There are many, many factors which determine the success of a business.  But there are only a handful which I would say are absolute must-haves.  At the top of the list is a founder, owner, or marketer who truly understands their business.  If that person can’t define their business clearly and quickly, in one minute or less, that business is headed for trouble.

A big part of business storytelling is knowing what to cut.

I have the privilege of serving as one of three judges at Startup Weekend Tricities which starts Friday.  The weekend kicks off with a series of one-minute pitches by entrepreneurs.  According to the website, starting at 6 p.m. “Participants will have one minute to pitch their idea in hopes that it will be one of the chosen startups to be launched in the next 54 hours.”

startup weekend

That’s a lot of pressure.  I’ve been there.  I’ve launched several businesses and done a lot of pitching.  But that pressure may be the best thing for a business of any age or size.  Condensing your business down into a soundbyte makes you understand it better.  When you understand it better, you DO it better.  You become more successful.

So how do you start condensing your business to a nugget-sized idea statement?  Here are a few must-have pieces of a one-minute pitch.

  1. Name and Tagline -5 Seconds. You are looking for a handful of words or less.  Don’t come in with a mission statement, unless you are trying to make the listener go to sleep in a minute or less.  I love the book “Made To Stick”.  One great piece of advice the brothers Heath give in that book is attach your new idea to an existing schema.  Your tagline may be “Pinterest for Farmers”.  You don’t have to redefine the mechanism if there is already one out there for a different market.
  2. The Problem Solved – 30 seconds.  Here is where you have a few seconds to do some storytelling.  Tell what the itch is and how your business or product scratches it.  “When I was a kid, I hated ______, so I started this business to _______ for the rest of the kids in the world.” Or “When I was doing my former job, I needed _________ and nobody was providing it.”
  3. The Superlative – 25 seconds.  Now state why you are better than anyone else out there.  This could be a different angle you take on your market or subject.  This could be “We’re the biggest ________ in 7 states and that matters because . . .”, “We’re the first . . .”, or even “We’re the smallest . . .”  Smallest may be awesome if you can explain why very quickly.

One final note: Make it memorable.  Say something funny. Say something shocking.  Use colorful, powerful language.   Nail these three must-haves, work memorable in in some way, and you’ll be well on your way to business success.

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