Sometimes I feel that we meet certain people at the exact time we are prepared to receive them, same with the books we read. This book could not have been timelier for me especially with the privilege of starting a new company.
The goal is not to do business with everybody that needs what you have, the goal is to do business with everyone that believes what you believe.
(BOOK REVIEW) START WITH WHY: How Great leaders inspire everyone to take action || SIMON SINEK|| PORTFOLIO PENGUIN|| 2009|| 246 PAGES
The book discusses the importance of being clear about WHY we do the things we do; whether in business or as a leader. It starts out by explaining how most strategies used by a lot of companies to gain customers are ephemeral, manipulative and increasingly expensive to keep up with.
First-mover advantage, novelty, lowest pricing, frequent promotions, fear and even using aspiration (celebrity endorsements) to move others are common practices which he categorizes under the carrot and stick approach.
These measures, though effective in the short term due to their manipulation are thoroughly transactional and expensive to maintain in the long run. They also do not inspire loyalty in the customers or followers they attract because when the carrots are absent, the customers move to other newer/ better options.
Simon Sinek’s aim is to lead businesses and leaders to focus on building trust and loyalty among their customers /followers by centering on WHY they do what they do, before moving on to HOW (the differentiating element) they do it and WHAT (products, services, features, price.) they do.
He calls this the Inside Out approach and uses the concept of the Golden circle to explain it. Starting from the inside out creates trust, loyalty and long term success and inspires others to become full time advocates who identify with cause of the leader or business their own.
The biological angle to the Golden Circle is the fact that our WHYs are naturally more difficult to communicate because they are associated with the ‘feelings’ part of our brain – the Limbic Brain which controls our feelings and decision making but not our language which makes it difficult to express how we feel sometimes, so we rationalize our WHYs by the visible things like the WHAT which is external and also exists in the ‘thinking’ part of the brain that controls rational thought and language – the Neo Cortex.
The Golden Circle was inspired by the Golden ration that purports that there is more order in nature than we think, as in the symmetry of leaves and the geometric perfection of snowflakes.
That is why it is easier for people start with WHAT they do, the features of their products, their pricing and all, then move to their unique differentiating factor – HOW they do what they do – their team work, secret sauce, they probably never getting to say WHY they do what they do.
The first answer that comes to many when asked WHY they do what they do, would probably be Money, but that’s only the result of sticking to their WHY and finding expression in HOW & WHAT they do. Your WHY is usually a bigger cause, purpose as to why you started your business in the first place.
Extensively using Apple Inc. as his perfect example, He explained that even though many may believe that Apple has a huge clientele base for various reasons such as the quality and aesthetics of their products and the outstanding workforce they hire, he believes that Apple has a disproportionate portion of the market and a huge following because they are crystal clear about who they are and they clearly communicate that WHY.
They do not identify themselves based on their products which would have made them just another phone maker or computer company, they identify themselves by WHY they exist; which is to Challenge the status quo and to think differently. They also clearly communicate this message FIRST before the process and the product itself.
People buy your WHY and then rationalize it with HOW or WHAT you use to express it.
They identify with the message because Apple is clearly and consistently communicating it and is disciplined enough to stick to their WHY.
Most times companies start out communicating their WHY especially when they are small, which he claims is the job of the Leader, but along the way, either due to success, or the constant chasing of profits, market share and competition; they forget their WHY and focus on their WHAT causing a split. This is also common with older companies where their founders have not successfully passed down WHY the business exists to his successor; the successor then focuses on the company’s products and distinguishing factors leaving a fuzzy WHY and an uninspired team. He also used Steve’s Job’s forced exit from Apple in 1985 to buttress this.
When you talk about what you believe, you will attract what you believe.
He does however admit that whilst knowing and clearly communicating why you are in business is key to your company’s longevity and true customer loyalty, knowing HOW to put a clear WHY into action is what moves a dream to reality. He cited examples of people who worked behind the scenes to help some visionaries birth their dreams; Walt Disney had Roy Disney, Steve Jobs had Steve Wozniak and Bill Gates had Paul Allen – the ‘HOW’ type people who help put the vision into action.
Your WHAT is important as it is an expression of your WHY, but it should always come last to create a balance in the Golden circle.
What you do simply proves what you believe.
Tosan’s take: I had to check Simon Sinek’s TED TALK right after reading this, one of the most watched talks with over 12.4 million views, you will be inspired to find out your WHY and to clearly communicate it all the time – before your HOW and WHAT. Now, we just have to start talking more about WHY we do what we do.
At RED SKYS MEDIA, we believe everyone should focus on what they love and profit from it, so we partner with businesses doing so to amplify their voice and brands using digital means. We also believe in building long lasting business relationships with our businesses