“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do what you do.”
That’s the tagline for Simon Sinek’s TED Talk, “Start With Why.” Viewed more than 21 million times, it has become something of a mantra for entrepreneurs and business leaders everywhere. But how does this concept actually apply to your business?
The answer is: it depends on your WHY. In other words, if you’re not sure why you started your business in the first place, then knowing how to use your why will be pretty much impossible.
So let’s talk about how to figure out your WHY in the first place!
What exactly is your ‘Why?’
There are many things that drive founders – the need to solve a problem, an opportunity to make money, or at a deeper level, the chance to make an impact. For most people, their why is in a mix of two or more of these options – A desire for impact and the need to solve a problem.
Too many founders focus on the ‘What’ and the ‘How’.
- What problem are we solving with this product? and
- How do we go about building/delivering/shipping this product?
Often forgetting that the ‘Why’ is the heart of the entire show.
Why does it matter?
Your why goes beyond the surface understanding of what you do. It is the heart of what drives you as a founder, the choices and decisions you make as you face the challenges that come with growth.
Let’s look at Melanie Perkins of Canva. As a young 19-year-old, Melanie was passionate about design. In teaching design programs at the university, she noticed a few things:
- That the ability to design isn’t as accessible to everyone.
- You need to be proficient in the use of specific tools to design well and
- these tools are not only expensive but aren’t the easiest to learn.
She saw a future where anyone could create a design in minutes – without worrying about huge costs or the time it’d take to learn how to use the tool. Why? Because at the time, it was practically impossible for anyone with little to know design knowledge to create designs. With small businesses springing up, creating useable designs was a necessary business tool/skill that would help the business.
This led to her first prototype – a service called FusionBooks that lets schools create their own yea books without publishing or design experience. And so she iterated until Canva was born – ultimately making it accessible to a larger audience.
Finding Your Why and Using it to Grow
Your why is typically driven by you as a founder. This is why it’s important to be clear on what your why is because it translates to your business and becomes the vision that your people run with.
A typical rule in figuring out your why is to ask yourself ‘Why’ five times. This will help you drill into the heart of why you do what you do. It’ll also help you be clear on the decisions you need to make to scale while staying true to your why. Start with the what and let it gradually lead you to the why.
- What problem am I solving with this product I’m building?
- Why am I building this product?
- Why do I want to solve this problem for this audience?
- Why should it matter to my audience?
- Why should anyone pay for this?
Getting this kind of clarity frees you in a sense because you can explore different ways of achieving what you want while staying true to your why. Think of it as a compass of sorts.
As you scale it also drives the key decisions you make as a founder – who you choose to hire, what drives your employees within the business, and what next steps to take to help you grow. Founders with a clear sense of purpose tend to make better decisions than those driven purely by profit.
Your Why helps you do 2 things
- Lets you know when to pivot
- Guides you on when and how to scale
Your WHY helps you pivot.
Everyone has a plan until you get punched in the face. This is the case for everything in life, especially in business.
Netflix thrived in the DVD business but they knew when to pivot to delivering movies through online streaming and downloads. Their medium changed but at the core of their business, they stayed true to why they were founded – offering people the ability to enjoy all the movies they wanted.
When you start off, you have an idea of what problem you’re trying to solve but things don’t always go according to plan. Your WHY helps create the right strategies on HOW to move things around in the face of change, WHAT things to change, and the different ways to present your offer to your audience. Read more HERE
It keeps your business goals in line with the overall values, keeping you focused in line with your why.
Your Why guides you on when and how to scale.
You may be asking yourself: “Should I scale my business?” The answer is not always as straightforward as you think. It depends on your why. Your why is the reason for you being in business, it’s what you stand for, and it’s what drives everything that comes after.
Scaling is more than just growing bigger; it’s about doing things differently. Guided by your why it changes everything from your go-to-market strategy – your choice of messaging, offers, pricing, audience, and channels – how you plan to reach(email, social media, search engine marketing).
The result is that people buy into this – why you’re different from other companies – and they’ll be willing to give time and money to the business because your driving force resonates with them.
On a final note…
The most important thing is to remember that your ‘Why’ guides everything you do. It is your differentiator, you know what kind of company you want to build and how to create a scalable business without losing sight of what keeps you going.