I need to start with a disclaimer, what I’m about to talk about is not based on my idea…
…but it’s so damn good, and so relevant to YOU, that (on this very rare occasion) I’m going to explain WHY you need it (along with a whole bunch of other applicable stuff).
The concept belongs to Simon Sinek. If you haven’t heard of him, you’re about to spend a ton of time watching, reading and learning his highly-regarded principles.
(We haven’t got time to talk about all of them here, so, when you’re through, I’ll leave a Google link so you can check him out properly)
In this article, we’re going to talk about the Golden Circle, a concept I like to refer to as WHY’SING UP (because it sounds slightly cooler).
Who Does This Apply to?
I’m going to start broadly by saying anybody with a business. But, this concept is particularly relevant to:
- Businesses with stalling growth
- Businesses who are plateauing
- Content marketers
The Golden Circle
At this point, I need to hand over all the credit to Sinek. In this section, the take-aways are nothing but his. But stick around and I’ll add a neat little cherry on top in the following sub-heads.
The Golden Circle has got to be one of the simplest business principles ever created. In order to explain it, take a look at the following diagram:
This three-circle symbol was originally created by Sinek to explain leadership, but it can be applied to businesses in a much broader sense.
The importance of the circles aren’t the WHAT, WHY and HOW. It’s the DIRECTION in which we travel through them.
The majority of us begin at the outside:
We sell… We produce… Our services are…
All our products are handmade… Our services are bespoke… We are different because…
We do this because the market wants it…
This direction is the way most of us travel, and is how the majority of businesses run, market and go about their everyday processes.
It’s good, but it’s WRONG. And almost all of you are doing it.
Instead, you need to go the other way, in other words you need WHY’SING UP.
Why does your business exist?
How do you create those products? How do you differentiate? How do you create USP’s?
What does your business do? What are your products? What do you sell? What are your day-to-day activities?
If you are able to begin at the why, your business will run better, inspire people and create LOYAL followers.
All businesses are directed by their starting points. If your first step is WHAT, you’ll never create anything that competes with a brand that has WHY at its core.
For example, let’s pretend you’re in the stationary business (the inspiration was sourced from my work desk).
A stationary business beginning with WHAT, might look something like this:
- What- we make pencils
- How- we make them easier to grip
- Why- we make pencils that are better for writers and artists.
They’d start by saying that they make pencils, then they’d try to find the HOW’s and, by the time they’ve created something that’s different, they don’t truly understand their WHY’s. Sure, they might say something like, we make pencils that are better for writers and artists (their WHY)…
…but, is this really a WHY? Surely, everybody in that industry wants to do that!
A stationary business that begins with the WHY, might start by saying they want to revolutionise the handheld tools of creation. From here, the HOW’s and WHAT’s become stepping stones to selling, not hard-fought points of differentiation.
If I was to create a stationary business that began at ‘revolutionising the handheld tools of creation’, that philosophy would go through my staff, into my products and create a lifestyle symbol to customers.
A great example is Apple. The people that work there aren’t any different to those at DELL, they are all well-educated, young (to start with) and passionate. But for some reason, they create more ground-breaking technology, have expanded into phones, tablets and tons of other technological gadgets. Customers live their brand, queue up for days when they release a new product and worship everything they do…
…and that’s because everything in their business starts with the mantra, Think Different. From there, the HOW’s and WHAT’s fall into place.
A Why vs What Story
We all love stories, right? You might’ve heard this one before, but stick around, because you’re about to look at it a completely new way.
It’s 1997, and like loads of other people, a man named Reed Hastings had a particular love for movies. He visited his local rental store, Blockbuster, and rented Apollo 13.
He watched the movie, ejected the DVD and placed it back in the case so he could return it, but low and behold tragedy struck…
…he lost the movie.
The return date came and went, and he’d either forgotten to look for it, or hadn’t found it. Either way, by the time he finally did locate the DVD it was well overdue. Blockbuster demanded he paid a $40 late fee for his negligence.
That didn’t sit well with Reed, and it give him a WHY…
…entertainment shouldn’t be hurried, timed or fined for lateness, it should be enjoyed in comfort. We should be allowed to switch off from the pressures of the world in the easiest possible way.
And thus, Netflix was born.
In the years that followed, Netflix did away with late charges, created monthly subscriptions for rentals, added a Netflix button to (some) television remotes and finally, as we all know, a streaming-on-demand service.
All of those updates filtered down from their WHY, comfort in entertainment. Whilst, Blockbuster, who were turning over $6 billion per year when Netflix started, focussed purely on their WHAT.
And as history tells us, the WHAT collapsed into bankruptcy (even after having the chance to buy Netflix in 2000 for just $50 million), and the WHY has become the dominant force in the market.
For those of you out there telling yourself, I KNOW MY WHY, it’s to make money! You clearly haven’t understood the theory.
Every business was started to make money! Everyone is trying to make profit! It’s not a WHY, it’s a function of business.
I cannot tell you what yours should be, or even how to create one, but you need one. Some of you might scoff, or kid yourself into thinking that this is all a load of rubbish some guy concocted, I’d suggest those people go away and look at the brands you are most loyal to. 99% of them will have a WHY, before they have a WHAT.
And when you aren’t able to find a why in those businesses, you’ll probably pinpoint something else, like a gut feeling or a connection, and that’s because your WHY’s as a consumer, matches up to that brands WHY.
This is the sensitive spot that guarantees growth, because instead of just constantly investing to regenerate customers, you retain what you’ve got, gain referrals and also create new ones via marketing.
It’s time to quit making excuses and put your WHY at the centre of everything you do.
Those people who have just started a business or are just about to take the leap, have hit this article at the perfect time in their journey. But, those of you who are further down the road, need to realise that it’s not too late.
Many businesses begin with a WHY, and after years and years of trading, they lose it, and focus purely on the WHAT. Rewind. Remember what gave you the enthusiasm and optimism to start and remember what it was about your space (industry) that made you so excited about creating that business.
Get away from the WHAT, and get back to the WHY. I cannot emphasise it enough.
What do you think about the golden circle? Has your business got a WHY? What is it? Leave a comment, we’d love to hear your opinion.
Fancy checking out more of Simon Sinek’s theories? Go ahead, check them out!