Why We Built This Company From an Old Camper and a Dream

You could say it all started on January 20, 2018. That's is the day we bought the trailer that would be the closest thing this company has to a headquarters. But if we said that, we would miss the most meaningful part of our little origin story.

This is the first in a series of quarterly updates. We will write them to let you know how we're doing, what we're learning, and what's next. It's not meant to be a self-congratulatory exercise in navel-gazing, just the documentation of a dream.

So, let's start at the beginning...

Every great adventure in life usually starts for one of two reasons: to run away from something or towards something else. If you're running away, it might be that you're in a job you hate, out of shape, or in some other less than stellar situation. So, you quit that job and hit the road, train for that ultra marathon, or embark on some other great venture to escape.

That wasn't us.

The other reason is that you encounter an idea that you just cannot shake. An idea that dares you every day to drop everything to shape a new future for yourself. And while your life would be totally fine and comfortable if left undisturbed, you can't not give it a go. Bingo.

The idea: We can use story to bring meaning back to work.

If you read these blog posts, you've probably heard us say that story is the most powerful human invention. It's the thing that propelled us from mid-level primates to the rulers of the world. Stories inspire. They teach. They mobilize. And they make us who we are.

It's all true, and it applies to work too. The greatest organizations and teams were all powered by story. The Miracle on Ice, Moon landing, Microsoft's computer on every desk in every home, Nike's quest to just do it, and so many more.

But in an increasingly data-driven world where we face more communication and decisions at work than ever before, it's getting hard to find a narrative that ties it all together. It's why only 13 percent of American workers think that leadership communicates effectively, and just 22 percent think their leaders have a clear direction for the future.

We are losing our story at work.

Why does this matter? Because when you lose your story, you lose your meaning. And when you lose your meaning, it's hard to be productive and stay engaged. So, it's no accident that over 70 percent of the American workforce is disengaged at work. It's a multi-billion dollar problem. 

But this issue isn't about lost profit and productivity for us. It's about lost people. Because a world where seven out of ten Americans spend at least eight hours a day doing something that brings little meaning or personal growth is a world deprived of great things. An ocean of unrealized potential and lost dreams. It's tragic, and it doesn't have to be this way.

So, we asked the question that started it all: What if we could create a company to reconnect organizations to the power of story? Not just to find new success in their work, but new meaning.

Bingo again. The idea we couldn't shake.

Now we just had to figure out what we were going to do.

While our mission was crystalizing, the rest was raw and undefined. We had to figure out what we would actually do for clients. And because there are so many different applications for storytelling at work, that was actually much harder than it sounds.

After four months of surprisingly frustrating mental wrangling, we found clarity. We would focus our work on the four pillars that shape an organization's story (and success). Specifically, we decided to:

  • Build story-powered brands;

  • Redefine the recruiting and onboarding experience;

  • Reimagine internal communication; and

  • Help leaders become better storytellers.

That's it. Maybe that list changes, but for now it's all we've got.

And then we went into the woods.

The defining moment for any new venture is when your idea moves from your head into the world. And it's more than just setting up an LLC and website, we wanted a physical space to call home. So, I bought a 1965 Travel Master camper trailer with holes in the ceiling and a rotten frame, and we parked it in the woods. 

The buildout was surprisingly hard, given that this trailer is only seven feet wide and nineteen feet long. But after five months on nights and weekends, we finished it up (with special thanks to our good friend Chad).

And that brings us here.

We launched The Impossible Company two months ago. It's going better than we ever expected. We have two projects underway, and just sent our third proposal last week. And as we enter this new year, we can't help but feel incredibly grateful for everything. Thank you.

We'll let you know how we're doing in three months. Until then, wishing you and yours a Happy New Year.


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