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StoryVesting: A Modern Day Growth Framework
storyvesting growth framework

StoryVesting: A Modern Day Growth Framework

I have an affinity for people who love to succeed. I love to see people who are proud of what they’ve accomplished, but who simultaneously are hungry to learn more. I love to cheer people on who have crossed the finish line and immediately think when’s the next race?

This affinity for success is a natural part of our DNA. As humans, we have an appetite for personal growth. We love learning and love tackling a challenge head on, and because of that, it seems like each and every one of us is on a search for how to achieve our own version of success.

I’ll never forget the night that prompted my own search for personal success. I can still vividly recall the cool, crisp evening where I stood on the doorstep with my girlfriend at the time, looking more at my feet than at her, wondering if I’d have the guts to lean in for a goodnight kiss. Just as I summoned up enough courage to make my move, the headlights of a beautiful, black BMW blinded my vision. It was at that moment that I felt a kaleidoscope of emotions — embarrassment, fear, and awe. More specifically, admiration for his level of success.

The BMW my girlfriend’s father drove was a clear sign of his financial success and I knew I wanted to have that same level of success when I grew up. That one moment struck a chord deep inside my ambitious heart, instantly sparking a desire to achieve my own personal success. It was that spark that prompted the beginnings of the StoryVesting growth framework.

Sound Familiar? You’ve Seen This Growth Framework Before

If you’re thinking to yourself that this topic feels familiar, that’s because it probably is. I’ve written about the growth framework I built, StoryVesting, on this site and others before but I never went into a lot of detail. The reason why is, frankly, because I wanted to create a site specifically for the newbie in the space of growing a business. Too much detail could muddy the waters and turn some people away.

So, in my first round of writing about StoryVesting on In The Know, I kept it simple. I presented you with the backstory about how I came up with the single most important question you have to ask yourself before you try to sell anything by approaching this topic with a deceptively simple question — why do you want to do what you do?

The need to ask that one question is still profoundly relevant. In fact, I don’t think it’ll ever become irrelevant. Your why is the reason you show up every day and the reason you’re working so hard to bring your ideas out into the world. Nothing—no machine, person, or blend of the two—can ever replace your passion. More on why that’s so critical later, but first, let me explain what prompted this post.

Why Bring This Back Up Now?

A lot has happened technologically since I wrote that first post that augments what I’ve shown you within the growth framework before. The world is quickly moving away from traditional business models and toward digital-first strategies to embrace what the business world is calling digital transformation. According to IDG, a whopping 89% of companies have adopted, or plan to adopt digital-first strategies.

digital transformationThese strategies are changing the very fabric of how companies reach customers. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are being deployed to learn more and predict consumer behaviors. Big data and analytics are getting richer, deeper, and more structured, giving companies better insights into their buyer’s experiences. Mobile technologies have advanced giving consumers more access in the palm of their hand.

But it’s not companies that are leading the charge. It’s consumers.

The modern consumer has infused digital into their lives as we’ve never seen before. Google has found that consumers have become more research-obsessed in recent years. In the past two years alone, mobile searches for “best” product or service has grown by 80%. People are demanding more personalization, demanding that businesses understand their needs without having to explicitly spell out their requests.

The way we’re shopping is transforming too. For example, mobile searches for “things to do/activities” and “near me” has grown six times over the last two years, according to Google’s customer insights data.

And yet, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Consumers still want sublime experiences from companies. They’re still navigating the buyer’s journey along the same predictable pathway. Behavioral economics studies from yesteryear remain relevant today as we try to gain deeper understanding of the psychology behind how people make purchase decisions.

Professionals on all levels are scratching their heads wondering how to tap into new technological impacts, processes and job roles without losing sight of the foundation for what makes us, as buyers, tick. The nuances of weaving these together cannot be done through guesswork or high-level strategies alone. It requires a robust framework to drive decision making. It’s that exact growth framework that I created several years ago and still proves solid enough to withstand the fast-paced changes we’re seeing.

Before you understand the framework itself, it’s important you know how it formed because the backstory itself is rich with powerful insights.

How This Growth Framework Came to Life

If there’s one thing I knew in my start to building this growth framework, it’s that success didn’t come from guesswork alone. Although there’s no roadmap for how to achieve great things set in stone, there are patterns that you can uncover simply by talking to successful people — and that’s exactly what I did to research and build out my own personal framework for success. I talked to anyone who I deemed to be successful.

The first of these conversations happened when I was sitting next to Eric Schmidt, the former Executive Chairman of Google and Alphabet Inc. while on a four-hour flight from Salt Lake City to Washington D.C. He let me pick his brain during that trip and while he poured out his knowledge, I listened intently, hoping to glean as much insight as I could. The recurring common thread in everything he told me was the importance of passion, persistence, and the people who surround you.

After that conversation, I continued talking to anyone who was successful and would give me a chance to pick their brain. I talked to Jon Huntsman from Huntsman Corporation. I talked to Gene England of England Trucking. Each time I did, I was sure to ask the same questions during our conversations.

storyvesting research questions

Each person I talked to, I asked three core questions:

  • What makes a person successful?
  • What personal traits led to your success?
    • Who best exemplifies this skill set?
  • What are the key drivers of business success?

In asking these questions to 1,969 people, I gathered more than enough data to draw some pretty powerful conclusions. Through a healthy amount of analytical rigor from the responses strewn all over my home office floor, I pulled out some powerful insights.

StoryVesting methodologyThe first of the insights came from looking at the demographic data alone. In my line of questioning, I started off asking about the qualities that made them, or any person successful. I very quickly learned that the answers I got were too high level to uncover much meaning. So, I got deeper and asked more specifically about the personal traits that led to their success, and then followed that up by asking to speak to the person they valued the most with those traits.

StoryVesting demographicsTo my surprise, the person they often referred me too wasn’t their direct superior or even someone in the C-Suite. More often, it was a person who worked alongside them, underneath them on the corporate ladder, or outside the organization. That one insight led to my first revelation. Successful people built their team full of people who had skills they admired, or maybe even lacked themselves. This one epiphany was one of many that made me realize I wasn’t just building a framework for personal success — I had the data and insights here to build a larger growth framework for business transformation.

Digging into the data, I started finding several other key insights. First I looked at what drove a company to success, and then I looked specifically at the traits of the people who were at the helm of bringing that company upward.

StoryVesting analysisBy far, the biggest driver of an organization’s success was the business idea, or as I like to call it, the why. Why were they in business? This driver was followed closely by a more logical driver — the business model — or how the company would achieve their idea and vision. Several of the answers centered on the common theme of people. 40% of respondents believed vested employees made the company a success and 28% said the talent level of people on board was critical.

The people behind a company’s success fascinated people, so I looked at their traits. On a personal level, I wanted to know what to look for in the people I surrounded myself with so I could achieve this same level of success. On a business level, I wanted to know who to hire to help drive my company’s growth. The biggest themes surprised me. It wasn’t an Ivy League degree that mattered as much as the passion for the work, being a team player, and having a strong work ethic. These were the traits smart recruiters looked for when building their team, and the traits I knew I had to embrace as I drove my own personal success.

Looking closer at these answers, I realized something else too. Education and smarts weren’t even in the middle of this list. They were at the bottom, and the responses I got contradicted each other. Some respondents looked for smart people, while others looked for specialized knowledge. It seemed that people wanted to employees that were specialized but also, all-knowing. This notion sets up an unachievable standard that can destroy a company’s culture. I knew it was important to keep in mind as I started to build this framework.

Naming the Framework

Before I got started putting the framework together, I knew I needed to give it a name. The name would set the tone for what the framework deemed most important, so I looked specifically at my research and pulled out what the successful people I’d talked to deemed most important — the business’s story and a vested team to bring that story to life.

The Story

Every Sunday, my family and I watch Once Upon a Time together. It’s rich with fictional stories that transport us to a fantasy world with fairytale characters. These are exceptional stories but they’re not the kind of story I’m referring to when it comes to the Story part of the StoryVesting framework.

Here, I’m referring to the business’s idea and vision. It’s this story that gets people fired up to go to work. It’s this story that connects a customer to a company. This is the story that needs to be told throughout every stitch and thread of your company’s tapestry so that there’s no question why you’re offering the world what you offer. No matter what industry you’re in or demographic you’re trying to reach, your story is fundamental.

The Vested Workforce

But a story can’t come to life on its own. It requires the right team and people on board to bring it to life. As I found in my research, the “right” team isn’t a team full of highly specialized, educated people. It’s a team of people who are vested in what the company is doing through their work.

Now, you might’ve heard of the term vested in the stock market sense. I’m talking about something deeper here.

Vested in StoryVesting refers to a person’s vested interest in the company or cause. It’s this vestment that’s the catalyst for a person to see the business through to success. Yes, they also see benefits in return, but it goes deeper than that. This type of vesting involves having the right mindset and the desire to make meaningful connections and collaborations to fuel the business’s growth.

Bringing these two terms together was important because both signaled something far deeper than anything I’d seen before. With the name in place, it was time to put together the actual framework.

Putting This Research Together Into a Growth Framework

One of my favorite sayings and strategies is to fail first. Through failure, you’re learning, trying, and iterating. That was certainly the case through the process of massaging this framework into what it is today.

StoryVesting growth framework iterationsTo understand where it is now, you have to know a little bit more about where it’s been, so let’s start at the very beginning.

