Do you want to be perfect or brave?

Ahh, the brutal truth of self-awareness. Sometimes our best traits, when in over-drive, don’t serve us well.

My Mom said, “if it is worth doing, it is worth doing well” and I heard her! I have lived by it. I don’t like half way – ever. Generally, that works for me and I love pushing myself. But sometimes too much of a good thing sends me right to perfectionism and procrastination. Which is really fear dressed up in 2 different costumes.

And wow – Fear, I am so done with you!

C’mon Brave – let’s get to that party now!

Would you rather be brave or perfect?

Things Have Shifted

Could you feel the shift?

I felt it this weekend.

I am not sure if it was that the buds on the trees seemed to burst in front of my eyes, that the grass was tinged with green, or our puppy Stella’s insane spring fever, but I felt it!

It echoed what I have been experiencing at The Story Co., too.

Since the pandemic clients have been gradually shifting from crisis mode to vision mode. Now, we are asking, “where to from here?” The questions are more hopeful and also more helpful. There is an openness to new ways of thinking.

This time last year our whole family was wrapped up in the Raptors’ triumphant run for the playoffs. (I’m seriously missing the Raptors but I promise no pivot analogies!)

Remember that game winning shot by Kawhi? There was a collective gasp at our house and all across the nation. With each exciting game I became really impatient, craving to know how the story would end.

I feel the same way now!

With the Raptors story I only saw it ending one way.

There was so much to cheer for; the nation, the underdog, the star, the hustle, the fans.

And at that pivotal moment was the shift.

We went from a nation shaking our heads at the luck of having a chance to win it all, to a nation believing we were champions.

Maybe it feels like all you have been doing is shifting and changing gears lately.

But all this shifting is making us into believers.

Retailers began this pandemic by shaking their heads wondering how they could possibly get an online store up and running so quickly, to seeing it now as a permanent income stream.

The gyms and yoga studios that now know that online classes will be here forever. Universities and educational institutions, not designed for being nimble, shifted gears completely getting online classes up and exams written. Masks were produced in basements; factories were re-tooled.

In the process raving fans have been created. The kind that never forget how when the chips were down you were there and willing to help with what you do best. That is what we live for. That is the soul of a purpose brand.

The “what” and “how” we do business has changed radically.

The raw innovation is profound.

The shift is real.

Keep going.

What happens when you can’t deliver on your brand promise?

I once owned a company named Starstruck, and we manufactured and exported a line of women’s clothing to 320 stores in the US and 120 in Canada.

It is quite a story. 

A big part of that story is that not everything went as planned. Well, to be honest everyday something didn’t go as planned. It was the nature of the beast. Sometimes things went better than we ever could have imagined. (It really did help to be an eternal optimist in the world of manufacturing women’s fashion.)

There are so many stories, but I’ll tell you one in particular. I know exactly where I was standing when the call came in from our fabric supplier. It had been a great day, sales were up, our new line had been well received, our local retail store was humming. It was early afternoon on a sunny spring day; the kind of day that convinces you winter will never come back. I clearly remember feeling like we were on top of our game. 

But, back to the call: our container was stuck in the Pacific Ocean just off the coast of Vancouver. There was a labour strike at the docks. Nothing was moving. There was no foreseeable end in sight, and no one could tell us exactly when we would receive our goods. 

We had tight turnarounds – fashion is like that. What retailer wants a shipment of winter coats in April? 

There were substantial financial ramifications. Some of our bigger department store clients had relentless one-sided terms. Of course we had reluctantly agreed to them because of the significant advantages of being carried by the ‘bigs’. They were essential to our growth. But those sales were a double-edged sword and we were about to feel the sharp side. 

Big retail understands the cost of holding inventory that is not on the sales floor, so deliveries were tightly timed. We were given a 10-day delivery window and every day an order was late we would lose 30% of the value of the order. This business was not for the faint of heart. Likely you have guessed that US department stores did not particularly care about the strike “up in Canada”.

Late deliveries were hard on our smaller retailers too. Although the ‘bigs’ were essential to our growth, the smaller and mid-sized retailers kept us in business – they were always our long game. 

Manufacturing is at the best of times a massive amount of moving parts. The domino effect when one of those parts goes astray, well I can feel the headache all over again.

What hurt the most was late deliveries were so off-brand. This is not what our brand promised. We knew how important it was to be true to our word. “Fashionably late” did not cut it.

We were living in the land of Porter’s Five Forces! I don’t always think that “academic” models actually live very well in the real world, but this smacked of  one of the five forces.

The Porter’s Five Forces model examines five key aspects of your company’s competitiveness. One of the five forces is Supplier Power. Wow, did we find out that our supplier had a lot of power!! Of course long before Porter, our mothers had told us “don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” Always listen to your mother! 

