The WSJ just published a story about Valerie Green, a laid-off corporate executive. Rather than continue knocking on closed corporate doors, Valerie decided to embark on a new venture: becoming a professional organizer.
Valerie did a lot of things right. She put together a professional website, got a business license, set up an LLC, and opened a business bank account.. She had a solid basis for starting this business: evidence that her skills were in demand and she’d be seen as a credible resource.
Valerie needs two more things.
She needs a way to differentiate her services from everybody else’s. And she needs a way to answer the question, “How did you get from there to here?”
Valerie will probably hear the question as, “You moved from a corporate career in design and human resources to an entrepreneurial venture in organizing? Why on earth…”
What this new entrepreneur needs is a good story.
The right story will answer this question in a way that doesn’t just satisfy the listener’s curiosity.. It will also differentiate her services from the dozens of organizers who represent friendly competition. And she’ll find it easy to build a brand.
Just reading the WSJ article, Valerie’s got a terrific story to tell.
She says it herself: “I have been an organizing person my whole life. It’s part of who I am.”
We learn that she’s got degrees in architecture and design. She even wrote her graduate dissertation on storage spaces!
So she’s got all the fixings for a great story – just like a cook collects everything she needs for a recipe. Now she needs to put them together, blend, mix and bake.
To turn these ideas into an actionable origin story, entrepreneurs need to translate the story directly into differentiation.
How does Valerie’s background make her a better organizer? It may seem obvious but she needs to spell it out.
A productive origin story shows you’re unique in one or both of these two ways:
You’re so passionate about what you do, you go the extra mile. It’s more than a job or a way to make money.
You bring unique gifts and talents to your business. Maybe you’ve been trained in techniques that allow you to deliver benefits your competitors can’t match.
Valerie’s design background might help her see options for innovating new spaces. The fact that people asked for help also validates her talent: she was recognized by others.
In brief quotes for the article, Valerie shows how she uses design thinking in her own life:
“Something I learned in design thinking is to invest in a discovery phase where you get lots of information,” she says. “I think when people make a choice that seems like it’s out of the blue, you’ve actually been listening to signals.”
Could Valerie find a way to incorporate these themes into her organizing approach? Could she use not just design but design theory in her work? Are her clients responding to – or resisting – signals that will guide them to new choices?
Armed with her story, Valerie can leverage her background to attract clients who will appreciate her value. She’s uniquely equipped to help corporate executives who are now telecommuting to work. She understands the demands of a corporate career. She knows what a home office needs – and how to organize a lot of paper for maximum efficiency.
There’s just one major flaw in this article. At 48, Valerie reasons her career changes will be limited. But if you think about it, she made several pivots from ages 23 to 48. In 25 years she will be 73, most likely still able to work and reluctant to retire to a rocking chair on the porch. Why can’t the second 25 years be as adventurous as the first?
Valerie’s got something even more valuable than a website: a story that could become her brand. I’m betting she eventually earns at least as much as she did when she was on a payroll.
And I’m also betting this is not her last career. She’s only 48. She’s had multiple pivots in the last 25 years or so. In 25 more years she’ll be just 73. Not too late for another adventure!
Discover 3 steps to use storytelling to brand your business in this free guide: