Some companies are particularly proud of their origins. Hewlett Packard famously purchased, restored and preserved the garage in which Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard first established their partnership.
Some companies would rather we forget where they came from. Case in point, Hugo Boss’s dubious distinction as manufacturer of Nazi uniforms.
In comic book terminology, an origin story is an account or back-story revealing how a character or team gained their superpowers and/or the circumstances under which they became superheroes or supervillains.
The origin story is actually really essential because if Spiderman, let’s say, were just some web-slinging vigilante without the benefit of the whole Uncle Ben being killed by a burglar storyline, would we really open our hearts to Peter Parker and his “with great power comes great responsibility” credo?
The backstory gives us a reason to care.
In business, the backstory does a couple other things, too, that could really help prospective clients connect with your business, philosophies and why you do what you do.
Taking a page from the comic book writers’ handbook. Here are five element to a compelling origin story (adapted from the checklist on Superhero Nation!). Write your own.
- Make your story relatable: Walking hand-in-hand with “give us a reason to care” comes “make your story relatable.” There’s a struggle you went through to get to where you are and there’s a reason why you offer the work that you do. That struggle and your reason for being is probably very familiar to the rest of us, if you dig deeply enough to find the truth behind it. Find the truth, be specific, and your story will be relatable.
- Show how you’ve proven yourself. In superhero talk, they say “don’t make your hero a Chosen One -– give him a chance to prove himself.” Show how you’ve earned your stripes. You can plainly see how much more powerful that narrative is than the “silver spoon” version of the story
- Cast a villain: Before you rise, you overcame adversity, on some level. Even if it was internal strife. Even if you know you had a part in your struggle (because you know you did…) There are the circumstances that played “against” you. Show us how you triumphed. More than likely, your “villain” probably has something to do with your success, today. Your plots are intertwined. So don’t leave them out of your origin story.
- Show how a conventional background can lead to an extraordinary idea. Cast yourself as a “real person” and it will be easier to create a narrative. You don’t have to hide the blemishes. You are fallible. And a flawed narrator who didn’t have the goods served to him on a silver platter, as we know, is more relatable.
- Give us a happy ending, while reminding us that it’s not really the ending. We are all works in progress, right? So while we want to know that you found your footing, you’ve proven yourself, you’ve made it past adversity, and you’ve reached beyond your humble beginnings, we also want to know that you are still doing the work and putting your philosophies into practice each and everyday…and that it’s working for you…
So, take a crack at writing your company’s origin story. Post it in the comments below or post a link to your company’s about page, which could house a version of this story.