Posted on 22 January 2016
Was reminded yesterday in our monthly entrepreneur forum meeting that I find myself talking a lot about the book Starts With Why. Thanks Ming Chan for making me feel self-conscious! Because of the deep level of detail and context it provides with how our culture works, it’s one of four required reading books when you get a job at mobileStorm. This book is one of the legs on a four legged chair that we sit on and work from every day.
I can’t help myself. I’m constantly scanning brands, campaigns, and products with the author’s premise in mind. His theory is “The Golden Circle,” which has 3 rings. The most successful companies and inspired leaders communicate from the inside out. They start with the middle — or the bullseye — and can articulate to the world why they are in business. The second ring is the how, and they can tell you how they do what they do. Finally, the third ring is communicating what you do. He goes on to say that everyone can tell you what they do, but few people can tell you why they do it. This is the part that struck a major chord with me. Every company sells people on what they do. By far, it’s the easiest thing to promote and talk about. When a company sells people on what they do, it’s almost always based upon three things:
1. Pricing 2. Service 3. Features
Even the biggest companies with the biggest budgets don’t know how to get out of this trap. Just take a look at Best Buy’s latest messaging on their website.
I’ve highlighted two areas they want you to focus on. Check two of three boxes above? Check! Price wise they definitely compete, but I’d argue the “expert service” statement. But even with these two boxes checked, they aren’t telling people why they are in business. But the “Why” is the most important part. That is the part that connects with people on an emotional level and to quote Simon, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” This statement is genius, and it’s one I’m constantly repeating to the people who work at our companies. Ingrain in the membrane, ingrain in the brain.
It took me years to figure out why mobileStorm was in business, and when I finally felt like I achieved brand enlightenment, I found it equally hard to figure out how to bridge our “Why” with our branding and messaging. It can’t just be at the campaign level. It needs to be everywhere in your brand and culture.
Now having started a second B2C company, I definitely feel like it’s easier to figure out the Why, when compared to trying to figure it out for a B2B company. But that could also be a factor of a) how easy it is to tell our story at DUDE, and b) starting with a clean slate with no preconceived notions and baggage from years of notes where we tried to figure this stuff out.
If I’m Best Buy and sales are starting to drop off, which means my market cap is declining, can I really emotionally connect with people simply saying we have the best service and price?
I visited Best Buys’ headquarters in I believe Minnesota, and it was a cool office. Right when you walked in they had a timeline of when the company was started by Richard M. Schulze, which was quite a bit before I was born (I think 1966), and the timeline went up until today. It showed the most important milestones along the way. I’m sure somewhere on that wall, way back in the 70’s or 80’s, there is a milestone that could have become their Why, yet they didn’t have the research to understand the importance of picking that and running with it. They should buy Mr. Schulze a coach ticket to come back to headquarters, get him out of retirement for a few days, and away from his $2.5B to play with, and have him stare that that timeline in the lobby.
Of course while he is in coach, have him finish Simon’s book Starts With Why. I bet you he comes up with it, and they slowly implement it. They may have to make some major changes like closing stores and becoming more online focused, but they need to get back to their roots, they need to find their why. We all do, or we run the risk of just being mediocre, and not creating a different enough position against our competitors in the marketplace. Find your why and your competitors won’t be able to touch you.