Narrative Lessons

Storytelling takes different forms. Here at BevNET, what used to be a website with a newsfeed has, over the course of a dozen years, grown to include a magazine that incorporates long-form pieces, two other sites covering food and craft beer (Project NOSH and Brewbound, respectively) – all of which incorporate video – an educational platform called Boot Camp, and our conference series, which is tied to each respective web site.

All of these products are supported by social media, which gets the story out in a brief format and tends to also provide a visual glimpse from an attached photo.

BevNETpodcastNow we’ve added a podcast to the mix, which brings us the flexibility of adding discussion and opinion to evolving coverage. It’s a powerful tool, and as our news organization’s leading advocate for contextualizing the new developments of the day, I am delighted by the accessible format that it provides for helping get commentary into the coverage mix. While I think we’ve got a long way to go before we’re either “Serial” or “WTF with Marc Moran,” we’re excited to expose the variety of voices and thoughts we have on food and beverage industry related topics, as well as interviews, on-location site visits, and other types of coverage that are brought to life by this particular format.

We’re thrilled to hear feedback or entreaties for new topics for this new medium, or any of our other, less talk-centric media as well.

But we aren’t the only ones working on new storytelling formats, and this magazine contains a special piece that shows how much information can be transferred through a good story.

I’m referring, of course, to our excerpt from “High Hanging Fruit,” a new book by Mark Rampolla that is being released in late July. Mark has always been one of our favorite speakers at our events because he’s always ready to think through his triumphs and mistakes, warts and all, which is the very heart of the case-based work we try to do in a live setting. In other words, we tell stories, and filter them through experience and expertise to understand how a particular set of strategic decisions – and a company’s ability to execute following those decisions – create business outcomes.

In High Hanging Fruit, Mark has created an extended case study, using his own company, Zico, as the vehicle for passing on great ideas about leadership, the entrepreneurial spirit, and to a large extent the meaning of success in a rapidly changing society. He raises important points about creating teams and recruiting talent to support an enterprise, as well as how doggedness and transparency can be important when dealing with investors.

In the excerpt we are publishing in this issue, Mark discusses how he began to zero in on his perfect customer, the urban yogi, as a way of developing the brand ambassadors that Zico needed to catch fire. He also demonstrates an understanding of next-step strategies – that idea that once you get that ambassador, that yoga studio, you progress to surrounding and consolidating a hold in the surrounding stores and adjacent markets.

There’s a new phrase that a lot of investors and entrepreneurs are using these days about smart leaders – that they display the ability to “see around corners.” Due to conventional optics, that kind of psychic insight is hard to find. But for a leader who is willing to work hard to put up a convex mirror and keep an eye on the scene that is unfolding, writing a winning story might not be reliant on prognostication so much as positioning and execution. That’s the lesson that Mark teaches again and again during the book.

Still, it’s also about the story: whether it’s the recounting of meetings with potential investors, the loyalty Mark shows to early backers like Jim Tonkin, or the grit he describes that comes from just having to sit down and pack boxes until the wee hours of the morning, there are multiple lessons for the reader.

And we hope that you’ll keep reading, tuning in, watching, listening, and discussing your own stories with us. After all, we can’t all see around corners, but maybe by comparing notes, we’ll be able to scout them out together. We look forward to the journey, and the tales to come.