Small Business Minute: Using stories to reinforce company culture

By Brian Leaf

Once upon a time, story telling was a way to teach people about values and culture. So why aren’t you using stories to teach employees the values and culture of your business?

Many companies see stories as a powerful way to convey messages. Flick on a Power Point presentation and watch the eyelids drop. But tell a short story that relates to your subject and your audience perks up.

The Story Telling Foundation International says effective stories and anecdotes relate to an experience or feeling people have had.

The foundation says that stories can help an organization pass on collective wisdom. They teach new hires about a company and its values. They convey knowledge employees need to succeed. But most of all, they help you make a point.

Stories that work have three elements.

  • They’re short. Anything more than 2 minutes loses listeners.
  • They have a message.
  • They’re based on something real.

For instance, to convey the results of hard work, use the story of a champion athlete who never gave up.

A tale of surviving a horrible illness can remind people to cherish each day. And that little pig who built a house of brick tells of how a solid foundation can protect a company from bad things.

People have been telling stories since they were sitting near fires in caves and dining on roasted Mammoth. But that doesn’t mean that tales don’t have a place in today’s world.

It’s all about communication. Tell the right stories, and your little company may prosper.

And you may live happily ever after.

The end.

–Leaf is a contributor who writes frequently about small business issues. Contact him at