Start With Why
Why you should read this book
Start with why means start with the purpose. People buy a product not because of the cool features or the complicated methods to make it. The question is what your company can do for the customers and what your product means to them. If you want to make your business sell, this book is a must-read.
Who should read this
New business owners; product developers; marketing staff; Aspiring entrepreneurs
About the author
Simon Sinek is a famous motivational speaker and author. He has been invited to speak at TEDx and the UN Leaders Summit. He has written 5 books about business and organizations.
Start With Why
Start with why means start with a purpose. Why does your company exist? Why do you want to be a leader? What is your purpose in life? These are all important questions. You will find out that multi-million companies succeed because they started with a purpose. They started with why.
The subtitle of this book is “How Great Leaders Inspire People to Take Action”. Great leaders do not only refer to politicians. It also refers to the leading companies of an industry. Apple is a leading computer brand. But it also entered the mobile phone industry and the small electronics industry. Later, we will know why.
“Inspire people to Take Action” is what Great leaders do. Good politicians do not only make people vote for them. They inspire. Likewise, leading companies do not only make people buy. They give inspiration.
Great leaders have followers who are loyal to them. The people are willing to sacrifice or go out of their way to follow what the leader says. That is because they are inspired.
Successful companies have loyal customers. The competitors may have a new or better product. But the loyal customers do not buy at once. They are loyal to one brand. How did this happen? This is because the company started with why.
Manipulation V.S. Inspiration
Motorola released its flip top model phone RAZR in 2004. Hollywood celebrities and prime ministers bought the new product. It was a huge success. Motorola sold 50 million RAZR units.
However, within 4 years, competitors have already copied the RAZR. They have created new phones with even better features. Motorola lost the spotlight.
The company used manipulation and not inspiration. That is why it lost customers. Motorola released a new product. It has made people buy. But it did not make people loyal to Motorola.
What Motorola did with RAZR is just a novelty. That is just one form of manipulation. Loyalty requires a higher cause. Inspiring people is not that easy.
When you manipulate people, you just make them follow for a short time. You will make them take action but you will not have their loyalty. That is not what great leaders do.
What are the forms of manipulation? They are fear, peer pressure, aspirations, price, promotion, and novelty. To gain votes, a politician may create fear. He may use peer pressure, give money or make promises. To increase sales, companies drop prices. They give promos and incentives or release new products. But these are not examples of good leadership.
Manipulations only make companies and organizations weaker. They make people follow but only for a short period. Manipulations cost a lot of money but they are not effective.
RAZR is not an innovation. And so, Motorola was not able to inspire people. The fax machine, the microwave oven, the light bulb, and iTunes are all innovations. They are products that changed a whole industry. Even more so, they have changed society.
“Think Different.” That is the motto of Apple since its foundation in 1984. It is evident in all of Apple’s products and advertisements. To think different is the reason behind everything that the company says and does. Apple has that strong purpose.
iTunes changed the music industry. In the early 2000s, people were burning music on their CDs. Piracy became a problem for the recording companies. With iTunes, Steve Jobs offered an alternative. The music industry was saved because of iTunes and the iPod.
Did you know that it wasn’t Apple that invented the mp3 player? It was Creative Technology Ltd. from Singapore. But why did Apple lead the market?
Creative advertised their product as a “5GB mp3 player”. But Apple said the iPod has “1,000 songs in your pocket”. Creative told the market WHAT the product is. But Apple told the market WHY it needs to buy the iPod. “People don’t buy WHAT you do. They buy WHY you do it.”
Apple also made an innovation with the iPhone. It is not just a new product like Motorola’s RAZR. Because of the iPhone, smartphones became a trend. Nokia, Erickson, and Motorola also created their own touchscreen devices. The graphic interface of the iPhone and its simple design changed the mobile phone industry.
Did you know that Dell released its mp3 player year 2003? But it wasn’t a success. This is because everyone knows Dell is a company that makes computers. It would not feel right to buy an mp3 or even a mobile phone from Dell. After a few years, Dell decided to pull out the product.
How did Apple shift from being just a computer company to a company that also makes mobile phones and gadgets? This is because for Apple, to think differently comes first. The processes and products the company makes only follow.
Apple started with WHY. The company, first of all, has established a strong purpose and that is to think differently. We know Apple “by WHY it does things, not WHAT it does”. The legal name of Apple when it was founded as Apple Computers Inc. But the company changed to just Apple Inc. in 2007. This is because Apple is “more than just a computer company”.
Apple became a leader not only in the computer industry but also in the small electronics industry and the mobile phone industry. This is because Apple’s purpose remains constant no matter WHAT they do.