My first iteration of StoryVesting looked internally. I looked specifically at the people needed to build a successful team that would drive the organization’s success, analyzing what they needed — education, support, action, and growth.

linear growth frameworkI also created a roadmap to define how this continual growth would happen. Teams would need to align their organization with the employee’s passions, develop their skill set, refine that development, automate whatever they could, enhance the process, implement new processes, accumulate results, and then lead teams upward before starting again.

This approach might seem logical on the surface. It sure did to me anyway. The problem wasn’t what it looked like on paper but rather, what it looked like in action. People don’t operate in an orderly fashion 100% of the time. Case in point: Look at how people showcase their concern for environmental issues. The National Geographic Society and GlobeScan found that, in spite of an increase from 56% to 61% over two years in people who are ‘very concerned’ about the environment, consumers haven’t done anything to change their behavior to reduce their carbon footprint. Employees and organizations, despite having every good intention to grow in this manner, probably wouldn’t approach it in such a linear fashion.

Another issue I found was that this iteration failed to account for a very important person in an organization’s success — the customer. So, I went back to the drawing board and came up with this next idea.

growth framework componentsYou’ve seen this iteration before right here on In The Know. It’s the simplified version of StoryVesting that looks closely at the business’s why, or the foundation for their success as deemed by the successful people I interviewed, and the customer’s story.

As I’ve hinted at, more has gone into building out this growth framework than my research alone. I’ll dive in deeper to that in the subsequent posts, or you can read about it now in great detail on my post about business transformation over on RocketSource. In the meantime, let’s finish off by looking specifically at where StoryVesting has landed today.

There was just one big problem with this approach. It still treated the business as a separate entity from the customer. For true growth to happen, the two circles need to overlap. It’s when these two circles, or stories, align that the money starts to pour in. So, I redesigned the framework once again to this next iteration.

growth framework alignmentI’ve gone in detail about why I chose to align these two circles in my post about how StoryVesting serves to be a growth marketing framework, so take a look there if you’re interested in all of the details. For the sake of this post, it’s important you know this — aligning the two circles is the key to bringing your company closer together with what the market wants and demands. It’s your key to infusing product/market fit, internal buy-in, and an amazing buyer journey into one solid growth framework.

By now I had accounted for both the business and the customer, I’d considered the importance of alignment between the two, and still, there was one thing missing from this framework: depth.

What StoryVesting Looks Like Today

Today’s StoryVesting framework looks different from those yellow circles you’ve seen here on In The Know before. Here’s the final StoryVesting framework in all its glory.

growth frameworkEach side of the framework is a little bit different. The Brand Experience side, or the blue side, answers what a business needs to succeed. It starts with the business story at the center and core of everything. Then, the business model is shaped around the WHY, giving a logical process for how the why will be brought into the world. The 3 Ps — people, processes, and platforms — address the three core tenets that will put that business model into action. It’s only then that the products and services are built and considered, followed closely by the channels that they’re delivered and promoted on. Each of these leads to the overall experience the end customer has with the business.

The path-to-purchase side of the framework answers the predictable pathway that consumers travel. It’s a combination of past experiences that spark an emotional trigger to start a search for something. These emotions blend into logical thinking about the present and future that ultimately leads to the purchase. When the purchase is complete, the buyer reconciles their past, present, and future into feelings of excitement, hope, and confidence.

It’s quite a bit deeper, wouldn’t you agree? In this framework, I’ve done two things to add depth to the concentric circles. First, I changed the colors, and second, I added horizontal lines to showcase the many layers and depths involved in both the organization’s success and the customer’s path-to-purchase.

Ready to Go Beyond Surface Level?

On the surface, this framework looks straightforward. It might feel intuitive and like something you could easily implement in your business. I’ve heard this sentiment before and usually, people think they grasp it until… they try to do the work to make it actionable in their business. Perhaps you’ve done the same?

If you really want to get your hands dirty in the StoryVesting framework and bring it to life in your business, you’re going to have to kick things up a few notches. That means you’re going to have to dig deeper into the nuances. That’s what I’ll help you do over the next two posts. I’ll dig into each of the layers in these two circles and show you the psychology that contributed to building these out, as well as the data that’s proven that this framework is rock solid.

Today’s business world is complex. Carving out your spot in this fast-paced environment is not as easy as it used to be. If you want to dive into this framework and all of its nuances immediately, go over to RocketSource and read the entire 25,000-word post. Or, sign up for one of our LevelNext business transformation workshops — one of them is free and delivered to you regularly by email.

In the meantime, keep your eyes peeled because the next two parts, where I dive in head first to each of these circles, are coming soon.

Written by Buckley Barlow

Buckley Barlow founded In The Know as a way to help forward-thinking individuals and teams who are responsible for driving growth in their organizations. I try to make the small things learnable so you can make the bigger things happen.

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