences for deliveries and businesses — and I tell our origin story almost every day. Our customers and the community here in San Francisco came to love Kobe so much that, when he passed away last summer, theChronicle ran a full-page obituary in tribute to him.

2. Your desired future.

What does the world look like when your company scales? Have you thought about this? Is it wonderful? Is it inspiring enough to attract a dynamite team, fantastic advisors, and potential investors? Telling the story of the future you want to help create will get the right people excited about your company.

At TaskRabbit, we’re on a mission to revolutionize the way people work. That future is like rocket fuel to me. I see talented people taking charge of their own schedules and making a great living that’s integrated with their lives. I see people increasing their productivity and happiness by leaning on one another to get things done. I see entrepreneurs getting qualified help as they grow their companies. I see this happening all around the country and all around the world. It’s a future I can already see unfolding — and a story I love to tell.

3. A learning moment.

Failure is awesome. Failure means you tried something, you tested it, and you learned some things. Failure gives you the tools to move forward. Telling people about the times when you fell short and learned something substantial is very effective. It shows that you’re working hard to do better.

At TaskRabbit, we’re very iterative about everything we do, so we pay careful attention to our failures (they’re pretty much our inspiration). Here’s a story of how a recent one helped us build something great: We’ve known for awhile that business customers make up a large percentage of our users, we’ve heard stories from these customers about how TaskRabbits are helping out as office managers, customer service representatives, even on-demand delivery engines. These customers told us how they hacked together solutions on our platform because we didn’t provide the features they needed. We learned that we were failing them. Identifying that failure was an “a-ha” moment for our team.

We reached out to these customers, heard more of their stories, and learned that we could offer them something truly revolutionary to help their businesses thrive. From this learning moment, TaskRabbit for Business emerged. This new platform is tailor-made for our business users, and it’s one of the best products we’ve ever released.

4. A truly meaningful anecdote.

Since TaskRabbits become part of the rhythm of people’s lives, our community is full of meaningful stories. Some are funny — like the one about the guy who had a pallet of 365 boxes of ramen noodles delivered to a coworker to settle a bet. Some are touching — like the one about the romantic who hired a TaskRabbit to take a photograph of him proposing to his girlfriend or the one about the grandmother who used her TaskRabbit earnings to take her grandson to Disneyland. And some are positively life changing — like the one about the mother who hired a TaskRabbit to sit with her son during his chemotherapy sessions, more than 3,000 miles away.

These stories illustrate, in a way slogans or taglines or ad copy never could, the impact we make in the lives of our customers. Meaningful stories like these can be worked into press interviews and keynote speeches, brighten up email marketing and social content, and give every single person on your team an arsenal of pithy, powerful tools to evangelize your brand.

5. Your inner monologue.

From your team to your board to the customers that keep your business alive, everyone who’s made a commitment to your company deserves to know what motivates you. Sharing the story of why you’ve dedicated your life to this thing that you’re doing is a powerful and authentic way to make an impression. My story’s simple: I love TaskRabbit.

I live it, I breathe it. It makes me smile, and cry, and laugh, and yes, sometimes it even makes me scream. I love it. Knowing that TaskRabbit — a company born from an idea I had one night and nurtured by a brilliant team, dedicated board, and incredible customers — is poised to revolutionize work as we know is what motivates me.

I wake up every single morning with a singular goal: To do everything possible to move my company forward in the next 24 hours.

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It’s your ATTITUDE not your APTITUDE that determines your ALTITUDE by James Caan CEO of Hamilton Bradshaw

May 3, 2013 5 comments

To be successful in any area in life you need to have the right attitude, which means you have to approach any task or job with determination, tenacity and above all plenty of enthusiasm.

In business, when it comes to choosing the right individual for a certain post or promotion, I have always gone for people who have PMA – in other words Positive Mental Attitude.

Leadership and business management comes with its own set of challenges and pressures and it is a common mistake to let these problems and distractions become the major focus – that is why it is so important for senior managers to always look forward rather than backwards.

Of course, it is important for people to have skills, training and experience but I have always been a huge believer in putting attitude above aptitude. You can come fully equipped for a role but without real enthusiasm the best skill-set will count for very little. You can train somebody and give them the tools but you can’t give them the right attitude.

In my view there are two types of people in this world, and those who take the glass half empty approach are simply setting themselves up for failure no matter what targets they set themselves.

In any situation in life, people are looking for leaders to guide and direct them. That is particularly the case when you are going through a difficult or challenging period in the development of a company. Always remember there is only one person watching them and hundreds watching you.

I have always been a believer in leading by example and the nature or character of an organisation is more often than not shaped by the person at the top – that is why it is so important for senior executives to set the right tone and atmosphere.

Staff can instinctively grasp when something is not right within a business and it is vital not to panic and send out the wrong message during those difficult times and tough trading conditions – in other words stay positive.

More importantly, having the right attitude can have a real impact on the business in terms of its performance. There are too many organisations which allow a blame culture to flourish without properly understanding the negative effect it can have on the business.

When I have a bad month in my organisation, I get the senior management team together to discuss the reasons why performance isn’t the best. About 20 per cent of the meeting is normally taken up with looking at exactly what went wrong and the rest is spent discussing how to put the problem right.

Of course, it is really important to understand why something has not worked but it is even more important not to get caught up with the process of looking backwards. A firm which prefers to look to the past rather than to the future is always going to struggle in the long term.

The key to real success is an ability to adapt to change, and that will never happen if you approach every challenge with a negative attitude. People with the right mental attitude can always take something positive from a difficult situation and most important of all, will be constantly looking at ways of moving a business on to the next stage of its journey or development.

James Cann

James Cann

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