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What’s Your Why?

One of my favorite TED Talks is Simon Sinek speaking on “Start With The Why”. I have shared this presentation with hundreds of GrowSmart participants and many of my Vistage members. In his “talk”, Sinek suggests that “people don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” This profound statement suggests that we don’t buy products or services. Instead, we buy from people or organizations who share the same beliefs that we have.

Since watching this powerful TED talk I have been on a professional crusade to help small business owners uncover their “why”.  It has been a very interesting journey. One of my favorite stories is about a small business owner by the name of Frank.

Frank is a commercial and residential painting contractor. He has approximately twenty employees and has been in business for less than ten years. Frank and I met one day early in the year to work on a strategic plan for 2013. At some point in the process I asked about a mission statement for the small business. He shared something that suggested “doing quality painting for good customers”. It had been written down at some point and had never seen the light of day since. Probably a good thing. It was an awful mission statement. More disturbing was the fact that I had probably helped him write it several years ago.

I asked Frank about the name of the company:  Brothers Painting. He responded that he and his brother had originally started the company. Not long after the start of the company he and his brother had parted ways and now Frank was sole owner. I was curious why he had retained the name of the company. Frank’s answer was very interesting.

“All of my employees are men”, he said. “We are very close and we always call each other ‘brother’. We are all family.”

Next, I asked Frank what led him to start the business. He shared with me that he had originally worked for one of the large paint manufacturers and his job was to sell their paint to paint contractors. He noticed that many of his clients would brag about taking advantage of their customers. Overcharging homeowners for work not done or using inferior product on office buildings where no one would presumably notice had become sport in this industry.

These common industry practices bothered Frank. His clients referred to it as “gaming” their clients. Taking advantage of those who didn’t understand what was right or wrong about paint. Frank said that he decided to start his business to “change the game” of painting. He wanted to do it right. He wanted to help the industry regain the faith and trust of clients one job at a time.

“Frank, I think I’ve got it.”  I said.

“Got what?” Frank replied.

“Your ‘why’.”I responded.

“Brothers working together to change the game of painting”.

Frank heard this statement and got very quiet. He was a former college baseball player. A catcher with an imposing physique and a toughness that I am sure served him well in this business. All of a sudden he got much smaller in his presence as he came face to face with his reason for being. This was his “why”. His lips quivered slightly. Eyes moistened.

I realized that I had hit an emotional nerve in Frank. Evidence to me that we had uncovered his entrepreneurial purpose.

“That’s it.” Frank said.

We continued with our work that day. Identifying his goals and objectives for the year. Developing strategies for Frank and his ‘brothers” to work on over the next twelve months 

The next day I got a phone call from Frank. He had met with his team first thing the next morning after our meeting. He shared with me that they had all had the same very positive response to the mission statement that he had experienced with me. It was an emotional connection that he had not seen his team ever before. This was their shared belief about the business.

I have dozens of similar stories as I have helped business owners and their teams uncover their purpose. Their “why”. There is not a more powerful motivator on the planet.

In 1996, Jim Collins and Jerry Porras wrote a groundbreaking article in the Harvard Business Review titled “Building Your Company’s Vision”. In the article the authors suggest that an organization’s core purpose is their “reason for being”. They also suggest that it should “last for at least 100 years and not be confused with specific goals or business strategies.”

Here are several of my favorite examples:

Ritz Carlton Hotel: “Ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.”

Mary Kay Cosmetics: “To give unlimited opportunity to women.”

MD Anderson Hospital: “Cure cancer.”

Nike: “To experience the emotion of competition, winning, and crushing competitors.”

Each of these statements creates an emotional connection between the company and their key stakeholders including their customers.

Frank wakes up every day concerned for his “brothers”. Focused on doing what’s right for his customers. What’s your core purpose? Your “why”?

Duck Duck Go is a smart, fast, private search engine with a silly name. What more could you hope for in a search engine?

WellBeing written by Tom Rath & Jim Harter

Do you ever wonder how happy you are? What is your wellbeing? Wouldn’t it be great to be able to score your wellbeing and then track it over time? Even better, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had data-based strategies for improving our wellbeing?

Now you do. Best-selling authors Tom Rath (“StrengthsFinder 2.0” and Jim Harter have written a great book, WellBeing, that allows you to measure your current state of happiness and then learn how to get better. The book is based on a comprehensive study done by the Gallup group of people in over 150 countries and it reveals five (5) universal, interconnected factors that influence our lives: 

#1. Career Wellbeing. Do you like what you do each day? Only 20% of people respond with a strong “yes”. The research indicated that this was the most important of the five factors. And it’s not about receiving a paycheck. It’s about enjoying what you do.

#2. Social Wellbeing. How are your social relationships? The author’s research indicated that the wellbeing of your friends and relatives is a more effective predicator of happiness than earning more money. Data also shows that in order to have a thriving day, we need six hours of social time. Many people have no social time in their average day.

#3. Financial Wellbeing. Can you buy happiness? The answer is no. But the research shows that spending money on others does boost wellbeing. It’s all about how the money is spent. The authors also determined that financial security has a direct impact on our happiness. 

#4. Physical Wellbeing. Are you healthy? The authors found the key drivers of physical wellbeing are diet, exercise, and sleep. 

#5. Community Wellbeing. Do you live in an area that is a good fit for your personality, family, interests, and other life pursuits? A key driver of this element of wellbeing is what we do to give back to the community in terms of time. It’s also about feeling safe and secure where we live.

The book’s research found that 66% of people are doing well in at least one of the areas, but just 7% are thriving in all five. And the biggest threat to our own well being? Ourselves.

The book is filled with strategies on how to improve our wellbeing in each of the five areas. You are also able to take a brief online survey and then your own wellbeing is measured in each area. I was pleasantly surprised. I am “thriving”.

I highly recommend this book.