So, I got on the phone to explain that orders would be late.  The true story felt like such a ‘roll your eyes’, dog-ate-my-homework kind of story. I pictured the response, “Seriously this is the line you are going to give us?”  My palms were sweating, I paced as I talked (10,00 steps was not a problem!), my stomach turned. The self-doubt gremlin arrived.  Maybe we weren’t going to make it?

On the other end of the phone the response was not what I expected. 

We had a reputation of living our brand promise. We had made significant deposits. They believed us and more importantly they believed we would do the best we could. It was truly humbling to see the trust they had in us.

They were also truly shocked that we called and owned up. 

What happens when you can’t deliver on your brand promise?

Be transparent. 

Own up. This is not the time for hide-and-seek.

Make it personal.

It’s hard to imagine, but in the toughest of times the strongest relationships are forged. If you can’t deliver on your band promise, it’s a big deal. Recognize that.  Go to the highest rung on the ladder and have whoever that is make the call. It will never be forgotten that you cared that much. 

Take care of your Porter’s Five Forces.

Look at each of the five forces and review the strength of your competitors, supplier power, buyer power, threats of substitution, and threats of new entry. It’s a handy tool to protect your competitiveness. 

As for this ‘drink from the fire hose’ Starstruck tale . . . we made it out alive.  The strength of our brand promise saved us. The strike ended, fabric arrived, we worked like dogs (not like the dog sleeping at my feet right now), to turn raw goods into finished goods, and then into shipped goods.

Then we doubled our number of suppliers.

And went merrily along making more deposits in our brand promise account. (I do love a happy ending)

Five tips for creating a website that tells your story

It is always easier to tell someone else’s story. No wonder people have gossiped for centuries. Talking about someone else is the easy part!

Telling our own story can bring up all kinds of what if’s, not now’s, moments of intense clarity balanced with harrowing bouts of self-doubt. We know; we get it, we just went through it!

Here are some tips we swear by (not that we swear often but sometimes it just happens).

Unlearn boring– this is not the time to play it safe. You can stand out in the marketplace by simply not being boring and telling your own story! There are a zillion boring sites out there. Not being one of them is easier than you think. We are crying out to be fascinated by your story and someone did all the hard work to find you on the endless world wide web so don’t disappoint – it the worst kind of lunch bag let down. No excuses either, it does not matter what industry you are in. Trust me no one wants boring. If Tangerine could make banking seem fun and fresh, and turn a rather stodgy industry on its head so can you! (I mean whoever thought a bank named after my favourite food would be a success!)

Do the hard work. The hard work has nothing to do with fonts, colour palletes or menu bars. Those are important but you don’t have a chance of getting that right if you don’t do the hard work first. What is the hard work? Getting your story straight!! You have known since you were a teenager that not getting your story straight lands you in hot water.

Get started by answering these 3 questions:

  1. Here is the big one – What is your purpose?Why do you do what you do? What is your legacy? What is your impact for social good?

Let your heart and soul answer this question.

  1. What do you do? Here is a hint: this question is never answered with a product number or SKU and the answer has nothing to do with you. After all, we are a rather “me-first centered world”. We actually care less about the product than you might imagine. Because likely someone else has the same or what seems to be a similar type of product. If you can show me that your “what” is exactly what matters to me today, right now and in the future – you have my attention.

Let your visionary, vulnerable self answer this one.

  1. How do you do what you do? You are not like anyone else. DNA proved that long ago so shine a light on your weirdness and show me that your weirdness is just what I need. Let your brand personality fascinate me.

To get at your “How” answer this question: how do you value the bonds between you and your bestie clients or customer?

Let your ‘brave, self aware’ version of yourself answer this.

Answering these 3 questions forms a benevolent triad. Benevolent triads are steeped in trust.

Trust is the cornerstone of sustainable business.

So let it rip.

Be irresistible; show us your why, your what and your how. Live your story, the one no one else can live. Trust me we are gonna love you for it!

You Can’t Fake Purpose

What a conundrum: we live is such a transparent world that often seems anything but transparent.

Social media has allowed us to see more than we want to see about people, companies and brands. If you or your company are not walking the talk someone will notice and likely call you out. That can scare brands away from being who they really are.

Fake news, fake Insta, fake FB. We are tired of all of it. A culture of impatience and a hunger to impact the greater good is surging.

And that is where the opportunity lies.

Brands that are purpose driven don’t hide. You can’t fake purpose and why would you? In repeated surveys and on every measure of business success, purpose driven brands outperform brands that either are not purpose driven, or cannot communicate their purpose.

Brave brands stand up for their why and are rewarded for it.

Is purpose driving your business?

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