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Why is the only thing that matters, not what

Last Updated on July 14, 2021

I know what you’re thinking, a title like that is a little intense. What you and your business or startup does hold importance; you can’t do nothing and expect your profits and impact to soar. But, we’re here to tell you that the most important thing you should focus on is why do you do what you do. People want to know the story behind your business, the reasons you strive to make your business better, and why your employees work so hard for your startup to name just a few. They love having a reason to care!

What are my “Whys”?

We all have those things we strive to do, have, or experience in our lives. Perhaps you want to improve someone’s way of life, take that trip to Machu Picchu, educate others, or buy a lake cabin like your parents always talked about. This is your “why.” It’s the personal reason why you work hard, why you put in the extra hours, why you continue to level up and learn new skills! 

Your business should also have goals and aspirations (besides the obvious financial gain). Maybe your business strives to create a stronger local economy by bringing in tourists, to support local nonprofits by donating proceeds, or to help people share their stories. It should mean something to you as the owner and hopefully be something that any employees you have care about as well!

Take some time to think about why your business does what it does. You may observe overlap with some of your personal “Whys.” Why your company does something is what strikes a cord with customers. Your why is more personable and sets you apart from your competitors. Customers might choose you over your competitors based on if your values align with theirs. 

Looking at examples

Let’s pause for a moment to think. What startups do you really respect in your community? Why do you like them so much over competitors? More often than not, you’ll find it’s because you care about why they’re doing it! Perhaps they donate to or support a cause that is close to your heart. Maybe they utilize local materials to support the community’s economy. Maybe they ensure they get their resources from ethical suppliers. Maybe they focus on originality, providing products and services that will stand out from the crowd. They give you a reason to choose them over their competitors! Does your business share any similarities with those you support? If yes, you’ve got a great opportunity to gain fans if you’re sharing your “Why” with the world. Take some notes and learn from your peers. Learning from those around us is always valuable.

Let’s take a look at an example laid out by “Start With Why” author Simon Sinek in his popular Ted Talk from 2009. Simon brings up the Apple brand and how they set themselves apart from the rest using their “Why”. “Here’s how Apple actually communicates. “Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently,” Simon continues, “The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use and user friendly. We just happen to make great computers. Want to buy one?” 


Apple takes the time to present their “Why” before they present their offerings. It works! You probably have some sort of Apple product in your home, whether it be a phone, tablet, set of earbuds, or some other type of smart device. With each iteration of their products they try to innovate and be different from the competition, taking their challenging the status quo to heart. Simon insists this Apple example only further cements the importance of providing your customers with your businesses’ goals and aspirations. People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

The Golden Circle

Simon talks about starting with “Why” with the concept of the Golden Circle. It’s a small circle (“Why”) encased by a bigger circle (“How”) which is encased in a bigger circle (“What”). “How” pertains to how your business does something. What, of course, is what your business sells or does. 

As mentioned with the Apple example above, we see that working from the innermost circle of “Why” and working your way out to the “How” and “What” is a great way to present your business. How does this work better than presenting the other way around? There’s actually some science behind it! The “What” hits home with the neocortex, or outer region of the brain. This part of the brain is responsible for analytical thinking and rational thoughts. “The middle two sections of the Golden Circle—the WHY and HOW—correspond to the middle section of the brain, the limbic system,” says Simon, “This is the part of the brain responsible for all our behavior and decision making. It’s also responsible for all our feelings, like trust and loyalty”. You’re catering to the hearts, er… middle of the brains, of your customers when you present from the inside of the circle first.

Presenting your “Whys”

Make sure you’re sharing your business’ “Whys”. Shout it from the rooftops! Don’t have them be invisible to the passerby, whether it be in-person or online. You should have them out like a fishing net, ready to grab that next sale or land a long-term client. Have your story and business aspirations available to be read on your business’ “About Us” page, or even better, on your home page. When you’re pitching services or products to your client don’t forget to include why your business does what it does too! Selling yourself and your business is just as important, if not more important than the product itself. 

Another way you can get your “Whys” out into the world would be to share things on social media that connect to your business’ values and aspirations. Share your company’s history and why it was started. Up and coming startup, Grove Collaborative, shares their “Why” like this. This startup that provides eco-friendly home essentials was started by three San Francisco friends. They share their passion to provide easy access to healthier home essentials and that “ The belief that what we bring into our homes contributes to that homey, cozy feel prompted them to try to make their idea a reality”. They further cement their values by sharing how they carbon offset their shipments and work with the Arbor Day Foundation to plant trees across the US. If your business strives to be a spreader of good, feature fundraisers and events hosted by you or others in the community! Customers and potential customers can see your posts during their daily scrolling and understand what your company stands for and why it does what it does. 

Keeping your business’ reasons for existing and striving to be better in the forefront often turns your customers into more than just customers. They’ll turn into your fans, maybe even superfans! They’ll talk about why they like choosing you over your competitors with their family and friends. You’ll notice them taking the extra time to find your booth at an event and say hey. They’ll share your exciting posts on their social media profiles! You might even make some great business allies and good friends along the way, all from keeping your goals, values, and reasons you keep going on the forefront.

Do anything you can to share your business’ “Whys”. They are the most important tool you have to help drive you closer to success. You might just end up fulfilling your personal “Whys” as well along the way!