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Do You Know “Why” Your Business Exists?

Start with why to find people who want to do business with your company
When’s the last time you thought about that question? Whether you’re just starting out, or you’ve been in business for ten years, what is your business’ “why?”  What is its purpose?  Why does it exist? And it’s not to make a profit; that's the result.

More important, why should people do business with you?

Most companies define themselves by “what” they do, rarely by “why” they do it, and most people don’t buy products or services based on what something does. Instead, people purchase a product or service based on why that company does what they do.

Simon Sinek, author, speaker, and consultant, in his TED Talk “Start with Why,” describes a simple but powerful model for how leaders inspire action, starting with the question "why?" and how it is the principle behind every successful person and business.

The Golden Circle by Simon Sinek
He describes what he calls, “The Golden Circle” – three concentric rings with the outer ring being “what,” the followed by “how” and then “why” in the center. Coincidentally, this also describes how our brains are constructed, with the outer brain (our neocortex or "what" circle) in charge of rational and analytical thought and language. Interestingly, Mr. Sinek describes how our limbic brain (the inner two circles in a cross-section) controls notions of feeling and emotion, and happen to have no capability for verbal communication.

It’s why we reply with “I don’t know, it just doesn’t feel right.”  Knowing, understanding, and preaching the “why” of your business, for the small business owner, can provide not only the basis for the business’ future regarding the acquisition and loyalty of its customers and its employees but the foundation for its culture.

Most companies know the “what” and can communicate it, often defining themselves by it. For example, a typical law firm’s marketing message probably sounds like this: We have the best lawyers, having gone to Harvard, Stanford, and Yale. We represent the biggest clients, etc.

Not very inspiring.

Some even describe the “how” of their business, i.e., how they are different from their competitors. A car company’s marketing message would sound like this: “Here’s our new car. It’s fuel-efficient and fun to drive. It’s safe, and we use the most environmentally friendly materials. Buy one now." Meh.

Defining the “why” is the essence of your business existence and, most often, overlooked, or flat out, not even considered. It's why you get out of bed in the morning and why your market should care. It's the most crucial element of your business. And, if you never really thought about your business in these terms before, it could be daunting.  Let me help. To successfully answer the “why” question for your business, you need to consider the following three critical points:

1. “Why” addresses what you stand for.

It should be what drives the fundamental belief and passion in your small business concept. It should encompass your personal and professional values, and why you come to work every day, putting in the hours, taking the risks.  Your “why” should represent “who” you and your company are. And above all, it should inspire. Sir Richard Branson has started more than 300 businesses and has introduced his distinct “serious fun” as a driving force behind each of his Virgin companies’ culture.

The idea began as a simple effort to disrupt “business as usual” and introduce some fun into the day.  But now “serious fun” is what all Branson companies stand for.  His values are now his company’s values! And people that also believe in "serious fun" are most likely to buy products and services from his businesses.

2. “Why” addresses why customers want to do business with you.

People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. Your purpose should touch your prospective customer’s hearts.  You need to reach them on an emotional level.  That is what makes them want to do business with you and to keep coming back. It creates loyalty. And that idea is what ought to drive your business, both externally and internally.

Steve Jobs and Apple is one of the best examples of this.

"They communicate directly opposite of their competitors and most every other business on the planet: from the inside out."

Instead of something like this: "We make great computers. They’re beautifully designed, simple to use, and user-friendly. Want to buy one?"

 Apple communicates using this "why" principle, and it sounds like this: "Everything we do, we challenge the status quo because we think differently. We challenge the status quo by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use, and user-friendly. We just happen to make great computers. Want to buy one?"

Customers don't buy computers and phones from Apple because they are some “run of the mill” computer company; it's because they identify with them. They believe in what Apple stands for, so, they purchase products from Apple!

Examples of companies with great "why" strategies: Zappo's, Starbucks, and Southwest Airlines.

3. “Why” addresses why employees want to do work for you.

You don’t just hire people who need a job and fit your specifications. Your purpose should attract and inspire employees to want to come work for you. They believe in your “why,” and if you couple that by creating an environment of mutual trust and respect, it drives employees’ personal and professional growth.

One of the best examples of this “why” is Zappo’s and their founder, Tony Hsieh. He feels it's about giving employees permission and encouraging them just to be themselves. Put another way; Zappo's is looking for people whose personal values match their corporate values.

The results of this have been clear. Zappo’s has achieved phenomenal success. They have happy, inspired employees.  And, parenthetically, those happy, motivated employees have created happy, excited customers. Because employees will treat customers exactly the way they are treated. Zappo’s “why” drives that bus!

Most companies define themselves by “what” they do, rarely by “why” they do it.  But it is the “why” that represent what you believe and what you stand for and truly drives why customers do business with you and why employees want to work for you.  Find your “why” and you will find your success!

"The Entrepreneur's Yoda" knows these things.  He's been there.  May success be with you!

What is your “why?”  Have you ever realized its importance to you and your company?  Please share your thoughts in your comments.  It can help another entrepreneur or small business owner.

If you like this post, by all means, share it with your networks and colleagues.

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