What’s your why?
No, not how do you do? Or even what do you do? Here at Plump, we don’t get going on a project until we’ve sat down with a client and thrashed out why you do what you do. Only then will we hit that start button.
We all know what we do. It’s the classic (dull) dinner party question - and we’ve got an answer off to a tee. We might rattle off our job title, the place we work, or what we sell or make.
How we do things is a teensy bit more tricky. We could be talking about an unusual way of working, or a special process that makes us that little bit different.
It’s when we come to why we do it that things can get really sticky. Incidentally, the answer isn’t ‘to make money’ - that’s the by-product.
Your why is about drilling down through the noise of what and how to find your true purpose or cause. If you like, it’s the spark plug to your business’s engine.
If you’re familiar with the name Simon Sinek, you’ll be nodding your head in recognition by now. If you haven’t come across him yet, pop the kettle on, sit back and be inspired by his Ted talk - a great place to start understanding this idea.
Your why, as Sinek explains, is why you get out of bed in the morning and why anyone should care. And it all hinges on his much-repeated statement that ‘people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it’.
We’ve already explained why every Plump project starts with a workshop and a key element of each of those workshops is to help our client to work out their why.
Sometimes it comes easily. Sometimes it’s an extremely difficult labour. What we’re ideally looking for is a single sentence that captures the action you take and the way you want that to impact the people or environment around you.
Let’s take a look at some brands with a brilliant why.
“Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis”
It’s a big statement from a company that makes clothing to wear when doing outdoor pursuits. But remember, ‘people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it’. Saving the planet matters to the team at Patagonia. And it matters to the people who buy from Patagonia too.
“The Partnership’s ultimate purpose is the happiness of all its members, through their worthwhile and satisfying employment in a successful business.”
The unusual structure of the John Lewis Partnership is well-known and that democratic ethos is baked into the group’s purpose, above the money-making imperatives. People are clearly a priority here.
“To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world.
*If you have a body, you are an athlete.”
Again, not a trainer in sight. Instead, exciting words like ‘inspiration’ and ‘innovation’ are bandied about, alongside the startlingly inclusive idea that every one of us is an athlete.
“To embrace the human spirit and let it fly.”
Wow. Cynics might say it sounds a touch self-help book but it’s certainly motivational. And it’s difficult to criticise in the face of Richard Branson’s unrivalled success story. It was exactly this kind of blue sky thinking (sorry) that prompted a record label boss to launch an airline in the first place.
As you can see, the most electrifying why statements include a blend of emotion and excitement, spiced up with a dash of quirkiness and humanity. At the end of the rainbow lies the goal of attracting people who believe what you believe. But you can’t find those people - those ideal customers - until you’re clear about why you get up in the morning and why they should care.
If you want to discover more about finding your tribe, take a look at our take on the communication revolution.