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Why Some Businesses Thrive—and Others Don't

Why Some Businesses Thrive—and Others Don't

I just finished reading Simon Sinek's book Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. It completely changed the way I approach my business and showed exactly why some businesses do so well compared to others.

When someone asks what I do, I often say that I'm a writer, speaker, and coach. While that still remains true, from now on I'll answer that I inspire entrepreneurs to pursue their passion.

The difference here—now—is that I clearly start with why.

In his book, Simon talks extensively about his theory of “the golden circle.” This circle (with “why” in the center surrounded by “how” and then “what”) serves as a visual representation of why some businesses resonate with their audience.

Apple Inc. exists to challenge the status quo. That is their why. How they do it is by creating new approaches to legacy industries such as music and computer technology. What they do is produce consumer electronics.

In any business, most of your time will be spent working every day on what you do and how you do it. This is where most businesses go wrong.

“‘People don't buy what you do; they buy why you do it.' — @SimonSinek”

Businesses that focus first on what they do and how they do it fail to make a lasting impression on their audience or target market.

What I do is write, speak, and coach. When I made the mistake of starting with what, it was difficult to decide which project to pursue next—or explain to people the reason that I had a business at all.

When I refocused to start with why I realized what I love most is inspiring entrepreneurs to pursue their passion. How I do that is providing the knowledge and skills they need to succeed.

Notice the difference? My purpose is deeper than just writing, speaking, and coaching.

To explain this concept further, I'll provide another example. This one's not from the book, but from my own career experience: the success of Chick-fil-A.

What Chick-fil-A does is make and sell fried chicken. If that was the whole story, they'd be no different from most fast-food chains in the US. But they are different.

Chick-fil-A is a privately held, family-owned chain with over 1800 locations and $5 billion of annual sales. They not only invented the chicken sandwich, they pioneered the concept of restaurants in malls—the existence of today's food courts are thanks to Chick-fil-A.

The key reason they've succeeded is because Chick-fil-A starts with why.

Chick-fil-A's corporate purpose is:

To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us. To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.

How Chick-fil-a fulfills this purpose is by setting high standards for food quality and presentation while building a culture of emotional connections and service.

Chick-fil-A's why carries all the way down to the vocabulary, where team members refer to customers as “guests” and say “my pleasure” in response to each “thank you” they hear.

“Chick-fil-A starts with why, and that's the reason their business thrives.”

No matter how large your business is today, you always have a choice—whether to focus on your what, your how, or your why (click here to order the book).

Question: Why does your business exist, and how does that relate to what you do?