I am sat here at my kitchen table, very early on a Saturday morning, coffee in hand, inspired to write this article following a brilliant night out, last night, on a gin tour of a local distillery. Now, this will likely get published later in the week and the odd grammatical error and typo – post too many gins – will have been edited out, so hopefully it reads well.
The inspiration came from listening to the story of the distillery and how they had taken a chance on the relaxed laws on gin production aligned to the really tough circumstances they faced running a working farm. Having generations of farming history in the village (over hundreds of years) they wanted to create a brand and product that was born out of this heritage. The tour guide – young lad, mid 20’s – talked passionately about the history of the family, the circumstances of the opportunity they landed to create the gin and the pain and trials they went through, to produce their first “worthy” bottle. He talked about the importance of provenance of the raw materials – they grow most of their own on the farm, including their own beehives, for one of the newly formed sweeter gins. He explained to us the the naming conventions and bottle designs, based on a local artist and village traditions and myths, and one product name born out of the founders’ wife suffering from cervical cancer at a very young age (and thankfully making a full recovery).
Now, this isn’t a plug for this business and what they have done, based on a good night out, and me proudly producing my own gin (which is eyeing me up this morning!). What struck me was the absolute importance of their story in my experience last night. Yes, it was great to get through the doubles of each of their gins, but ultimately it was the experience and warmth that came through with the passionate, heart-felt story they told. It amplified the evening. I came away with a few bottles (as you do), but I feel emotionally connected to the experience, and not just a great product. I am bought in. Every time I will have a drop of their gin, I will think about their story and what it means – it will compel me to buy more and encourage others to do so.
And that’s my point. The experience of your brand is paramount for your success. How you portray your brand is in the story and how you tell that story. People will always be compelled to get what they want, and more so now, when they want. However, most purchases are un-emotional. They happen, like sneezing. But when it comes to the important ones, there needs to be an emotional connection to the brand or product, the people behind it, or the people talking about it.
I do quite a bit of reading of business books and one of the best ones for me is the “Creativity Inc.” book – it’s essentially about why Pixar are so brilliant. For Ed Catmull, the genius behind the animation technology, it’s all about their ability to tell great stories – and that’s their secret sauce. I have also just finished a book called “The Barcelona Way”, and this talks about Cultural Architects – people within your business who live and die by your culture and share that with everyone. They are your best storytellers and you will have them at all levels of your business – you just need to find them, coach them and let them free. And as is the way with all my articles, I try and bring it back to ROQ, and in this case, our story. If anyone has ever asked me how ROQ came about – usually over a pint – it goes like this:
“We were just a couple of northern blokes, with a blank sheet of paper, looking to set a company up. We had had good careers in testing, and we had done great work for clients, who we thought would give us an opportunity, and had an amazing network of talented people who liked us and we thought they’d like to work for us. We saw that the clients we had worked for previously, were getting fed up with the current large-scale providers, who they couldn’t trust. So, we went for it”
That is it. Nothing ground-breaking, nothing over fancy. However, it’s brutally honest. I tell it from the heart, with my northern pragmatism; almost down-playing what we took on when the economy was in freefall in 2009. However, when I reflect now on the company we are, over ten years later, and break it down, it is quite interesting:
“couple of northern blokes”
• Our company values are Straight Talking, Commitment, Excellence and Passionate – does it get any more northern than that!
“blank sheet of paper”
• We pride ourselves on innovative solutions for clients and being really creative in how we solve problems, internally and externally
“we had done great work for clients”
• As I write this, our Net Promoter Score is 78% – which is world class; and we pride ourselves on the fantastic client satisfaction we consistently receive
“talented people who liked us and we thought they’d like to work for us”
• We measure our employee happiness on a monthly basis and share it on our home page – we are always above the global industry average for technology companies. We fundamentally believe that happy employees mean happy clients.
“clients were getting fed up with the current large-scale providers, who they couldn’t trust”
• We are continually brought in as trusted advisors for the most strategic projects for our clients. And we continue to see this as our biggest growth opportunity. For the last 12 months, this “mis-trust of larger suppliers” has been reinforced more than ever by the CIO’s and CTO’s that I speak to.
So, our story, whilst not tear-jerking, or borne out of a disaster, is real. It’s been the foundation of the business and it rings true in everything we do today. And for all other companies, who are looking to establish themselves and build on the foundations of a start, I really encourage you to go back to your story – are you living it? how has it evolved? I would argue that the importance of telling your story impeccably well, from the heart, and being able to demonstrate how it plays out for your employees and your clients now is probably more important than any other metric or KPI in your business.
As always, really enjoy discussing these points, so drop me a line.
Stephen Johnson – Co-Founder and Director of ROQ