Apple did what HP and Dell cannot. That is to enter other industries and make innovations.HP and Dell, meanwhile, tried but they became stuck with just making computers.
The Golden Circle
Companies like HP and Dell start with what. They create products with very good features. But they don’t have customers as loyal as Apple. There are plenty of better computers out there with better specs. ButMac lovers still choose Apple above all.
When you tell people what your product is, they appreciate the features. But when you tell them what the purpose of your company is, they become loyal customers. This is because purpose, belief, and feelings have a stronger effect on us humans. That is how our brain is wired.
When people believe in what your company believes in, they become loyal. When the employees also feel that purpose, they become motivated to work. If you have a strong purpose, it doesn’t matter what you do. You will inspire and lead people.
Let’s take a look at the diagram below. At the center of the circle is WHY. It refers to the purpose of the company. The next level is HOW. It refers to the process and decisions made by the company to come up with the product. The outer level is WHAT. It refers to the products and services of the company.
Most companies communicate from the outside in. They always say how good their product is. But they do not know that starting with a purpose has a greater impact on people. They have an unclear sense of purpose.
Companies like Apple succeed because they communicate from the inside out. At the core of everything Apple does, is the purpose. That purpose is to think differently. Customers understand that. They see that purpose in all Apple products. They believe in think different as well.
If you want to lead, do not start with what you can give to people. Start with why. Tell the people the purpose of what you do. If the people believe in your purpose, they will become loyal. They will be inspired and they will follow.
Let’s remember this important concept. It’s called the Golden Circle. WHY refers to purpose. HOW refers to the process. WHAT refers to a product.
More than just coffee
The sense of belongingness is innate in us humans. We need to feel safe and connected. We always seek that feeling. It is a basic need for us to belong. If we take a vacation to other countries, seeing people from our own country makes us feel at home.
Likewise, we feel belongingness in companies with the same beliefs as ours. We buy their products because we have the same WHY. It means we believe in what the company believes in.
“Those products and brands make us feel like we belong.” We feel connected to the company. We feel connected to the other customers who bought the same product.
Starting with WHY has more impact because humans are driven by feelings. The Golden Circle is effective. This is because it relates to the major levels of our brain.
“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” WHAT Starbucks offers is coffee. But the purpose is to make people feel comfortable while drinking coffee. Starbucks gives people a nice experience and a nice feeling. There are other coffee shops out there but people choose Starbucks because of the feeling it gives.
Howard Schultz is not the founder of Starbucks. He only joined the company in 1982. That is 10 years after the first branch was opened in Seattle. But we know Starbucks As we do today because of Howard Schultz.
he has that vision that Starbucks is more than just coffee. Schultz was frustrated with the three founders because they could not see that. Zev Siegle, Jerry Baldwin, and Gordon Bowler are just content with selling people coffee beans.
Schultz was inspired by the espresso bars in Italy. He wanted to give customers a comfortable place where they can stay. Schultz wanted Starbucks to be a “third space”. That is, aside from home and work.
Before Schultz entered Starbucks, there were not many coffee shops in the United States. Only universities have coffee shops. But Starbucks changed that. Drinking coffee became a culture because of Starbucks.
People can relax at Starbucks. They can read books, do work on their laptops, or bond with friends. Howard Schultz made that possible because he has a strong vision. He has that strong purpose. From only 1,000 stores, Starbucks opened 13,000 branches in just ten years.
Howard Schultz is a great leader because he started with why. He came to Starbucks with a purpose. People have related to that feeling that he wants to give.
Other coffee shops out there may offer good coffee. ButStarbucks has already made a mark. It started a culture. In its way, Starbucks has changed society.
Have you seen a man with a Harley-Davidson tattoo? Why is it that anyone would tattoo a company logo on their skin? Can you imagine a man with other companies as a tattoo? This happened because Harley-Davidson is good at telling people their purpose.
The Harley-Davidson logo became a symbol that represents a belief. In America, it is common that you would see a Harley tattoo. For the drivers of Harley, the brand has become a lifestyle. Harley has achieved it after years of consistency, discipline, and clarity.
Everything Harley-Davidson does and says is consistent with their belief. The company is disciplined in following its values. It communicates to people the purpose that the company believes in. the people understood that and they were inspired.
Eventually, the logo became more than a symbol of the company’s products. The logo became a symbol of a belief. Randy Fowler, a man with a Harley tattoo, said “It symbolizes who I am. Mostly it says I’m an American.”
We already know the Golden Circle. The CEO is the leader. He embodies the purpose of the company. Below him are the executives. They believe in the CEO’s purpose. They know HOW to bring that PURPOSE into reality.
