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Running Your Business:
Start With Your Story
By Rick Hendrie

During the question and answer portion of one of my recent presentations, an attendee asked, "I appreciate all the GEMS you offer, but where do I start? Where is the first step?"

GEM # 1 may be Know Thy Audience, but ground zero is your story.

We are products of our individual stories. There are forces, be they people or events, that have formed us, motivated us to be where we are today. All of us do what we do because of the stories we have. It is those I want you to access.

I met with a client, a man with a design firm, to discuss branding. The first question out of my mouth when we sat down was, "What is your story? What got you here today? What gets you out of bed in the morning? And the answer, 'to make money' is not acceptable."

He pondered my question then proceeded to tell me about the first job he got as a junior designer. The multi-billion dollar company for whom he worked had little regard for him or others like him. Instead of getting fed up or whiny, he decided to do something. After doing enormous research into like companies with similar set ups, he discovered that he was both underpaid and under 'titled'. With great precision, he built a case for his value (and, by the way, for others in the company in a similar plight) and began a methodical campaign to get the recognition and salary commensurate with his work. The interesting thing here is that his step-by-step process of raising awareness and standing up for his value caused the head of the department, a senior executive, to come by and say to him, "I just had to come by and see for myself just who this guy is making such a determined case for more money and recognition."

This client's brand personality is around being bold, but his story is about standing up for who you are without the accompanying over inflated ego. In effect, his actions caused senior executives in the company to ask,"WHO IS THAT GUY?" Without a moments pause, I said, "That's your story. Your life is about helping everyone make the kind of impression that causes other to ask, 'Who is that guy?' Everyone wants to have others seek them out and be the 'Who is that guy?' guy. That's you story."

A broad smile crossed his face, as if a great rock had been lifted from his back. "I thought my story was about quality or whatever." No, the story is the essential experience you choose which sets the stage for all that you do. It's intentional. It's specific. It's personal.

The upshot is that everything that client does is filtered through the lens of 'Who is that guy?'

How do your find your story? Ask yourself these questions

1. What gets me out of bed every morning to run my business? It's not enough to say, 'To make money.' Life in business is too hard to use that as the primary motivator. It's something else

2. Who are my heroes? What qualities do I admire and where did I see them manifested in my hero's life?

3. What are my greatest successes? What did I do, specifically, to have that occur?

There are other stories you need to craft on your way to be a powerful brand. You'll need to compose the story that specifically supports your brand or company values. As example. Zingermans in Michigan ( does a great job with this. Or the story of the ideal guest experience. For that I suggest you seek out Ritz Carlton at or Chipotle Grill's website, They express their guest experience in their own unique and distinctive way.

But first, you must find your own story. Find some event, some person who made that seminal impression on you. When you get it, I guarantee you'll enjoy the same kind of 'A-Ha' moment my client did. It's the fuel for the greatness that follows. Just remember that you are most creative when you are most specific and personal.

Anything and everything is fair game, all fodder for you to access those primal experiences. Once you realize what you're about, the business you have will change before your eyes. The first law in Branding is that a Brand is in the Eye of the Beholder. In this instance, that beholder is you.

Richard K. Hendrie is the Chief Experience Officer of Link Inc., Remarkable Branding, a restaurant consulting and coaching firm. You can contact Rick at or 617-335-1011.

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