As Hollywood classics share the Hero’s Journey structure in their DNA, some of the best businesses are also run by people who believe in the power of taking the time to craft and continuously improve their own personal stories and consequently that of the business.
“Change your story, change your life. Divorce the story of limitation and marry the story of the truth and everything changes” – Tony Robbins
All of these businesses were started by people with extraordinary faith, determination, vision and resourcefulness. People who have determination and vision seem to somehow live lives worthy of the big screen.
Maybe they intentionally plan out every scene of their life and that of their business’s or maybe their sheer determination, ability to ground themselves in reality whilst striving for their vision creates an aura where those around them are compelled to engage, help and follow on the path they’re trailblazing.
As I’m not yet a successful business owner (only someone repeatedly overcoming Resistance to show up and write as every writer should), I don’t yet understand the mystery of running a profitable business that’s praised by employees and customers alike.
Sure, banks are profitable businesses but not too many people organise user-group meet-ups or feel they’re part of something bigger than themselves just because they’re enjoying low-interest rates on their home loans with a particular bank. This may change of course, but for right now – it just ain’t so…
How are Harley-Davidson, Basecamp and Thankyou following the hero’s journey to compel us their employees and customers? Jeff Bezos of Amazon places extraordinary importance on executive teams writing memos in narrative structure because he understands that writing is a powerful introspection and a communication tool which builds culture and brand.
Let’s look at how Harley-Davidson, Basecamp and Thankyou developed their own stories and conseuqently cultures.
Here’s the Hero’s Journey Structure:
The leaders of each company had a call to adventure which they may have resisted for a while but eventually received enough compelling evidence to move into the uncharted territory, “the unknown” to develop new products and services. There was risk involved but as Mark Zuckerberg has been attributed to saying, the greatest risk in a rapidly changing world is not taking any risk at all.
What were the challenges each company was facing?
- Harley Davidson had to overcome the surge of Japanese motorcycles in the 80s which were superior in quality.
- Basecamp started out as a web development company. With rapid growth and email being their only way to keep track of projects things started getting crazy at work.
- Thankyou is the story of Uni drop-out Daniel and his friends who saw the world differently. They had a vision of eliminating poverty by harnessing the power of the free market. Daniel had an idea to sell bottled water where the profits would be donated to development projects making clean water available to poor communities. They faced the wrath of large corporates in the water game.
How did they overcome these challenges?
- Harley-Davidson innovated their production and started the infamous Harley Davidson Owners Group, HOG. HOG became a fertile ground for sharing stories of lifelong Harley-Davidson devotees, including a woman in her 90s who plans to go cross country when she’s 100.
- Basecamp, previously known as 37 Signals, developed Basecamp, a project management tool to keep track of their projects. They saw they had a hit with Basecamp as their clients and others in their network loved it and soon they were making more money developing and selling Basecamp than developing websites.
- Thankyou had corporate competitors playing dirty by throwing their weight around and getting in the way of their distribution. They managed to overcome challenges through getting the word out about their products on social media and word of mouth.
- Harley Bros and Davidson had a vision to give people personal freedom. The company which was started in 1903 is growing because of the intense loyalty of Harley-Davidson owners who identify with the company’s values.
- Jason Fried, founder of Basecamp has written several books about his style of management at his company. The books are called Defensive Design for the Web (2004), Getting Real: the Smarter, Faster, Easier Way to Build a Successful Web Application (2006), Rework (2010), Remote: Office Not Required (2013) and It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work (2018). All of these books reflect Basecamp’s vision for free, empowered and self-managing workforce in the connection economy.
- Daniel Flynn continues to launch new products and expand into new markets where the profits all go to development projects. Thankyou nappies are especially clever with the campaign “baby, we can change the world).
What about you?
I’ve never done an hour long presentation but we must all start somewhere, right?