“The more organizations and people who learn to start with WHY, the more people there will be who wake up being fulfilled by the work they do.” – Simon Sinek, Start with Why
In 1992 I had a one year old baby, had taken voluntary redundancy from my management career and had a husband whose firm was shedding staff. I was also very conscious that my world revolved around my husband and daughter and that made me vulnerable; there would come a day when my daughter didn’t need me and, if I wasn’t careful, my husband might decide he didn’t want a limpet clinging to him. I had two good reasons for starting my business. I had my why, but was it the right why? Looking back over the intervening years I realise it wasn’t! Yes it made me start a business. Yes it made me push at my comfort zones. Yes it met my desire for independence and a life that didn’t revolve around the needs of my husband and daughter. However my why led me to saying yes to everything that was legal, interesting and paid. I taught retail to English language students, life skills to young employees, CV writing to job seekers, and business administration to people who’d missed out on their formal education. I wrote training materials on mentoring and returning to work. I wrote newsletters, magazine articles and tender documents. I had as much work as I wanted but did I have a business? No, not really.
In his 2010 TedX talk Simon Sinek suggests that those who lead the way in business and in life understand their why. I understood my why so why wasn’t I leading in business? I had the wrong why! Sinek suggests that people buy why you do what you do rather than how you do it or even what you do. So people buy from the therapist whose why is to eliminate pain so that their clients can live a full life. They don’t buy a sports massage because they want a sports massage per se, or necessarily because the masseur uses a particular technique. They buy because they share a desire to eliminate pain. The problem with my why was it was really self-centred, it inspired me, but wasn’t a reason why people would want to do business with me. Why would anyone choose to buy so that I could be independent and provide for my family? They wouldn’t!
If you are going to avoid my mistakes then you will want to find a why that inspires you and your potential customers. Your why will need to motivate you. It should keep you going when the going is tough. And if you get your why right it can be the reason why your ideal customer will do business with you rather than a competitor. Sinek suggest, ‘the goal is to do business with people who believe what you believe’.
Are you really clear about your why? Do you have a mission statement that really connects with your audience? If so I’d really love to hear about it. I’m looking for a few examples to feature in my book due to be published in Autumn 2016. The aim of the book is to help people start a small, locally based business after 40. My target reader has probably had a corporate or professional career which no longer fulfils them or they have raised a family and now want something more to life. I’m particularly keen to hear from business owners who have done just that. If you would be interested in being included in the book I’d love to hear from you, please comment here or email firstname.lastname@example.org with Book in the subject line. Thank you.