A Masterclass on Building Your Company Narrative

Ron Johnson did an amazing interview that you should listen to.

On the surface it’s a guy talking about his failures and successes. On that metric alone this is a solid interview. Great.

On another level, it’s a masterclass in how to do an interview that tells the story you want to tell.

And on a final level it’s one of the best examples I’ve seen of how new & unknown companies can use narratives to get traction, recruit employees, and generally attract resources to their cause.

A quick bit of context on Ron: 1) he was a well known VP @ Target during their ascent, then 2) was hired by Steve Jobs to design/launch/run what we now know as the Apple Stores, and then 3) he left to become the CEO of JC Penney where he failed very publicly and was eventually fired.

Okay, let’s dive in.

Ron is always on script. Any interview with him it’s obvious he’s working for his narrative.

But somehow Alex Blumberg gets him to open up about his JC Penney failure. Alex does such a great job that Ron eventuallys says he’s talked more about it than anywhere else and he wants to move on. I won’t go into those details here, you should just listen.

Next, Ron uses the narrative of “a culture of kindness” to pitch his new company Enjoy (They help people set up new tech purchases (e.g. Sonos) in their homes.)

Alex asks “Why build a company on kindness?”

Before I give Ron’s answer, imagine how you’d answer that question.

Maybe with something along the lines of “Our customers would like it!” or “Because I want to like the people I work with”.

Decent answers!

But you’d be thinking too small.

Remember, Enjoy does tech installations. Boring, home IT support.

So Ron says:

“Because I think [kindness] is why we’re here on the planet, right? We’re here to make life better, not for ourselves, but for our neighbors. The people we come across.”

He just took an IT support company and elevated its mission to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount: “Do to others what you would have them do to you”.

The literal Golden Rule.

Narrative is how you get a team to push the boulder up the mountain. The best leaders always use stories to progress their movement.

Most people don’t want to work for an IT support company.

But a lot of people will get excited to work for a company built on kindness.

Next, talking about his career: “I realized that in my career out of 38 years I probably had 8 great years. But that’s what you work for.”

Ron was @ Target at the height of its popularity and literally created the Apple Store with Steve Jobs, and yet he only “had 8 great years”. WTF?

The point is that the journey is everything.

The joy comes from planting, not harvesting.

Relationships grow from building together, not consuming.

Everything meaningful in life comes from working towards something.

Find something you can build towards. Even if you fail like Ron did @ JC Penney, it’ll feel so much more worthwhile than sitting back watching other people create the world.