Discovering the ‘Why’ in Your Business

Determine your mission and make it your ‘business’ to achieve it

simon sinek why book mobile
Author of 'Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action' / Simon Sinek/Facebook

Every business has a purpose, and it shouldn’t simply be to earn a profit. If you know your company’s mission, the money will come. But without a concrete reason or passion driving your hard work, your business will lack direction.

In his Ted Talk, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action,” Simon Sinek, author of Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, says,“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

I spoke with business owners and coaches on the importance of discovering your “why” and how to do it.

Why You Need a “Why"

Your purpose is far more important than you might think. Many people shy away from sharing their stories or putting their heart into their business because they don’t think others care about that. They think consumers want one thing: their products or services. However, in reality, thousands of businesses likely have the same offerings as yours. The difference is your purpose behind them.

Your why likely won’t look like someone else’s, and that’s OK. Your unique experiences in life should drive your mission.

For instance, Michael Cammarata, cofounder and CEO of Schmidt’s Naturals, discovered that his passion for sustainable living and products stemmed from a childhood spent gardening with his family; and Tom Spooner, former Special Forces, founded Warriors Heart to help war veterans like himself and their families recover from the traumas of combat.

Everyone has a story, and everyone has a purpose. The key is finding one that makes you feel most driven and fulfilled, and committing to it. Your income will simply be the result, not the motivation.

“Knowing your why in business is critical to your success ... because it helps you to identify possibility whenever you encounter challenges,” says ICF-credentialed life coach Laura Weldy. “Entrepreneurs face obstacles every day … When you approach your work from a why-based (or possibility-based) mind-set, you’re able to view these obstacles not as fundamental flaws of you as a person, but as chances to deepen your contribution to your why. The obstacle becomes a challenge, and overcoming it is directly furthering the cause you care about.”

Discovering Your Mission

To discover your why, Weldy recommends first identifying your values.

“You can work with a coach on this, ask your friends and family or journal on the things that motivate and drive you,” she says. “Start to notice the words you use most often and what emotions you feel most deeply, and see what values they point to. Your why is almost always a way to share the things that you value.”

From there, consider following Sinek’s “Golden Circle,” which has three parts:

  1. Your why (core of circle): Your business’s purpose, cause or belief
  2. Your how (middle layer): How you do your business
  3. Your what (outside layer): What your business does

According to Sinek, you should think, act and communicate from the inside out. In order to develop your products or services in business, you must first understand what you are trying to accomplish and why people should care.

Often, your why is as simple as this: What is your mission in life? In business? Perhaps it’s to give back to your community in some way, or maybe it’s to use art to connect with others. Whatever it may be, be honest with yourself and move toward that desire.

“You’re born and you die, so what are you going to do during this time?” asks Cammarata. “Take a good look in the mirror and ask yourself, ‘What do I care about, and how will I be remembered?’”

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