More than 60% of the companies originally listed on the Fortune 500 have vanished. All these casualties of capitalism have one thing in common: they lost their story, then they lost market share. Just a few years ago Ford was in a pickle.
Ford has been one of the most successful, iconic businesses in the United States. It’s been building automobiles for almost 100 years and its brand is recognized around the world. Yet in 2003 and ‘04 pundits were talking about the real possibility that Ford could go out of business. Ford’s old story of building tough trucks and SUV’s at the exclusion of smaller, more fuel efficient cars was not working. The company had alienated many younger customers, especially women. People were turning to other carmakers like Toyota and Honda. These companies were telling stories that appealed to a younger, more diverse base.
So Ford did something courageous it hired a new CEO by the name of Alan Mulally.
Alan was not an auto industry insider. He came from aerospace -- with a fresh new story. His story was simple: “We are going to build highly efficient, high quality cars and trucks. They will be safe, innovative, fun to drive.” He also borrowed several billion dollars from private sources before the financial collapse of 2008/09. This put Ford ahead of its US competition and the company followed through with new products that resonated with Mulally’s new story. After years of losing market share, Ford became profitable again in late 2009.
Companies that have survived and thrived have powerful, vibrant narratives that give them a strong sense of community and identity. These stories make people care and understand what these companies really stand for. If you want a business that will last, start with a great story. If you want to make sure your current venture survives, fix the story first.
What's your business story? Are you making people care? Are you creating community? Do people know what your company stands for?
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