The Power of Storytelling

 
Those who tell the stories rule society.
— Plato
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When I listen to the best and powerful speakers, whether in business, politics, or religion, I find myself highly engaged as they usually get their point across through storytelling. 

The most successful people are exceptional storytellers, and they use that skillset very effectively. Most people are not impressed or motivated by data, technical knowledge, or irrelevant details. They are captivated and convinced through stories that they can relate to. It is through stories that we connect to people and build rapport. As Jim Crace said, “Humankind has been telling stories forever and will be telling stories forever.” 

When I first began venture investing, I focused on the usual, the team, KPIs, market, and unit economics. I assessed the management team based on their skills, experience, and abilities. Now, many years and mistakes later, I view things differently. From an investor’s point of view, storytelling is essential, as it is key to building rapport. And to succeed one must understand how to connect, deal with, and build rapport with all the key stake holders.

Talent

Recruiting the best talent is not always about paying more. Someone will always be there to offer more. It is about convincing that individual that your vision, your story, is worth taking the risk. It is not about joining just another company, it is about how this company is going to change the world, and the positive impact it will make.

Customers

Best companies and entrepreneurs do not sell features and functionalities, they sell the impact and emotions that the product or service will have on the customer through storytelling.

Investors

Investors are a unique and selfish bunch. Every investor is focused on his/her fund’s performance, and the prospect of the next fund. So, they are highly focused on entrepreneurs that can get to the next round and ultimately help create a liquidity event. And experience shows that the entrepreneurs that consistently succeed have exceptional interpersonal and storytelling abilities.

Vendors & Service Providers

In every business, there are good and not so good vendors and service providers. The best are always in high demand, as they can be really valuable assets. These vendors and advisors look for long-term, mutually beneficial relationships, and thus look for entrepreneurs that they deem will have the highest probability of success.

Board Members

The best executives know that they have to manage their boards the same way they manage employees, investors, and customers. They must manage expectations, ensure alignment of objectives, and build relationships that can last through the inevitable ups and downs of the business. 

Backable entrepreneurs are great storytellers.They are able to articulate a message in a way that investors, customers and employees can connect with. They take a difficult, complicated subject, and break it down so that everyone can understand the problem and how it could be solved. They do not try to exaggerate, pontificate, or try to make themselves look smarter than the audience. They are sincere and humble.

As Umberto Eco said in The Island of the Day Before, “To survive, you must tell stories.” 

Ivan Nikkhoo

June 2018

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Ivan Nikkhoo