Communicator-in-chief: The key trait for entrepreneurs building businesses

By Michael Hayman MBE and Nick Giles

There is one simple truth that all aspiring entrepreneurs must understand if they are to make their ventures a success: people won’t buy from you unless they believe in you. They need to know who you are and what you stand for.

Entrepreneurs need to define their mission and the purpose of their firm. How will their business help them to change the world? Most mission-driven enterprises fit into one of three categories: darers, sharers and carers.

Fiercely future focused, darers are those like Richard Branson and Virgin, pushing the boundaries to achieve what would have previously been unimaginable. The likes of Lyft and Airbnb are sharers. They use the internet to create new platforms and communities, changing the way we share information and consume goods and services. Carers improve people’s lives by addressing the health, cost and sustainability implications of their industry. Leon is an excellent example of a caring business. Its founders began with a simple aim: to make fast food healthier, without compromising on taste.

Once they have clarified their mission, the key is communication. The businesses that break through are those that take their mission to the market with a compelling campaign. That’s how they achieve momentum. And this comes from the top – every entrepreneur must become the communicator-in-chief of their business. They must become the custodian and champion of the company’s story.

The ability to become communicator-in-chief is one of the key traits of successful entrepreneurs. The communicator-in-chief knows the power of words to comfort, connect and inspire. He or she recognises the importance of a good story and sees that such stories are no good at all if there is nobody able to do them justice. They understand that successful businesses seek mass belief as much as mass consumption. Communication has never been a more important part of the entrepreneurial skillset – it’s the means by which campaigning companies stand out.

Advances in technology have a large role to play. Technology has amplified the importance of transparency and connectivity in the modern marketplace. Consumers want to know more and have the tools at their disposal to do so – there is an ever-greater need for enterprises to explain. Furthermore, customers today are tribal beings and brands need to be part of the tribe if they want to sell to it.

Our book, Mission: How the Best in Business Break Through, argues that entrepreneurs are the best business communicators. Not only are they fierce advocates for their firms, but they exude values and purpose from every pore. It makes sense – who better to go to battle for a business than the person who began it? This is how you gain trust as a contributing member of the tribe.

Take Cobra Beer founder Lord Bilimoria as an example. He went from ferrying cases of beer in a beaten up Citroën 2CV to taking on the global giants of the drinks industry. Would this have been possible without his fierce belief in and his ability to express the values of his business? We think it was the man himself who made the difference. As Bilimoria puts it himself: “I just had such belief in [Cobra]. I really believed I had this differentiated product that would deliver on my promises.”

As he says, it’s this personal conviction that sets campaigners in a class apart from other categories of businessperson. “You’ve got to have absolute passion, faith and belief in your ideas and your brand. That gives people the faith and confidence to trust you and give you a chance.”

We cannot deny that this is a daunting task and the battlefield is replete with those who got it wrong. Those who lose their trials in the court of public opinion suffer the sentence handed down by their judge, the audience. It is no surprise that many shy away from the challenge.

However, those starting out need to be bold. Only by being prepared to act as communicator-in-chief and taking their mission to market can entrepreneurs answer the cries of a modern audience waiting to hear what they stand for. This is how to break through.

Michael Hayman MBE and Nick Giles are co-founders of the campaigns firm Seven Hills and co-authors of Mission: How the Best in Business Break Through. www.mission.business