Is Your Business Story Mother Goose or Grimm?

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Over coffee with a friend we chatted about life…. actually about the expectations we had of our lives and how they compared to reality. My friend made a comparison to Mother Goose stories. You enter phases of your life with a belief that you’ll follow a nursery rhyme storybook path. Thanks a lot Disney! Those expectations are only exacerbated by the “Facebook Effect” where everyone lives a life of carefully structured posts and perfectly posed photographs demonstrating the perfection of family, friends, and jobs.


As I sipped my coffee and nodded in agreement I thought to myself, are our lives more Mother Goose or Grimm?

Studying German in college introduced me to the Grimm Brothers which afforded me the chance to learn the origins of those well known fairy tales. I was surprised to learn that Rapunzel was knocked up, Rumpelstiltskin ripped himself in half during a fit of madness, and the Evil Queen in “Snow White” was sentenced to death by having her feet placed in burning shoes while others watched as she danced until she dropped dead.

The Grimm brother told stories of warning that were uncensored and also controversial. But they were more impactful and memorable to those who listened to the stories.

They are also more relatable. We associate more with the ugly and raw truth, not the unrealistic fairy tales that turn us into skeptics.

So when it comes to the stories we tell in business, should we focus on the fairy tale, or the Grimm story?

When I listen to businesses tell their story I appreciate the honesty and transparency of those that reveal their struggles. It’s a relief to know you’re not alone when it comes to misaligned organizational leadership, unachievable sales quotas, reduced budgets and resources, and lack of strategic direction. Those unexpected curve-balls, torturous eliminations, and fits of rage found in the Grimm stories are also found within the four walls of most businesses.


When telling your story, focus on reality. The journey and successes are more inspirational when the origins are relatable. It’s also good to note in your story that “Happily Ever After” is not an objective. Successful companies understand that there is no conclusion to their story, merely an ongoing process focused on incremental improvement.

Explain the resistance you faced and how you overcame it. Define the change needed in your organization and how you implemented change management. Talk about how you selected and executed key projects with the little budget you were allocated.

Remember, even the origins of those fairy tale Mother Goose nursery rhymes were sinister. “Baa Baa Black Sheep” is about taxation. “Three Blind Mice” tells the story of 3 conspirators burned at the stake for trying to overthrow the queen. “Ring Around the Rosie” is a song about the Black Plague.

Even the happiest of stories started in a dark place.

What’s your Grimm Fairy Tale?


Marilyn Cox

Marilyn Cox is the Director of Marketing for Second City Works - the B2B division of the famed Second City.

You know the buzzwords; inbound, outbound, content, demand gen, lead gen, martech, social media, account-based, advocacy, customer success, sales enablement, and analytics.She studies it, plans it, executes it, experiments with it, and loves it.

Through discovery, creation, and innovation she's learned to say "Yes, And".Like business, her career is one big improvisational act.

She leads all aspects of the brand and culture, developing and executing a clearly defined, integrated marketing communications strategy.Marilyn is responsible for planning, organizing, staffing, training, and managing all marketing functions to achieve objectives of growth, awareness, customer success and making work better.

Marilyn exists to empower sales and support the customer. When not geeking out over marketing analytics, she can be found daydreaming about her unrealized dream as a professional wrestler with the WWE.

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