Tag Archives: storytelling

The Ben Franklin Method

Did you know that Benjamin Franklin, founding father of the USA, was once a poor writer?

Now recognized as an important politician, inventor, scientist and writer, Franklin was not always this way. In fact, he considered himself a poor writer but took an active interest in improving his writing capabilities. The poems and articles authored by Franklin are the fruits of his labor; he worked on his storytelling skills by deconstructing and reconstructing what he considered “great writing.”

He did this by taking a magazine of the time – The Spectator (equivalent to the modern day The New Yorker), finding an article he liked and as he read the article he would highlight arguments and write down key points and data. When he was finished, he would write the article himself using the notes he had taken. Later, he would compare his article to the original and see where his writing was weak, where it was better and what writing conventions he needed to work on.

After much practice, he soon got “better” than the best articles and went on to write poetry, prose, rhetoric etc.

The moral? The Ben Franklin method works – if you want to get better, consider looking at the best and deconstructing then reconstructing the work of art, project, plan,…whatever it may be. The term “neurotic spreadsheeting” has been used to describe this method but the story of Ben Franklin is always sure to inspire us to take action in actively improving our storytelling or other skills.

-EMC

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Entrepreneurs: what is the price of your dream?

One of the most valuable lessons I have learned in the last eight years is that the valuation of a company is based on the story that is being told about its future.

Our sense of reality – our idea of what has actually taken place – is filtered through our experiences. Most of you will agree that two people can observe the same event and come out with different accounts of what happened based on a personal bias. The same holds true for an investor or partner in a business; their experience informs their decision making. Their experience with a company in the same industry, or with the same management structure, or with a similar channel strategy, or “what happened” 10 years ago, convinces them that their past experience will transfer to the new project or business.

On one hand, it’s humanity’s way of coping with new things. We look to the past in order to inform future decisions. When performing a valuation of a company, most investors take a number of factors into consideration in order to balance bias and risk. Nevertheless, we always take the future back to the present or project the past to the present in order to know how much a business, idea or project is worth in today’s world.

What do we pay today for a dream? If an entrepreneurial idea does not fit our past experiences – whether we are a seasoned investor or an amateur – how do we value the company?

Our story is essential in convincing amateur or professional investors and partners. Yet, even with an amazing story, bias still plays a critical part in valuation and decision making. What happens after we tell a story that leaves an investor wanting more? The professional investor might be thinking “how much will I get when we go public or in round two” rather thentrepreneur bikean “this is going to be interesting” (a trademark of an amateur investor according to Seth Godin’s presentation in “Nearly Impossible”).

We are always told to look to the future and we tell our children to do the same. Nevertheless, many times we base investment – and even life – decisions on the past. What is the price of your dream?

Suffering, patience, self-negation, are part of the life of an entrepreneur and often the price we pay for our dream. Money is not always the objective of our venture but it certainly is what it comes down to when we are talking about investment. Sad but true. Simple but not inclusive. Cents over sacrifice.

Net Present Value. Future cash flows. Debt and working capital. Sweat and sacrifice. What do we pay today for a dream? Sometimes the craziest dreams run by risky entrepreneurs are the ones that win. How do we make sure that the best idea wins? There really is no formula for success – however convincing your story or however poor your track record. Sometimes the best ideas look like bad ideas and sometimes disruption occurs undetected until it has slowly and fundamentally transformed an industry.

One thing is certain however. We look for value and relevance. If your story shows your investor that your idea is valuable and is relevant in the lives of people, you may just have a way of selling your dream and getting the much needed capital to make your venture grow, prosper and be valuable to you, your investor and the people you serve.

EMC

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Getting attention for your brand in Latin America

Chiminea
Photo: Chiminea (Blanca Gómez)

I have been helping international brands connect with their markets in Latin America for over 10 years. Here are some ideas that I have picked up over the years and want to share with you. Most of them are relevant and can be applied elsewhere – US, Canada, Europe etc.

So, here are some ways (in no particular order or linear process) for you to connect with Latin America and get the attention your brand deserves!

