Live or Die? It Starts with Why?
As an entrepreneur, the person who holds the dream, the vision of his company in his heart the only way we can get it out is by telling the World “Why” we do what we do.
We have heard it all before: 90% of the startups fail and only 25% of the VC backed ventures go beyond celebrating their 5th anniversary. The question of Live or Die starts with Why? And this is not a brain teaser I have just thought of. It is a fundamental truth hidden in the title of one of the greatest books of entrepreneurship “Start with Why “by Simon Sinek.
I bet most of the funded startups CEOs have never even heard of this title, let alone its writer. When we select to walk the path of entrepreneurship, it seems we become ignorant to all the wisdom that is already out there. It seems we stop hearing the loud shouts of people like Simon Sinek who want to get our attention and prevent us from falling into the traps of many that have walked before us.
I dearly hope this is a wakeup call for you too as it was for me too.
It was January 2016 and I was at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam, boarding a plane from the Netherlands to Bangalore, India. A few days earlier over in informal chat, a friend had recommended a book which was supposed to “blow away my mind”. So, I went ahead and diligently bought the book not expecting anything out of it. However, once I started reading I wasn’t prepared for what was coming. Bang! Every word was true. While reading, and having my mind racing through the book, all my answers that I was searching for in the past year, they all came together. Hallelujah!
It all starts with WHY. Of course, it does.
As an entrepreneur, the person who holds the dream, the vision of his company in his heart the only way we can get it out is by telling the World “Why” we do what we do. What is the driving force behind our vision, commitment and passion. Like Simon Sinek explains in his book, it is common knowledge that the left side of the human brain (the Limbic part) responds to emotions and feelings. It doesn’t have reasoning. The same way when there is a cause that we feel we can align with, we just go ahead and start following and supporting that cause. In short, in all stages of our startups we need to keep that Cause, the “Why we exist “alive. The WHY is the only reason for our future employees to come and join our company. The “Why is the only reason for a VC to back us up, believing that we stand for is bigger than an idea, bigger than an algorithm. It is a Cause and it has the potential to become a movement.
In the past 2 years, as part of my job, I speak to established companies and startups across levels. I speak to them from the standpoint where they are my potential Clients and I need to assess them whether we also want to do business with that company. I need to make an educated guess on how long the company might survive so we can guarantee our business partners on the marketplace that they will be getting their payment after all the efforts they will put for that client.
We use the WHY, to assess risk and unveil opportunities.
I use the WHY question as an assessment question for calculating risk and the chance of us having good business with that startup. The number of startups who know the “WHY’ for their company is unfortunately very low. And this seems to be the answers why failure becomes inevitable, when the founders don’t know their reason for existence, how can you expect the rest of the World to know it. Not knowing WHY is a major RED flag that might result into not doing business with that startup for some time.
When I ask a Startup “Why it exists” the answers I get vary from “we have found a gap in the market” to the sorts of “we work on the latest technologies”, “I got really bored from my job” and “have the coolest culture”. That is not a WHY. At least not a WHY that creates a movement of followers of Employees, Customers, Suppliers, Funders who can get inspired and start following.
Another phenomenon we see is when startups get their Series A or B funding. It seems they spent an enormous amount on PR, press, media and advertising on billboards on busy junctions. It seems their strategy is “Get the word out there and you will become a brand”. But when you ask those same founders Why they exist and who their target group is they might shrug innocently and tell you “our target group? Our product is perfect for everybody”. Is it? Who serves everyone, serves no one.
Look for a moment on the image above. It depicts the known to many and ignored by many Golden Circle. Like Simon Sinek explains understanding the relationship of the elements of the Golden circle ( between Why, What and How- as depicted in the image above) holds the fundamental key to success. In his book, he used Apple as an example of the WHY and couldn’t agree more. His mantra is “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” We know WHY Apple makes great products, and that’s why we buy them. And you see that “WHY” in all of Apples products, all of its features, colors and user interface. Regardless of how many alternative products are there in the market, holding an Apple product in your hands gives you a real “Kick”, a feeling that you also want to be like that: a Game Changer!
According to Sinek, Apples “Why” is expressed as follows:
“Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use, and user friendly.”
So I firmly believe that if we also make our WHY a strong one, we can also create a movement that is willing to pay a premium for our services or products. I believe that customers will endorse us because of the cause we serve not only because of what the product and its features are. Let’s be frank, it is not easy to differentiate yourself in a World where everything already exists.
The only differentiator is the WHY. The Why, our deal maker or a deal breaker!
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house
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