Why start with why and why is it important?
I must admit, I am part of the “great resignation” gang. Quitting my job middle of last year in pursuit of greener pastures.
I know, I know the grass isn’t always greener and all that jazz, but in my defence, I had watered where I was more than enough. It was time for a change.
Anyway, long story short, I decided to take over a business and here I am.
I like to learn how to do better in the things I am passionate about and dedicated to. This trait so happened to lead me to this book and inspiration for this blog…
As mentioned, my thoughts here are inspired by this book so I thought I’d share some of the things I learned with you guys.
Why start with why?
To be direct, starting with why has historically given certain companies a strong sense of culture, an ideological advantage, an extra edge. Even if it’s unintentional. This just means the company is more than the balance sheet at the end of the quarter.
At the beginning of a company’s difficult and often short lived life, it is easier for the why to be prevalent, (if the why is there to begin with), this is because it’s usually only one or two founder(s) with the same/similar vision.
The why can be lost when the business grows. Hiring excellent candidates to elevate the company is an exciting time and it should be. Successful candidates are brought in to help the company flourish however if the WHY is not instilled or believed by the new employees then there is a high chance the company will start to falter and ‘split’.
The founder or CEO is no longer in charge of the small decisions, menial tasks are expected to shift down the ranks. I’m sure as much as the founder would want to manage all situations it would be impossible once the business scales beyond a one person band.
This means the smaller decisions are more likely to be made without the essence of WHY in mind. Bit by bit the company could struggle and lose what it was meant to be when it first started.
Apple is the perfect example of this, referenced often within the book. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak had a vision and a WHY in mind. The two Steve’s challenged the status quo and done things differently. It was who they were and that exuded into Apple.
In 1985, when Apple decided to dismiss Steve Jobs from his own company, little did they realise their mistake. This was a move that would eventually end up seeing Apple sales fall dramatically. In 1997, Steve Jobs was back at Apple and the rest is history. Steve Jobs returned the spirit of Apple by aligning the WHY back to the company.
There’s quite a crude metaphor regarding whether the company will survive if something drastic was to happen to the CEO. The school bus test. This questions whether it’s the WHY instilled into the fabric of the company and it’s employees? Or is it the boss and the boss’ vision leading the way and when the boss is gone the company no longer functions properly? Apple and Steve Jobs are the perfect use case of this query.
Going against your why?
The book mentions what can happen when you go against your why with a story of Volkswagen car manufacturers. The company is known as the ‘People’s Car’ which is the literal translation of Volkswagen.
There are many reasons why VW is the people’s car, not just in name. Being one of the best selling cars and minivans of the 60’s and 70’s rebellious era, it was the unintentional symbol of freedom and peace.
VW tried to release a luxury car to rival the more prestigious models of the time, it was seemingly better than it’s rivals in many ways and performed better than most although sales did not reflect this.
Up until that point people associated with VW differently, the company seemed to veer off course and it didn’t work, at least not at the time. Appeasing to a new crowd isn’t always as simple as taking advantage of an opportunity. The why of VW was so ingrained into peoples mind at the time that this change backfired more than anything.
In the end VW made it through a potential split, and is still a very successful company today. Irreversible damages that have come from going astray from the why are not uncommon. Luckily, in this case, the company didn’t veer too far off course.
Ring the bell:
Who are you targeting and do they believe in your why?
I recently put a post out on our instagram page, for business owners to have a greater understanding of their own target audience. Many people are oblivious of how in depth this topic can be, especially because we are now able to implement insightful knowledge with SEO techniques that can help your branding and traffic tremendously.
I believe target audience coincides with the diffusion of innovation theory first bought to light by E.M. Rogers in 1962.
By understanding the characteristics of the early adopters (aka influencers) of a product, of YOUR product/service, you can position the product more efficiently. Geared towards people more likely to enjoy your product and spread the message.
If the right people are adopting your product early the rest will follow.
These early adopters are usually the people that believe in your why, their values align with the mutual understanding and sometimes love between your product/service and them.
Read more about target audience marketing and strategies here:
The book goes on to reference the “Law of Diffusion of Innovations”, which is usually identifiable by this bell curve graph:
To break this down in Lehman’s terms:
- Innovators… well innovate, it starts here, the creation of something new
- the early adopters are usually the first to queue up for the new product…, in a tent.., in the rain…
- early majority follow in the footsteps of the early adopters, they keep an eye on things but are slower to move
- and the late majority follow behind them
- Laggards are always a step behind, usually because they wish to be, these guys are usually the ones with the same phone for 10 years because it still works, I’m sure we all know someone like this
Aim to target the left side of the curve, as highlighted in the graph, “the chasm” seems to be the sweet spot for loyalists and people who believe in your product, people who believe and share your why.
Identifying the left side of the bell curve isn’t’ easy because there isn’t that many of them, here’s a piece from the man himself (Simon Sinek) to explain this better.
This book did make me re-evaluate the importance of why and what my why is. I hope this blog can steer you in that direction too as I do believe it is better to be aware of the importance of why, in the likely case that it may help you.
Nevertheless, this blog doesn’t even scratch the surface of how much great insight this book can provide, especially for start ups. I have posted links on this page to at least check the book out and maybe see what it can do for you.
There are countless Start With Why quotes that I am sure you can check online. A fitting quote that stood out for me and encapsulates my thoughts would be:
“If you follow your why others will follow you”
“Passion may need structure to survive but for structure to grow, it needs passion”
My journey to why.
For me I realised that I like business in general, the learning everyday, the highs and lows and everything else in between. I like technology, I studied computer science at university and always kept up with cutting edge technologies just because. I also like creating and helping people. All this has had an affect on my life choices and my current occupation, which helps with finding my why?
And if you don’t know by now maybe you should ask yourself, why?
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