Why start with why?

Why start with why? A concept coined by Simon Sinek, the idea of starting with why might go against your first instinct when starting a business. Traditionally, the first thing you’re told to do is to write a business plan. You’re told to set out what you’ll do, what the product or service will be, and what you’ll do to market it. Notice the theme? It’s all about the ‘what’.

Starting with ‘why’ might seem like it’s going against the grain but it’s actually becoming increasingly common.

Why do you want to create a business? What’s your purpose? I’ve seen so many clients and friends shy away from answering these questions simply because they’re hard to answer. Finding clarity requires us to go deeper and look within ourselves, and that can be scary! But it’s also necessary if you’re going to create a sustainable business that you’re excited to show up for each and every day.

The golden circle, with why at its core

In his now world-famous TED talk, Simon Sinek presents the concept of the golden circle. The circle expands from ‘why’ at its core, to ‘how’ and then ‘what’. As Simon explains, most organisations start with the ‘what’ i.e. what they do. Everyone knows what products and services they sell and, most, will also know how they’re doing it or rather, their USP (unique selling proposition). Yet, few organisations will know why they do what they do.

Simon Sinek’s golden circle

The best, and most successful, organisations will start with why and work their way out from there. In identifying their why, these businesses are able to determine their purpose whilst also finding clarity around how that purpose is creating value for the world.

Use your why to find your purpose

There’s a reason that I start the first coaching session with each of my clients in the exact same way  – working to find clarity around their goals. Because, if you’re going to achieve your goals, they need to be the right goals for you. Which means that you need to understand your reason for pursuing them.

Your purpose goes far beyond your product or a paycheck, it’s about the wider impact that you want your work to have on the world. 

When you run a business, you’re going to be working on and speaking about the same topic every single day for years to come. So, it needs to be something that you love. It needs to speak to your passion, and the reason you get out of bed in the morning.

This passion will shine through in your work and the experience that you create for your buyers. They won’t just be purchasing your product or service, they’ll be purchasing the feeling that your product creates for them. And that’ll be what keeps them coming back for more.

Start with why to demonstrate your value

There must be a need for your business. You need to be creating value for your customers, you need to be solving a problem or changing something for them.

“People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.”

Simon Sinek

People don’t buy Apple computers just because they’re good products. They buy them because they feel a connection to a company that’s doing things differently. The organisation’s ‘why’ shines through in their work – the passion and purpose of both Apple and Steve Jobs has allowed them to create a better business than someone who was just focussing on the ‘what’.

By starting with why, Apple has built a global community around their brand who are happy (or even excited!) to queue around the block in the early hours of the morning just to be one of the first to purchase the new iPhone.

They’ve been able to achieve this, not just because they started with why way back when the company first began but because they start with why in everything they do. Whether it’s a new product, a marketing message or even a simple social media post, they start with why every single time.

Your why is what will enable you to develop a sustainable and meaningful business that will last the test of time. Whilst you might tweak your why over time, its core essence should remain the same. It’s the how and the what that are most likely to change, as the needs and expectations of your customer base evolve.

“Henry Ford summed it up best. “If I had asked people what they wanted,” he said, “they would have said a faster horse.””

Simon Sinek

Once you’ve established your why, then you can create the product. And that product will be grounded not just in features and benefits but also how it makes your dream clients and customers feel. 

You need to show people how you are helping them. Not to just sell to people who need what you have, but who believe what you believe. That’s when they’ll form a true connection with you and your brand. That’s what causes them to stick with you for life.

How do you find your why?

I know what you’re thinking. Starting with why is all very well, but how do you find out what your why is?!

It all comes down to clarity and stripping everything back to basics. Think about what lights you up. What are you doing when your soul feels filled up with joy? Who are you speaking to? Who are you working with? What are you working on?

Once you’ve identified what those things are, take your exploration one level deeper. What is it about those things that are so important to you?

I love using the Wheel of Life for this exercise, as it allows me (and my clients) to zoom out and take a birds-eye view of my life. You can use it to find clarity about what it is that you want in your life, where you’re currently at in that journey, and what needs to change to find that balance.

Bonus: I’ve got a free Wheel of Life worksheet waiting for you below at the bottom of this blog post!

Wondering what my why is? It’s simply the belief that everyone should be able to find freedom in both their lives and their careers, at the same time.

Let’s find your why together and Empower You:

Make this November the month that you start with why, with the Empower You group coaching programme. 2 intensive weeks to find the clarity you’ve been looking for.
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About the author

Lisa is a mother, a business owner, a founder, and an executive leader. She's been through it all and has come out the other side to thrive. Now she's helping you to do the same! Learn how you can find clarity and support through her services for individuals and organisations.