The leaders are what we call the WHY-types. They are visionaries. They are optimists. The WHY-types are people who believe that everything they imagine can be done.
The HOW- types are realists. They are more practical. They see the world as it is. The HOW- types are people who build structures. They know HOW to get things done. The WHY-types cannot do it alone. Those who know WHY need those who know HOW.
Take for example the brothers Walt and Roy Disney. Walt Disney worked as a cartoon artist for advertisements. But he wanted to create animated movies. In 1923, Hollywood is only blooming.
Roy Disney is 8 years older. He works as a banker. Roy admires Walt’s imagination and talent. But he knew that Walt is not good with business affairs. Walt also takes huge risks. Like other WHY-types, Walt is busy dreaming about the future.
A biographer said, “Walt Disney dreamed, drew, and imagined, Roy stayed in the shadow, forming an empire.” Roy used his talents in finance and business. He helped Walt turns his dreams into reality. Roy Disney founded Buena Vista, the company that distributed the Disney films.
Most how-types, like Roy Disney, are functional and successful. But they do not come to change the world. They lack inspiration. The why-types, like Walt Disney, inspire them.
But without the how-types, why-types could end up as starving visionaries. If there is a strong partnership between both types of people, they can make a billion-dollar company.
Great leaders, like Bill Gates, have charisma because they have a strong purpose. They embody their belief. Great leaders have a vision that is more than personal. They have a cause that is bigger than their selves.
Bill Gates believes that there are ways to solve any problem. He is optimistic. He believes that if you remove the obstacles, everyone can achieve their full potential.
He also believes that if you provide people with useful tools, they will become successful. Bill Gates’ vision is that each home and each desk must have a PC. He carried on his purpose with Microsoft.
Bill Gates created PowerPoint, Excel, and Word for people to be more efficient and more productive in life. He made Windows help people achieve extraordinary things. Bill Gates has the vision to empower people through technology.
When Bill Gates left Microsoft, he continued with this vision. He founded the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation with his wife. He does not produce software anymore. Bill Gates gives people the opportunity to improve their lives.
Bill Gates believes that if the opportunity is given to poor people, they can lift themselves. They can be empowered. Bill Gates only changed WHAT he does. But his purpose and vision remain the same.
Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart, grew up in the Great Depression. He knows the value of hard work. He started Wal-Mart in Bentonville, Arkansas. It was just one retail store. There are other retail stores out there that offer lower prices. But Wal-Mart rose to the top. Today, the sales of Wal-Mart sum up to $44 billion every year.
But the secret of Sam Walton lies not in hard work and cheap prices. Walton has a deeper cause. He has a strong belief that motivates him. Sam Walton believes in people. “He believed that if he looked after people, people would look after him. The more Wal-Mart could give to employees, customers, and the community, the more that employees, customers, and the community would give back to Wal-Mart.”
Sam Walton worked on weekends. He insisted on using his pick-up truck. He also remembered the birthdays of his employees. Sam Walton is always humble. He dedicated himself to service to others. He kept his salary below $350,000 yearly.
That is the purpose of Sam Walton. He wants to serve the people. That is a purpose bigger than himself. This is the reason why Wal-Mart became a huge success. Wal-Mart is the means to Sam Walton’s purpose.
However, Sam Walton died on April 5, 1992, because of bone marrow cancer. His oldest son, S. Robeson Walton, succeeded him as the chairman of Wal-Mart. Robeson said that nothing will change in the company’s policy, control and direction. But that simply was not true.
Many changed in Wal-Mart after Sam died. There were reports of mistreated customers and employees. There became a split within Wal-Mart. The result is that Costco, a new retail store, was formed.
The CEOs who succeeded Sam Walton were not able to carry on his purpose. They did not carry on his belief to Sam’s belief to serve the people. Wal-Mart lost its reputation. Michael T. Duke became CEO in 2009. His yearly salary is $5.43 million.
Great leaders like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Sam Walton embodied their WHY. When they left Apple, Microsoft, and Wal-Mart, there became a huge problem. The companies forgot their purpose.
The next CEO must be inspired by a great leader. It is not enough that he has good credentials. He must believe in what the founder believes in. Otherwise, the purpose of the company will become unclear. It will lose its reputation.
The lesson is that the purpose must be deeply rooted in the organization. That is even if the founder is gone, the purpose would carry on and the company will continue to succeed.
Now you know how to start with WHY. Think about your purpose. What do you believe in? From there, you can establish your HOW (process) and WHAT (product).
Do not let your vision be fuzzy. Be mindful of how you think, act, and communicate. Make sure that they are in line with your purpose. Remember that, those with a purpose greater than themselves achieve success.