Start with Why by Simon Sinek - Book Review

People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it

I'm a marketer who loves SaaS and tech and I'm fascinated by companies that are able to communicate a unique vision, gain fans worldwide, and reach financial success. Simon Sinek's book "Start with why" focuses on vision. Why do you do what you do? Why do you get out of bed in the morning? And why should people care?

Word of warning: if you are not in love with Apple (and I am definitely not), you might find some of Sinek's devotion a little annoying. But there are some great points. 

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek - Book Review

  The Golden Circle  

The golden circle - the "why, how, and what" - is grounded in biology. If you were to look at a cross-section of the brain from the top, you’d see that it corresponds perfectly.

Starting at the top, our ‘newest’ brain, our homo-sapien brain (also called our neocortex) is our “what” and is responsible for all our rational, analytical thought and language. The middle two sections make up our limbic brains – which is for feelings, trust, and loyalty; and it’s also responsible for human behavior and decision-making, though it has no capacity for language.

In other words, when we communicate from the outside-in, people can understand vast amounts of complicated information, features and benefits, and facts and figures… it just doesn’t drive behavior. This is where gut decisions come from – it’s the reason you can give someone all the facts and figures and they’ll say that they understand it all, but it just doesn’t ‘feel’ right. That ‘feeling’ happens in your limbic brain.

If you don’t know why you do what you do, then how will you ever get someone else to buy into it and be loyal, or want to be a part of what it is that you do? The goal isn’t just to get people to buy that need what you have but to believe what you believe.

People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. If you talk about your beliefs, you will attract others with the same or similar beliefs.

  Manipulation does not equal loyalty 

Most often, businesses become about discounts, promotions, what Sinek calls 'manipulations', and, as he points out, this never lasts, as it never results in true customer loyalty but rather providing customer convenience, one they will replace if something ever becomes more convenient.

The reward for finding the why of your organization is that people will pay more for the services; elements like loyalty, personal connection, and perceived alignment with an individual's lifestyle can make a brand become iconic and sought after even if it costs more than competitors. Phrases like "solving the world last planning puzzles" or "the 3d experience company" are examples (being a bit biased with those), which define why not what. They communicate values.

  Define your personal and corporate values  

What's great about this book is that it provides a path at the individual and corporate level for growth; it starts with defining personal and corporate values and then finding branches or new industries that are related to those values. It's important because this is one of the hardest things we do in our professional lives: how should we focus on personal growth (individual level), and what new product should our company take on (corporate). But those are action; and what we want to find is our 'why'. He illustrates ways to do this, not just why it's important, and finding your why is the first step to finding happiness.

For those who feel like they are here to 'put a dent in the universe', this book is for you; but not just this book, a certain experiential life is for you, and this book will re-affirm that commitment. If that resonates with you, as it does with me, read this book.

  The message could have been more condensed  

Sinek shares several powerful examples, as well as a few other important concepts to really drive the point home. And while this is one of the most powerful, practical messages I've read in a while, my one complaint is that the book faces the same challenge that a lot of other business books seem to have... in that it's a great idea with powerful concepts, but it becomes unnecessarily repetitive beyond 100 pages.