Do you know ‘why’ you do what you do?

How this 18 minute TED talk shaped my career.

I remember where I first watched it, sitting in the boardroom among eight other employees at Comm One where I previously worked. My boss and mentor, Cos, put on Simon Sinek’s iconic TED talk – Start with Why…

This isn’t like most YouTube videos. If you haven’t already seen it, I encourage you to take 18 minutes and enjoy it. If you have seen it, why not have a refresh? 

We were all astonished, actually speechless. We realised we were doing great work but not as great as was possible, and that wasn’t a reflection of work ethic or talent but of precision in a paradigm shift to the ‘why’ of a thing.  For the best projects we worked on, of course we were touching on this stuff, but inadvertently, just marketing the ‘how’ and the ‘what’.

Six years on and I have been employing Simon Sinek’s approach in brand strategies for clients and among friends. Those who have done a workshop with DSR Branding will know it’s one of the first questions we ask. “So why are you doing this? Why does your business exist? What’s the thing that drives you?”

It’s a video you could go back and watch a few times. The book is even better and has plenty of great stories and testimonials about businesses who employ this approach to how they operate, with great success.

Recently our designer, Reuben, read the book and it was fantastic witnessing firsthand the effect it had on him. He’s bought into it conceptually when I’ve talked about it, but reading it firsthand is even better.

As a team we’ve worked together on refining our why.

Here’s where we got to:

We exist to inspire people to love what their work represents.

“But why should I love my work? Work is a necessary evil or burden allowing me to pay my bills. Work is a chore.” I disagree and I believe the responsibility lies with business owners to create an environment that inspires the best work out of their employees. When we represent the why, the truth of a brand in the way we design it, what that brand represents becomes something that is able to be connected with and loved.

Have you been in a store and the shop attendant clearly doesn’t want to be there? What effect does that have on you? Did you buy something, or just walk out?

I was just over in Auckland and went to Best Ugly Bagels. It’s a great industrial kitchen where the staff hand roll the bagels in front of your eyes. The person taking your order yells it out to their kitchen crew who repeat the order as a chant in unison. My order, “Boss Hog, gluten free, no cheese” sounded a lot less cool than the person before’s “King Kong”. When you’re in a place where people love their work, it’s infectious and you want to be there. I can’t really remember the taste of that bagel, it seemed delicious, but I can clearly recall the feeling I had there; it felt like a place to belong.

Recently we refreshed a client’s brand who hadn’t done any paid branding or marketing since starting the business in 1988. In those 30 years, the owner had never worn a company uniform. Since launching he’s not only wearing company branded shirts, he’s also bought new pants for the entire office with the new logo. That, to me, was so exciting to hear.

I believe that when business owners love their brand, it impacts their staff and flows onto the customer.

Another awesome example that consolidates why we do what we do is the immense pride on our client’s faces when they take delivery of their new business cards, uniform or collateral. For our recent new brand of Babel Creative, Reuben had our client Ash Dighton stamp his own notepad with the Babel Creative custom stamps. The whole brand is built in a way that gives the staff a high degree of personal agency over their brand, and his feedback is that seeing that identity is a source of daily pride that remains undimmed.

So after watching this video, what can you do?

Discuss and listen to your team, whiteboard their ideas. Absorb their comments. It’s incredibly valuable information. Your business’ why doesn’t need to be a consensus, but it does need to be defined by your key decision makers, your brains trust. Once you’ve defined it, then reconfirm it to the team. Put it up on posters. Remind people of it. Share it.

The difference between your ‘why’ and your brand vision.

There is a difference. Vision is the destination, the end result. The ‘why’ is the fuel, the foundation. The why is the reason you’re getting out of bed, and achieving the vision is what helps you sleep in it.

Our vision is to help cultivate a world where people love what they do, love their business and in turn have loyal customers that love them for it. Our manner of achieving that is by giving people the tools to distil and communicate the capacity for that love, and to have our name spread as an effect of delivering it.

If this article inspired you, please share it with a friend or family. If you want help redefining your why and bringing that to life through engaging design, give me a call. We get to do that for people every day.