1) Choose your influencers
2) Make friends with the media and thought leaders
3) Tell your story – unique and compelling content
4) Solve a problem – be creative!
5) A picture is worth 1000 words – be visual

At some point in the future, I would love to delve down into each one of the items on this list but until then, I would urge you to think about your brand (and corp) values and how those apply to what you do. If you can connect with your values and with people who share the same values – especially if they are influencers and thought leaders – then your brand will get the attention you want and deserve. Coherent, simple, organic growth.

EMC

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How to Communicate like Hemingway

hemingway

Last year I wrote a piece in Forbes on how to communicate like Hemingway. Here is my English summary of that article.

Ernest Hemingway (USA 1899 – 1961) wrote in simple sentences that carried great impact and significance. His paragraphs were succinct; writing precisely what was required without additional adjectives or flowery language. I think we can learn a great deal from Hemingway. We can learn to be better communicators in our profesional and personal lives.

Being a better writer, to me, means thinking about who is reading or will read our words. Who is your audience? Good writing means presenting something relevant – and perhaps even challenging – to your public: readers, users, clients, investors, followers, family, friends or community.

If we want to write like Hemingway, we need to choose our words. Here are a few things that I have picked up in Hemingway’s writing and how it can apply to us:

1) Hemingway tends to speak in the positive. Avoid double negatives or what we don’t do. Instead, talk about goals, about resources and talent, be frank with our public about how we can add value, how we can work together. Ask for the sale. Be transparent.

2) Hemingway wrote standing up. Supposedly, this was because he had a leg injury from WW1. But Hemingway once said “I like to write standing up because it brings vitality”. Thomas Jefferson, Winston Churchill, and Donald Rumsfeld are other famous people who wrote standing up. The takeaway? Embrace idiosyncrasies in our writing or our style of writing because it makes us authentic.

3) Hemingway was “gritty”. He would often erase and rewrite sentences several times. He had a vision and was determined to see it through. I find it’s that same grit that makes entrepreneurs and leaders stand out. In Latin America, it’s often grit that gets us through the difficult moments or unexpected external factors that make our business or lives challenging.

Hemingway had an amazing talent for writing. If we put into practice some of what defines his writing – precise words, positive phrases, succinct well worked paragraphs that speak to our public and demonstrate our personality – we might be able to improve how our projects are perceived and received in Latin America and the world at large.

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Why strategy, implementation and caring is so important

I came across this amazing video of Seth Godin’s over the weekend. It’s a great mix of classic Seth Godin (tribes, being “weird”, the entrepreneur/empresario) with doing business in a connected world. I found the following particularly interesting…

Godin describes the triangle of the connected world. We need Strategy, Implementation of Strategy as well as “Caring Enough to Fail” in order to create value, a following, and a company that matters. Oftentimes, our organizations get too big or too busy to question the status quo or care enough about experimenting and doing something that might fail. If we don’t care enough to fail how might we know what we are capable of and what our customers want and need?

In Latin America, I find organizations have a strategy and people to implement it but are set on what works rather than experimenting with failure ahead of the bell curve. How can we change this? Perhaps by leveraging connections and unexpected connections between things – and what is that? Innovation.

So this is the video that inspired me over the weekend to continue to tell meaningful stories to people who share (or will share) our views/concerns/needs. Let’s care enough to fail, be generous with ideas and…make them work through strategy and implementation.

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Pitching Your Idea is Art and Science

Convincing someone of your ideas is an art and a science and is one of the easiest and hardest things to do. Here’s why: a) it depends on your audience b) it depends on you and c) it depends on your idea. All these things come into play in the sale of your “business idea”, the elevator pitch, the “convince me why I want to do business with you” speech…success depends on how well you are able to control the above three elements.

Pitching is Art because the pitch should be effortless; telling your story in such a way as to attract the attention of your audience, to show them a new world while doing justice to you and your idea. Pitching is Science because there is a science to it; we know how the brain works, how it reacts to different stimuli and how it processes “threats”; so even if your idea will make (or save) your client millions of dollars, there is always the feeling that a new idea is a threat to your client’s status quo.

“Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today.” -Robert McAfee Brown

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