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Without the ‘why?’ there’s no wind

“Purpose is the wind in our sails. It’s the ‘why?'”


Without a purpose, a business can meander along without much momentum. And when things get tough (which they inevitably will), you won’t have much to pull you or your team through. Having a clear purpose adds some real meaning to your work, and a cause that people can rally around.

In his excellent book ‘How to Change the World’ John-Paul Flintoff writes:


“Even the mundane can acquire grandeur if it’s held in a wider perspective. A researcher once asked men working with stone what they were doing. One said his job was to square off the stones and move them. Another said he was working to provide for his wife and children. A third, while conscious that he was doing both those things, said he was building a cathedral, for people to worship in long after he’d gone. Each of them was doing great work, but only one recognised how great it was.”


Also having a passion for the problems your business is trying to solve is key. After all, if you’re not passionate about your business, why should someone else be?Ideally the purpose of your business shouldn’t be making money
This is fundamentally flawed for more reasons than I could care to mention. But let’s just say that the City of London isn’t quite what it used to be…

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This is the image of business we want to change. At the Happy Startup School we believe what drives you and makes you happy should come before profits. The money will come.

David Hieatt adds:

“Yes money is motivating. But money aligned to purpose is much more motivating.”

Even better if you can make stuff for, or work with, people you really like.

“I want to make a product I love, and sell it to customers that I love. If you don’t love your product, then you shouldn’t be making it.”

Sounds simple, huh? It’s not.

Too many business owners take the quick buck or follow their noses rather than putting a stake in the ground by saying ‘here’s who we are, what we stand for and who we want to work with. Take it or leave it’. It takes balls to know your market, have such undaunted faith in your product/service and a clear proposition and story that really resonates with your core audience.
But to be successful, you need to build a tribe.

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As the above diffusion of innovation model highlights, unless you have a huge marketing spend (think Apple), it’s almost impossible for most companies to gain direct access to a mass market. You ideally need to gain a tribe of 1000 loyal fans (early adopters) to help you gain traction and lay the foundation for future growth.

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Simon Sinek points out in his awesome TED talk (there’s also a book) that you need to awaken an emotion with these first customers so that they feel something, come back for more and, most importantly, tell their friends about you. As he points out, most buying decisions are based on emotion, rather than logic. We make gut decisions then back them up with logic. This is where the Golden Circle comes in.

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As Simon points out (albeit a little forcefully..):

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”

If your customers believe in what you believe, they’ll warm to you and listen to what you do and how you do it. What you do simply serves as the proof of what you believe. Simon uses the examples of Martin Luther King, Steve Jobs and the Wright Brothers to highlight how great leaders can inspire action by focusing on the ‘why?’.

Why do you do what you do?

Our fellow Brightonian and friend of the School Mark Sears pointed out in his heartfelt recent post ‘Why + How = What’:


“The strange thing is that I don’t think ‘what do you do?’ is the right question we should be asking anyway. For me there are two more important questions, ‘why do you do what you do?’ and ‘how do you use this to change something?'”


I agree with Mark that we should be using our skills and expertise to change things that bother us and, where possible, solve problems that matter.

Signing off with another quote from David Hieatt:

“Brands with a purpose have a real strength to them. They have a reason to exist.”

Does your company have a clear purpose. If not, isn’t it time it did?

Learn how you can build a happy, successful business from your passion. Download our FREE e-book & startup toolkit ››

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