Businesses don’t cry – or do they?

Today at the Entrepreneur Country and Smith & Williamson workshop event I gave a presentation about tailoring ones business plan to investors. Before me Duncan Cheatle (Founder of Supper Club and co-founder of Start Up Britain) spoke about building capital value in a start-up and after me Travers Clarke-Walker (Head of Barclays Business Marketing) spoke about whether banks are lending to start-ups and SME’s.

That was really interesting is that I thought my “Soft side of business plans” topic would possibly be too controversial because it deals with feelings, passion and story telling before the harder topics of numbers and facts. In fact the opposite happened… So much so that I was so pleasantly surprised that both Duncan and Travers referred to the element of the “story” the “passion” and the ability to engage your audience.

After the session it struck me that there is a perceived discord between how we really operate in business and how we say we do. On the past weekend working with Darren Shirlaw and Daniel Priestley we were building on frameworks that connect with people on a Thinking, Feeling, Knowing basis. Today we were talking about the energy in a team, the passion that people buy into as commercial partners or investors and in today’s session, the ability to lose the momentum in your team if you have a rotten apple in that team… None of these are “business” language and yet all around me I am seeing so much more reference to business in emotive language.

In realising this I came to think about our perceptions of business. Do we expect it to be formal, strict, conservative, boring, structured, process-driven and all that? Do we expect to leave our emotions at the door when we hang our winter coats? I think there is an element of discord in business reality and how we perceive it.

Thinking about where I have worked – at Vinci Park UK, Monster.com, Yahoo.com and now Ariadne, the times I and our team were most successful was when we worked as a team and had fun… Of course this is obvious but digging deeper and there is something interesting. When we put aside the expected barriers of rigid work formality and were able to come together in a deeply personal way, we became highly motivated to work and succeed as a team – there was more at steak than not succeeding at work – there was letting ourselves down.

I think there is something fundamental in the shift at work these days. I don’t know quite what it all is yet but when you combine the trends of massive social adoption online, the X and Y generations starting to get into working environments, the growth of SME and entrepreneurial ventures (and the decline of the corporate) then at that intersection are we at the place where in business/work terms we are shifting as we did in western culture – from ‘boys don’t cry’ to recognising EQ as value?

If there is an increasing use of emotional language and descriptors in business terms from banking to investment, then surely there is a deeper groundswell at the core of the businesses that are operating at an EQ level too? Does that mean that when they fail to engage investors and banks for funding they are still thinking they need to engage those conversations in the rigid and old-world stoic business models? Are they miscommunicating their passion and drive based on an old assumption of how to talk business – Businesses don’t cry, do they?

This leads me to think about the role of the story and story telling in building business success…

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