The journey from idea to IPO is a difficult one. In this series, we look at how founders scaled their startups and reached new milestones.
Brandon Moffatt has spent his career solving complex problems. As owner and vice president of London, Ont.-based StormFisher Hydrogen, Moffatt has led the development and construction of more than $1 billion in clean energy infrastructure and is currently developing a facility for creating hydrogen and other low-carbon fuels. He’s an entrepreneur, an engineer and an environmentalist, and he excels at all three. In short, he and his company have a good story to tell. His problem? Finding the right way to tell it.
“We know what we’re doing on setting up the companies and engaging with corporate buyers,” Moffatt says. “But we’ve always been a steak-and-potatoes business. We’ve always approached it as, we’ll just do our job, and people will learn about us. We haven’t necessarily been telling our story.”
This build-it-and-the-words-will-come approach is not uncommon among busy company founders, especially those who work in highly technical fields. But time spent on getting the corporate narrative straight can quickly pay dividends.
“In my experience, a lot of companies’ success is achieved once everybody is aligned and telling the same story on who the company is, what they do and why they do it,” says Kristina Cleary, a former chief marketing officer at global software company Ceridian who now advises ventures, including StormFisher, in MaRS’ Momentum program.
While smaller companies can often get by with the founder delivering a version of their elevator pitch to all comers, that approach quickly hits the buffers when a business starts to scale. If every member of staff is delivering their own take on what the company is and does, potential customers, partners and regulators will hear a cacophony of mixed messages. “It’s hard to even hire employees when you’re all telling a different story,” says Cleary.
What’s needed is a clear, concise plan that communicates the company’s vision, mission and impact. While that sounds simple, answering the question “Who are we?” can be surprisingly complex and thought-provoking. Here’s how StormFisher approached fine-tuning its messaging, and why that was an essential ingredient in its success.
Cut through the complexity
StormFisher’s business takes a minute to grasp. The company made its name in the biogas industry, building processing plants that create renewable natural gas from food waste. Last year,