What is your WHY? Many business schools teach that in order to be successful in the marketplace – any marketplace – you have to have a unique selling proposition or USP. It’s what sets you apart from the competition, something that makes the product or service you offer stick in consumers’ minds. Seth Godin called this a Purple Cow in his book by the same name (Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable). However, with everyone screaming about their own USP, the marketplace tends to get noisy. This makes it difficult for consumers to cut through the cacophony to find that one exceptional product or service provider they’re searching for – the one they can trust to do an exceptional job or deliver an excellent product.


In his book entitled Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action Simon Sinek talks about this very thing. He examines companies like Apple, Harley Davidson, and Southwest Airlines, all of whom started a movement by creating incredibly loyal customers rather than just selling great products and services based on a USP.


Why are these companies different from the masses? Sinek claims that it’s because these companies start with WHY. As he mentions several times throughout his book:


“People don’t buy WHAT you do; they buy WHY you do it.”


Think about that for a minute and see if it has any relevance to your own purchasing decisions.


Sinek says that once someone understands the WHY of what you’re doing, it’s easier for them to grasp the HOW and the WHAT. And that process is what makes your company stand out from the rest. It’s what drives people to trust you with their purchase decisions.


Says Sinek:


“We want to be around people and organizations who are like us and share our beliefs. When companies talk about WHAT they do and how advanced their products are, they may have appeal, but they do not necessarily represent something to which we want to belong. But when a company clearly communicates their WHY, what they believe, and we believe what they believe, then we will sometimes go to extraordinary lengths to include those products or brands in our lives.”


When Southwest Airlines first arrived on the scene, it created a stir. WHY? Because it wanted to be known as a disruptor in the airline industry. HOW did it do that? By having a sense of humor, providing an excellent customer experience, offering inexpensive short flights between hub cities, maintaining a stellar on-time average, and refusing to offer assigned seating. WHAT were they providing? Flights from one city to another.


If they’d broken on the scene and said merely that they were a low-cost airline, would anyone have paid attention? Perhaps a few cost-conscious consumers would have listened. They may have had moderate success with that strategy, but they wouldn’t have created the loyal customer following that they continue to enjoy today without all the rest.  Have you noticed lately that their logo design is in the shape of a heart?


What’s your WHY? I know what mine is. When my father passed away a couple years ago, I found myself left in charge of his business, Shamrock Roofing and Construction. Suddenly I was running the business, taking care of all his employees and my mom, as well, all while I was trying to care for my kids, too. It was important to me to do a good job in all these areas and since then, I’ve realized that my WHY boils down to this: I want my dad to look down and be proud of me. That’s my WHY. That’s WHY I come to work each day and do the best job I can do.


I hope my WHY is visible to others, employees as well as customers. It’s what drives me and why I work so hard to make Shamrock Roofing and Construction feel like a family business with heart, one that customers would want to work with. A company full of people they can like and trust to do a great job on their home, whether they’re getting a brand new roof, having their existing roof repaired, or putting on new gutters.


According to Sinek, your WHY, HOW, and WHAT all need to be in sync, moving in the same direction. Otherwise, you come across as a fraud


Again from the book:


“If people don’t buy WHAT you do but WHY you do it, then all these things must be consistent. With consistency people will see and hear, without a shadow of a doubt, what you believe. After all, we live in a tangible world. The only way people will know what you believe is by the things you say and do, and if you’re not consistent in the things you say and do, no one will know what you believe. It is at the WHAT level that authenticity happens.”



Think about your own business. What is your WHY? WHY do you get up every morning and go to work? Start there and then work to fill out the HOW and the WHAT of your business strategy and marketing plan. Leading with WHY speaks to the heart. And the heart of a company is what really matters most, to both employees and customers.


If you haven’t read Simon Sinek’s book, pick it up at your local bookstore or listen to the audiobook version. It’s worth your time. Then spend some time defining your WHY. You’ll find that it leads to more sales, more loyal employees, more customer referrals, and greater overall enjoyment and satisfaction of each and every day at work.