Book Review: Start with Why

“Start with Why” by Simon Sinek is a thoughtful read on business leaders and political visionaries who have shaped history. A few of the examples in Sinek’s story: Walt Disney, Wright Brothers, Martin Luther King Jr., Herb Kelleher, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Sam Walton. Sinek argues that some did not have first-mover advantage, the best product, nor the most talented team, rather he attributes their success to focusing on the “why.”

The paradigm shift of starting with “why do something” rather than “what are we doing” can be a game-changer. According to Sinek, “the why” is a more effective way of defining your business objectives, which enables the team to clearly understand the mission and how to get there. This is part of the golden circle framework, which has three layers. First, “the why-” the core purpose/cause, then “the how-” the processes to get there, and lastly “the what-“the products or services offered. When the golden circle is properly executed, the team has a greater sense of purpose and appreciation for the cause, which leads to more trust, loyalty, and profitability. 

I think there is a lot of merit in this work; nevertheless, at times I am not sure the “why” was the driving factor for the success of the company. Could it have been market timing, innovation, or dogmatic determination...? I sense confirmation bias may be at play. Nevertheless, I think considering “the why” can be a productive exercise for a marketer, or for a company to contemplate their mission. 

How does this book tie into marketing? According to Sinek, marketers should often focus on the “why” rather than the “what” for customers. Sinek explains that when you market “the why” there is more of a subconscious appeal at a biological level. Some examples that Sinek breaks down: Apple’s: “Think different,” which implies challenge the status quo. Southwest: “Democratize the skies-” make it easy and affordable to fly. In other words, competing against all forms of transportation, not just other airlines. Microsoft: “Have a computer on every desk and every home.” Albeit, Microsoft was not originally in the PC business, they knew the more computers sold, the more opportunity for Microsoft. Go on, what is your company’s why... 

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