March 24, 2021 6 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
The 777-300 took off from Istanbul Ataturk airport at 1:20 am on a February day to Hong Kong, the city where I had a meeting with a client to start a project. Turkish Airlines Flight 70 was going to take about 10 hours to fly over all of Asia, so I decided to have a light dinner and get some sleep to stay awake when the plane passed through Indochina. I had wonderful memories of that region that I had not visited in more than 20 years, so I was very excited to see it, even from a height of more than thirty thousand feet.
Sitting next to me was a middle-aged woman who, from her accent when speaking English to the stewardess, sounded Greek to me. While we were served our first drinks and some trays of nuts, the woman introduced herself and told me that she was going to China, as she did once a year, to visit some suppliers. I tried to mentally imagine what his business was. “Textile!” I thought to myself. I took a sip of mineral water and without being able to resist the curiosity to know if he had been correct, I asked him:
“What sector do you work in?”
“Equipment for eye doctors,” he told me in English clearly learned in England. We used to buy them in Europe, but lately we use Chinese manufacturers who have good prices and good quality. (Obviously, he was wrong).
“Do you live in Athens?” -asked.
-Yes. Although I am from Patmos, an island in the Dodecanese. And you?
“I live in Miami,” I said, “but I was born in Italy.”
-Italy! My grandfather spoke Italian, ”he told me. My island was Italian until the Second World War, so my “nonno” spoke it. But young people no longer. Has been lost. And what do you do?
“Uuummm,” I thought. “How do I explain to an expert in optical and electronic devices that I am dedicated to building stories for brands and organizations?”
Most entrepreneurs and business leaders are used to moving in a familiar environment, in which they are surrounded by people who share the same context, so they rarely have to explain what they do to someone who belongs to a totally different world. .
Imagine, for example, a young Mexican businesswoman who, together with her sister, has created a micro-business to produce a guajillo chili sauce, using a recipe that has remained in the family for generations. Since she was a child, our businesswoman had heard how the neighbors praised the guajillo sauce that her grandmother prepared with her secret recipe, so after finishing her studies, she had decided to start making it and selling it in the neighborhood. In a short time, not only friends bought the sauce but some stores in his city began to ask for it to sell to their customers. Things started to go well and one day our businesswoman decides to fulfill a dream that she has had since she was a primary school student, to go to Paris. During an excursion to Versailles, on the bus, a Japanese tourist sits next to him for conversation. Our businesswoman knows that in the next few minutes she will have to explain what she does to someone who knows nothing about Mexico and has certainly never heard of guajillo peppers.
What would you answer? “Am I in the food business?”, “Do I manufacture processed products?”, Or perhaps you could answer: “I bring the traditional flavors of Mexico to millions of people.” Or even better, you could say: “I make a product that, for Mexicans, is like Teriyaki sauce for Japanese.”
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A Colombian businessman, who owns a company that manufactures sweets and candies, is invited to the wedding of the daughter of a good friend of his that takes place in Miami. During the party that follows the ceremony, the father of the bride introduces our businessman to his North American father-in-law. How would you describe him?
“He is Pablo, the largest candy manufacturer in Colombia”, or he could also phrase the thing differently: “He is Pablo, the greatest ally of Colombian dentists, millions of people owe their cavities to him”.
Surely our employer would prefer that his friend introduce him saying: “He is Pablo. For us Colombians, the candies that he makes are the flavor of the memories of our childhood ”.
One of the first tasks that any entrepreneur or businessperson should do is to identify how they would like to describe or how they would like a friend to describe what they do in a few words, even addressing someone who does not have any cultural or social context of the organization or the brand . Because, obviously, having the appropriate story to use at any time, like the Mexican businesswoman in Paris, or planted in the minds of the people around us, like the Colombian candy maker, is of enormous importance.
Determining the history of the brand or the organization is a delicate matter and, for that reason, I decided to write a workbook that would indicate in a practical way the steps to follow.
The purpose of this column is to suggest practical and easily implementable tools to achieve those goals. The first thing, in any case, is to determine where the brand or organization comes from, where it is at the moment and, above all, where it is going in the future. To read more about this initial process .