Start With Why
An Open Letter to Business Owners
Let it live on the landing page of your website, at the beginning of an interview process, on the front cover of the employee handbook, in staff meeting content and training sessions, in client proposals. Most importantly, let it come alive in the workplace culture. Your “Why” is why the people you hire fall in love with your company. In business, we call your Why, a company’s purpose statement – although I assure you it’s hardly just a statement. Think of it as the heartbeat of your organization. It gives life to something that was once just an idea. It provides clear intention for your team. And when you nail it, customer brand loyalty follows. It is a declaration stating exactly why you exist. Purpose is the very soul of your business; the reason for your being. One of my personal inspirations, Simon Sinek, author of the best seller Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, writes, “Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.” As a side note: If you don’t have this book in your core library, it’s a must-read. Or for eighteen minutes of inspiration, watch his TED Talk. Share it at your next team meeting. You’ll thank me.
When I google most companies, I find information on who they are, where they are, what they do, how much, etc. Rarely is the Why conspicuous: for some, I had to search several different resources. For others, my search proved futile. And yet the Why is uber-critical, perhaps, the most fundamental of all the W’s. It is the very foundation for what you do and how you may go about doing it. It serves as your company’s north star. More and more people are choosing to work for organizations that have some sort of impact in the world. Some of my favorite global giants armed with social consciousness agendas are Patagonia, Zappos, TOMS, and Facebook, to name a few. Local visionaries like Rachel Roberts, founder and CEO of Oyl + Water Marketing Boutique, Aaron Gottlieb, founder of Native Sun Natural Food Market, and Laney Smith, owner and operator of Cowford Realty & Design, are putting the Why at the epicenter of business. I believe that to truly create impact, you need to know why you do what you do – and so do your people. If I google your company, is your Why readily visible? Better yet, if I ask your employees, are they able to tell me?
Let me be clear – the purpose statement is not your company’s statement of vision, mission, or core values. Since they are often confused, let’s take a quick moment to distinguish each. A vision statement states the Where – where the organization is headed in the future. A mission statement declares the What – what is your day-to-day commitment. The core values are the How – the core beliefs and behaviors of a company. Each are integral to success. And your team should be able to speak on all of them, starting with Why.