Stories enable entrepreneurs to authentically communicate their startup’s vision and values

Entrepreneurs need to quickly and sincerely connect with investors, customers and partners. The most powerful way to do that is through telling stories.

Because startups don’t have much history—and often involve original innovative concepts—entrepreneurs can find it difficult to describe their business to new people. Robert Killen, founder of Apex Professional Development Network, believes a good collection of stories will solve this problem.

Killen has identified five story types—what he calls “the Power Stories”—that relate the information startups most need to express. “When somebody asks you ‘Why do you do what you do?’ or ‘What do you want to do in the future?’” says Killen. “You need to be able to answer that.” Stories answer these questions in the most powerful and convincing way.

Five power stories every entrepreneur should have at the ready

The table below lists Killen’s Power Stories. Entrepreneurs should craft the five stories around concrete action. Once defined, the stories can be told to answer common questions about your startup.

Story type

The action in the story

To answer this question

Foundation

Your ideas and work combine to create your brand.

How did your brand get its start?

A Success of Mission

Your current brand benefits a customer.

What problem does your brand solve?

A Success of Vision

Your future brand benefits a customer.

Where do you see your brand in five years?

A Proof of Value

Your values influence the creation of your brand.

Why is your brand special?

A Defining Moment

Your past experiences form who you are today.

What made you want to build your brand?

Crafting the stories

The stories don’t need to be elaborate, says Killen, but they do need to be sincere. He gives this simple example of a “Defining Moment” story: “When I was three years old, I built a house out of Lincoln Logs. Ever since then, I’ve wanted to build stuff.”

For early-stage startups that do not yet have customers, entrepreneurs need to use some creativity to craft “A Success of Mission” story. Killen suggests a thought experiment to help: “Imagine a thank you note from a satisfied customer.”

Add stories to make presentations believable…and yourself authentic
Stories communicate better than PowerPoint graphs and financial spreadsheets. This is because the mind creates meaning from data by building it into a narrative. “Stories speak in the way the mind listens,” Killen says. When you relate a narrative that illustrates your data, you will connect strongly

with your listener’s mind.

Most importantly, stories appeal to your audience at the most personal level. And this connection builds a quality essential to all businesses: trust. “Stories speak to people,” say Killen. “A mission statement doesn’t.” By telling a sincere story, you connect person to person.