“Start With Why”
Most of us spend a lot of time focusing on the “what” in business. When we get to work, we think about what we need to do today and, maybe, what’s up next. Leaders in the midst of a change may also be thinking about how their company operates. But have you ever considered your organization can “start with why”?
In his best-selling book and popular TED talk, author and influencer Simon Sinek explains how business leaders can inspire others by starting with “why.” Your “why” encompasses the set of core beliefs and values that drive you. You can use those ideas and the core values to strengthen your brand.
What Is A “Why”?
Every person and organization has their own unique motivations. While most people haven’t taken the time to examine their values, we all have something – a cause, belief or purpose – that influences our actions. Sinek calls this inspiration your “why.”
By defining your “why,” you gain a better understanding of your priorities. Considering decisions through the lens of your core values will empower you to find more fulfillment in your work. Leading with “why” also helps your company attract and inspire employees, partners and clients.
In Start With Why,” Sinek explores why some companies exceed everyone’s expectations and achieve astounding success while others with similar resources fail. He found that successful businesses like Apple develop and promote a vision driven by their core values. When they create a new product or service, they “start with why.”
Rethink Your Decisions With The “Golden Circle”
To explain how companies act on their beliefs, Sinek created a framework that he calls the Golden Circle.” The center of this circle is the “why,” which represents an organization’s core values. It’s their reason for existing.
The second layer encompasses the “how.” This represents the ways the company uses their “why” to create something different or better. Organizations that are trying to define their place in the market are typically thinking about their “how.”
The outside of the “Golden Circle” is the “what.” These are the actions that organizations or individuals take. Leaders can always describe what products or services their company offers. Individuals know their function within an organization. It is easy to identify your “what.”
Unfortunately, Sinek found that many leaders focus mainly on those external “what” factors. During periods of transition, they may consider the “how,” but most have not given any thought as to why their company is in business.
Businesses that start with their “what” base their decisions on superficial, tangible factors. To market themselves, they tell potential customers what their products or services do. A software company, for example, might lead with the message that they customize bespoke invoicing solutions for busy contractors. While some potential customers may consider hiring this company, this statement doesn’t tell them anything about the software company’s mission.
In contrast, top brands like Apple inspire consumers because they “start with why” message. They craft marketing campaigns that communicate their company’s values and vision. When Apple releases a new product, they don’t just focus on specific features in their ads. Each campaign highlights their core values: innovation, simplicity and a commitment to excellence. This focus has empowered them to develop a clear, consistent brand image.
Define Your “Why”
When leaders or companies lead with their why, the message feels different. A values-based appeal connects with the listener on a deeper level. Learning to communicate your “why” will help you attract others who share your beliefs. The “Start With Why” philosophy can be applied to any situation because we all have a purpose.
Your small business can use the example of major brands like Apple to define and communicate your own vision. To tap into the power of your “why,”start by examining your values. Why did you go into business? If your answer is “to make money,” ask yourself why you chose this specific line of work.
Think about your personal values and how they relate to your work. What beliefs have you brought with you into your business? If you aren’t sure that your purpose currently aligns with your work, consider the kind of corporate culture that you would like to build. How do you want your employees and customers to feel? What words would you like people to use to describe your company?
Potential clients and employees typically don’t buy into what your company does. They buy into your brand’s values and reputation. Before you can communicate why people should want to do business with you, you first need to define what your business is all about.
Incorporate Your Values Into Your Communications
To improve your ability to connect with your audience, put your “why” first in your messages. The next time you draft a presentation, email, social media post or marketing copy, think about how you can communicate your values. Outline what you hope the listener or reader will take away from your words.
Your “why” helps you clearly communicate the value of your message. Focus on your audience, whether it’s your team, a client or potential customers. Why should they listen to what you have to say?
In your marketing copy, for example, highlight how your company adds value by speaking directly to your clients’ needs. Describe how your company’s vision inspires you to create products that solve their problems. Put your “why” front and center.
Connecting with your purpose enables you to appeal to potential employees and customers in a new way. When you can define what drives your company, that brand story helps you attract people who share your values. However, as a leader, you still need to put in the work to ensure your message reaches the right audience.
Use Your “Why” To Inspire Others
Think about who you are hoping to do business with. What types of employees do you want to hire? Have you developed buyer personas to describe your customers? These profiles can be useful in helping you share your brand’s story, but they need to go beyond superficial details like their education level or demographics.
Brainstorm what types of people are likely to share your core values. What characteristics do your highest performing employees have in common? Consider who your loyal customers are and why they have chosen to stick with your brand.
While it may be difficult to answer these questions, simply taking the time to ask them encourages you to rethink your outreach strategies. There’s no need to scrap your existing buyer personas or recruiting plan. “Start with why” to help define who your company should be targeting and how your mission might resonate with those people. Think about how you can tap into your existing and potential customers’ or employees’ motivations as well.
If your company manufactures its products in the U.S. and most of your competitors’ factories are overseas, your customers may choose you because they believe in buying American. Maybe your business has taken a stand by using renewable resources or giving back to your local community, and your employees came to work for you because they support your cause. Looking for opportunities to lead with “why” will help your company attract and inspire new connections.
Now that you know how to “start with why,” try some of these suggestions and see the difference it makes for your business. Defining and communicating your brand’s purpose will strengthen your corporate culture, clarify your value proposition and encourage loyalty. Your customers won’t just be buying from your company; they’ll be buying into your brand’s vision.
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