Best Practices for Telling Founder Stories
This blog talks about best practices for telling executive leader and founder stories.
A lot of small and mid-sized companies are still founder-led. This is such an advantage, storytelling pros! Candidates love hearing founder stories. And when told in a compelling way, founder stories can also reinforce key culture concepts and strengthen connection to your brand amongst candidates, employees, and customers alike.
As you prepare to interview your founders, here are best practices for telling company founder stories with real examples.
Ask about the problem their company is solving
We know, the Story is the Thing…so this may seem like a counterintuitive start. But, don’t sleep on this question, even though it might not seem part of a story strategy.
Your goal as the culture communicator is to get your founder or executive leader comfortable and conversational. If your founder is camera-shy or approaches the process in a very formal way, you can start with a perfect softball question: “Tell me about the problem your company is solving.” Founders have devoted their lives thinking about this very thing and always have a ton to say.
There’s two reasons:
- They are well-informed. Founders have had to obsess about this subject. And, they usually also have data that has validated their approach and/or that illustrates the weight of the problem.
- They are passionate. This question really gets founders to their personal and professional purpose and the “why” behind the company.
With one question you’ll get both passion and reason, and this sets you up for a great conversation. Bonus: your founder’s answer to this question will make for compelling content about what you do and why the business exists as well as provide some context to the founder story.
In this video, two founders talk about their business. Andrew Parker starts with a personal story and shares data. Alfredo Vaamonde immediately jumps to a statistic that bring purpose to their company: “Loneliness is the equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes a day.”
Humanize (or animate!) your founder or executive leader
Founders have fought to be taken seriously since Day 1. Sometimes, your audience only sees one version of a founder. But culture communicators know to really connect with an audience, showing a founder’s human side is important. Founders also know this too, but may need your help being vulnerable without losing credibility.
Early stories from cofounders and leaders are great equalizers. They remind candidates, employees and customers that company cofounders and leaders are people too.
This video humanizes (and animates!) Steven Freidkin, the founder of Ntiva. And, it tells the story of how he built a people-centric business.
Honor the Journey
A founder experiences many ups and downs over the course of building a company. As a culture communicator, ask about those early wins and lessons learned. These pivotal moments often shaped the founding values of the company — some that may still be alive today.
Frontpoint co-founders Chris Villar and Aaron Shumaker reveal how a conversation with their very first customer helped them realize how important customer service would be to their success. This value is still very much alive in their business model today.
Interested in capturing stories from your team members?
Show how your team connects to your founding story
Did we mention that people love founding stories? If you’re in a small or mid-sized company, we’d bet that many members of your company joined because of the founders, company mission, culture, or a combination of the three. Once you’re done uncovering stories from your founders, interviewing team members about how they connect to the company’s origins is a great way to show how the founders’ vision had a lasting impact.
At Eleven Peppers, a small visual communications studio, husband and wife co-founders Bryan and Kristen Parks share how they chose the company’s unique name and various team members share what the name means to them personally.
When building rapport with a founder, acknowledge that you understand all the hard work involved in building a company. But, now it’s time to celebrate all that’s happened. Tom and David Gardner had fun remembering what it took to build the company that thrives today, and it comes through in not only the stories they tell but also with the video visuals.
Founder Stories: The Most Versatile Employee Story
Founding stories are some of the most versatile employee story content you can create. It fits across all channels. It serves customers, prospects, candidates, alumni, employees, and more. You can use it to celebrate an anniversary. You can use it as a Welcome video. The possibilities are endless.