“People don’t follow you for what you do they follow you for why you do it….”

Is a very familiar quote by the genius that is Simon Sinek, Leadership Guru and founder of the Golden Circle methodology.

But what does this mean for us as small business owners?

Let’s break it down into some very simple steps and dispel a myth….

Firstly the myth:

“I’m not a leader, I own a small business.”

As a business owner we hold the role of a leader, whether we are aware of it or not.  How well we understand this and then execute our position in this role, will determine how successful our business is.

You see, as a business owner, we need to engage people, whether that be our employees or our customers. To do this, we must take them on a journey, help them see the potential of the future; their success within our business for our employees and their success with our product/service as a customer.  So painting the picture, sharing the story of what the destination of that journey looks like is crucial.

Being clear on this destination is so important because if we don’t have a ‘direction or destination’ in mind, we cant possibly lead anyone anywhere. 

Knowing why we’re in business helps to drive the clarity of that destination.  There is a process to uncover your companies why, and it often comes from the founder’s experience and/or the special moments within the business, however, asking ourself the questions ‘Why did I start this business?’ or ‘What did I want to achieve as a result of this business?’ is a great place to begin with.

When we are clear on this, then this understanding becomes the core of everything we do and say both internally and externally.  As Denise Lee Yohn, author of ‘Fusion’ shares how important it is to ensure our customer experience (CX) is aligned with our employee experience (EX).  This is authentic business to the core and means that we’ll naturally attract our ‘tribe’, the people that will love doing business with us.  The great thing about this is we’ll also repel those that don’t resonate with our ‘why’, which believe it or not, is a great thing because, have you noticed yet, there are some people you’d just prefer not to do business with.

Business from this perspective becomes much easier, because being clear on the destination and the values with which we do business helps guide our every decision.  Given that we make decisions that move us towards that destination, we can be certain that we’re on track, rather than just taking a stab in the dark. 

This means we as business owners can be more certain.  Our people, our customers need us to be certain.  It’s the biggest driver of human behaviour and will determine whether they want to be apart of our ‘tribe’ or not.   Needless to say this knowledge and understanding goes a long way to assist us to reduce staff turn over, increase customer retention, reduce expenses on recruitment and training, increasing revenue through improved customer service from our team, and repeat and referral customers, not to mention the savings from building on our staff’s knowledge and experience the longer they are in our business.

Simon talks about the golden circle….(See Image 1) which is, at it’s very core the ‘why’ of what we do.  Embodying the ‘why’ is the ‘how’ we go about business otherwise reflected as your ‘true values’.  (Not the ones we want them to be, but the real values of our business)  This is then encompassed by the ‘what’ our business does.  Otherwise known as our ‘mission statement’ – the thing we do on a daily business.


Image 1: Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle

He goes on to talk about if we were to take a cross section of our brain we would see that the ‘why and the how’ are in direct proportion to the limbic brain and the ‘what’ correlates with the ‘neocortex brain’. 

Why is this important?  Because the neocortex brain at it’s most simplest, is the engine for processing all the facts and figures and details about things.  The limbic brain however is the emotional part of our brain which drives feelings and emotions about things but doesn’t have language. 

Why is this important? Because, the limbic brain is also what determines our decisions.  Have you ever had that feeling of, ‘I don’t know why I made that decision, it just felt right’ or ‘It was just a feeling I had’  or ‘I followed my gut feeling to make the decision.’  We can’t explain why we made that decision because there is no language in the limbic brain, yet, we knew it felt right.

Now…. often as business owners we get stuck on, talking about the facts, the details of what we do but if we apply Simons statement, at the beginning of this article, we’ll see that that’s not how we as humans make decisions.

So to ensure that we engage our employees and our customers and have them ‘wanting to serve our customers well’ and ‘wanting to do business with us’ it’s crucial that we engage the limbic brain. 

This is why communicating the ‘why’ is so crucial to our business success and it’s next level.  The clearer we are and the more we talk about it, the more successful we’ll be.

So if this is an area in your business that could use some attention then I encourage you to take the time over the Christmas break to reflect and consider, so you can start 2019 with a bang…. Being crystal clear on your Why and how you’ll communicate it.