Why Every Small Business Owner Should Start With Why

Why Every Small Business Owner Should Start With Why

Most small business owners can tell you what they do. In fact most small business owners can probably tell you how they do it. But very few can tell you why they do what they do.

“Why do you do what you do?”- is an incredibly powerful question for the simple reason it gets to the very heart of what you’re trying to do.  It’s the belief, the purpose, the cause. As a business owner, it’s not about making a profit, making a living or paying the bills, it’s the very thing that gets you out of bed in a morning.

Your why is essentially your brand, your inner core, it’s why people should buy from you and not your competition. It’s why your employees should work for you and not for anyone else. It’s why you business will be around 10 years from now and not a forgotten member of the corporate scrap heap:

“Customers buy brands, not products. If you can’t articulate the reason for your company’s existence, you’re going to lose out”.

– Inc Magazine, March 2012

Simon Sinek, author of the inspiring book: Start With Why – How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action – describes the core of how great leaders inspire people (whether that’s employees or customers) to take action.  He calls this the golden circle (at the top of this article)

This concept of inspiring people to take action applies as much to the owners of small businesses as it does to Chief Executives of Fortune 500 companies.   This is because all businesses involve people whatever market you’re in.

As a small business owner, if you can articulate why you do what you do,  in such a way that it resonates with you target customer, then this will create a strong and loyal following for everything you do.

How to start with why

According to Sinek, great and inspiring leaders think act and communicate in the same way. They start from the inside of the picture of at the top of this article, what Sinek describes as the golden circle. They start with why.
Sinek illustrates this with an example of an  Apple sales pitch.  If Apple were like everyone else, their marketing pitch would go someething like this:

  • [what] we make great computers
  • [how] they are beautifully designed, simple to use and user friendly,
  • want to buy one?

At first, this may seem a perfect reasonable way to make a sales pitch, it is, after all, what we see all the time and it goes like this:

  • we say what we’re going to do
  • we say how our product is better than anyone elses
  • we ask them to join

Instead Apple flips things round and starts from the inside of the golden circle, starting from the inside and working out.

  • [why] Everything we do we believe in challenging  the status quo. We believe in thinking differently.
  • [how] The way we challenge the status quo is making our  making our products beautfully desingned, simple to use and user friendly.
  • [what] We happen to make great computers, do you want to buy one?

Apple’s reversing of the message is far more powerful.

It’s so effective, that it explains that why we are comfortable buying a computer, an MP3 player, a phone or maybe even a watch from Apple.  Sinek contrasts Apple’s success with the failings of others companies trying to sell the same products (like Dell and Gateway).

Both Dell and Gateway have sold similar products to Apple’s but how many people do you know still listen to thier music on a Dell Digital Juke Box?

One of my favourite concepts from Sinek’s book is Martin Luther King’s, not I have a plan speech, but “I have a dream”

And in the summer of 1963, a quarter of a million people showed up to hear Dr. King deliver his “I have a dream speech” at the Lincoln Memorial. But how many turned up for Dr. King? Zero. They showed up for themselves.  It was what they believed. It was what they saw as an opportunity to help America become a better version of itself.

– Simon Sinek

What I have found very useful for my own clients in discovering their why is by keep asking why until I get to the very essence of the why they do what they do. For example when I first ask my clients why they do what they do, they will often start of by saying something along the lines of “because it’s a growth market”.

However, when I’ve drilled it to further by asking why another 3-5 times, I get a completely different answer.

One of my favourite responses from a client after several “why’s?” was:

“because this is a product that can lift people from poverty. Anyone with a computer can do this. People can have the power to change their lives forever”.

And that’s something that will get you out of bed in a morning.

Whether it’s pitching your products or hiring staff, the concept works just the same.  Don’t hire people for a job (if you do that they’ll just work for the money),  hire people who believe what you believe, becuase then you wlll get people who will go to the ends of the earth on your behalf.


If you don’t know why you do what you do, and you now know that people buy as a response to why you do what you do,  how will you ever get people to buy from you?

The goal is not to do business with everybody who needs what you have, it’s to do business with people who believe what you believe.

You can see Simon Sinek talk about the idea of Why in this TED Talk Video – How Great Leaders Inspire Action [18:05]

You can chcek out Simon Sinek’s excellent book on Amazon:  How Great Leaders Inpsire Action – Simon Sinek

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