Last week, we walked you through how to create a mission statement. Part of that process involved answering four questions—What? Who? How? Why?—with, in our opinion, the “why” behind your business purpose being the most important—not only for your mission statement but for your entire business story.
Being able to articulate how your products or services exist in the world and how you add value to people’s lives is critical to becoming a leader in your industry. Providing the “why” of your business story gives your employees and your customers a way to connect with you on a personal level and view your business as a living, breathing entity.
In order to figure out your “why” and how to articulate it, start by digging deeper into yourself and your company by asking (and answering) the hard questions. Get out a pen and paper, open a new dry erase marker, start a fresh Google Doc…whatever you need to do to get out your thoughts.
Here are the questions we recommend answering:
After answering these questions, don’t be afraid to share them with your most trusted employees, advisors, and mentors. Seek the opinions of those who understand the company you’re building and your business purpose and ask them for constructive criticism.
Simon Sinek, an author, speaker and consultant on leadership, developed what he calls The Golden Circle and first introduced it in his 2009 TEDx Talk. The diagram pictured below shows that there are three layers to your business story: (1) the what, (2) the how, and (3) the why. Almost every organization knows exactly what they do, some know how they do it, and even fewer know why they do it.
Far too often, companies communicate their business purpose to their customers and employees from the outside in: first talking about their what, touching on their how, and usually ignoring their why. And in the process, they leave everyone feeling totally uninspired.
Instead, try flipping that around by thinking, acting, and communicating from the inside out. That’s when true magic happens.
Sinek uses Apple as an example of this. If Apple were like everyone else and communicated from the outside in, their marketing message may sound like this:
“We make great computers. They’re beautifully designed, simple to use, and user friendly. Want to buy one?”
But here’s how Apple actually communicates:
"Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo, we believe in thinking differently." (THE WHY)
"The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use, and user friendly." (THE HOW)
"We just so happen to make great computers. Want to buy one?" (THE WHAT)
People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. The goal isn’t to sell to people who need what you have, but sell to people who believe what you believe. When you identify and call out your business purpose, you will drive true loyalty and engagement.
Sinek also touches on the Law of Diffusion of Innovation, which explains how, why, and at what rate new ideas and technology spread. The law indicates that mass market success of a product or service doesn’t happen until you achieve the tipping point between 15-18 percent penetration.
As a leader, it’s your job to close the gap between the early adopters and early majority. The only way to do this is by finding the “why” of your business story and identifying your business purpose. The early majority won’t try something unless someone else has tried it first. And the innovators and early adopters are driven to make decisions based on their beliefs. The more you communicate what you believe, the more you will attract those who believe in you.
After all, as Sinek cleverly notes at the end of his TED Talk: “Martin Luther King gave an ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, not an ‘I Have a Plan’ speech.”