It turns out that understanding the Why in business can be the difference in a company’s survival. Simon Sinek, founder of Start With Why, outlines these concepts in his “The Golden Circle” presentation to help leaders uncover their Why. He explains that the Why is not revenue-based or focused on making profits—it’s the purpose, cause, or belief that inspires you.
Companies that are in tune with their Why champion the heart of their message. It’s easy for customers or clients to connect with a Why. Sinek gives an example of a company that starts with a What—in this case, the What is a law firm. The How is based around having top-tier attorneys and an incredible client list. Based on this What and How, the message the law firm sends out is “Come do business with our law firm!”
However, this message doesn’t get to the purpose or reason behind the law firm doing business. Sinek explains that starting with What is selling a commodity, while starting with Why is inspiring action.
As an alternative example, a different law firm starts with a Why. Their Why is “servicing the needs of others so they can focus on the difference they need to make.” Their How is about the same, and the What is promoting their world-class law firm.
By moving from the Why to the What, instead of What to Why, a company can better position itself to truly engage customers. Getting to the true reason you’re in business, whether to improve a client’s life or make a product simpler, will extend far beyond the What.
Understanding the Golden Circle
In understanding your Why, it’s also crucial to see the big picture—what Simon Sinek has coined the Golden Circle. He emphasizes finding balance across all three components: Why, How, and What.
> Have a clarity of Why. Once you grasp this concept, others will better understand your reason for being as a business.
> Align your How. Your How—the actions that demonstrate the Why—bring your Why to life. According to Sinek, these must be aligned with your company’s values, strengths, and beliefs.
> Keep your What consistent. Your What, or the business itself, must conform to what you believe on every level.