One of my favorite trails crosses and crisscrosses a clear, flowing stream that runs from the mountain ridgeline down to the base of a narrow canyon. I love starting out at the base, doing the steep climb up and then receiving the reward of an exquisite waterfall at the top. On a recent hike, the temperature was 20 °F with a beautiful blanket of snow on the ground.
Snow changes the terrain. It makes a rocky trail smoother and more forgiving. It makes the sound of the woods soft and intimate. The sunlight is brighter as it reflects off the white. Even though I know the trail well, it can disappear under the snow. But the guiding walls of the canyon always mean I am on the path, on the trail I set out to follow.
When You Founded Your Business, You Chose Your Trail
When you founded your business, you had a trail in mind. It wasn’t just the destination. It was a vision for your company and the contributions it could make. It was the values that you wanted the company to espouse and your employees to embrace. It was what you wanted your company to be known for. You chose your trail.
Trail Conditions Changed
With luck and hard work, the conditions changed. You grew the company from “just you and a few.” Now you want to ensure that the values on which you founded it are shared by all your employees—today’s and tomorrow’s. You want your customers and clients to know and feel these values in the way your business works and in the way you do things.
Do your employees know why you set out on this trail? How will they recognize the trail as your company grows? How will they stay within the guiding walls of the canyon as conditions change?
Tell Them Your Story…
Your story is the story of your vision for the company, its values, and what it contributes to the world. Your story is about where it all started and how far you’ve all come.
When new employees come on board, they don’t know how much territory you’ve covered. Tell them where you started and where you’re going. Remind those who’ve been there from the trailhead just how far you’ve all come and how much there is to celebrate. All-Employees Meetings or Town Halls are the perfect places to tell your story.
There are other ways, too.
- Former journalist and founder of a woman-owned business Karla Lindstrom grew Performance Management Consulting (PMC) from two people to nearly 100. She “told her story” by being an example of outstanding people skills and work ethic. She “told her story” by personally interviewing me to provide consulting services in a way that never felt like an interview. I got a sense of her integrity and commitment to her customers. Employees knew her story and it increased employee loyalty and attracted great talent.
- At a business conference, Sandra Westlund-Deenihan, president of Quality Float Works, Inc., a small manufacturing plant, took the dais she shared with a Fortune 100 executive and others leading major organizations. She riveted us all. Westlund-Deenihan shared how she’d saved her multi-generation, family business by turning it around. She asked if we’d ever heard the clicking sound a pump makes when we pumped gas. That’s the product her company makes. She talked about the challenges of having employees on the plant floor who couldn’t tell time with a regular clock—they only knew how to read digital clocks because they didn’t have a “complete” education. She told us the story of a family-owned business that grew to a world-class company while addressing workforce challenges.
- When Charito Kruvant and three other remarkable women cofounded Creative Associates International, they envisioned their company having a global impact. That vision kept them on the trail they set out to follow. It informed the stories they told, and it accounted for the kind of people, clients, and partners who were drawn to them. Today their company has helped communities and people in 85 developing countries: a profound global impact.
People want to connect to something meaningful and inspiring. They want to be part of a story. You—President, CEO, founder—tell them the story of your company so that your business and your employees stay on the trail you chose even as conditions change.
Make sure to tell them in a way that becomes theirs, too.
It’s An Unequal World for Women in Business: How You Can Gain a Strategic Advantage
I hadn’t planned to write on International Women’s Day but as soon as I was back from a snow hike, I did! Hope you enjoy this article for LinkedIn’s Pulse. If we aren’t connected on LinkedIn yet, please send me an invite to connect.
This article isn’t a feminist manifesto.
It’s about the facts for women and girls worldwide, and it’s about leveraging assets frequently attributed to women. Man or woman, take something of value from this article, go forth and have a bigger impact!
Thank You for Reading!
Thank you again to those who started out with me at the trailhead, and those who’ve joined in along the way.
U.S. Library of Congress ISSN 2164-7240
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