The second book in our Christmas list this year is a book that helped us define who we are as a company. It helped us create our vision, our beliefs and it was an integral part of the early days of Secret Source when we were discovering ourselves as a company.
Start with Why is a classic in the genre of business books. Simon Sinek, its author, is one of the most famous speakers in the world today. His viral video on YouTube is the third most viewed TED talk of all time. So, this isn’t some previously unknown book that we discovered in a secret book club. Having said that, we do feel that its importance is often under-rated. While many see this book as an explanation as to why many businesses succeed, we see it as more than that: His concept of Starting with Why was critical to our success, and that is why it’s second on our “must read” Christmas list.
The core theory of Start with Why is his discovery of the Golden Circle that divides every action into what you do, how you do it and why you do it.
He argues that every company knows what they do, Microsoft, for example, sells software and computers. Some people know how they do it, but very few people know why they do it.
He believes that to be a truly successful business, you need to understand your “why”. You need to understand why you exist, why you get out of bed in the morning and why should anyone care. Not only that, you should start with your why. Instead of deciding what you want to do and how you want to do it, decide why you want to do it first, then let that drive what and how you do it.
He uses Apple as an example. Instead of deciding they wanted to sell computer hardware and then work out the best way to sell as much as possible, they first decided why they existed; subsequently, they used their why to define what and how they would do it.
WHY: We think differently. We want to challenge the status quo.
HOW: The way we do this is by making products that are easy to use, elegant and well-designed.
WHAT: And we just happen to make computers as our products.
He argues that their principal driving force is not to sell as many iPhones as possible but to think differently and to change the status quo. Selling iPhones is just the result. This focus on their “why”, he argues, is why they’ve been able to innovate so much better than their competitors as they’re not limited by what they do.
Before launching Secret Source, our founder, Richard, had discovered that what gave him the most satisfaction in life was making people happy, and he wanted to set up a company that would do just that. He met Ted, our co-founder, and decided that building a tech company would be how they could make people happy.
Start with Why was essential in those formative years of Secret Source. Reading and understanding the theory behind Start with Why gave us the language and structure to be able to build a company based on our values. It helped us understand how we would use our vision to build our company. We used it to define our mission and beliefs, the cornerstones that form the basis of any decision that we make.
From the very beginning of Secret Source, we have been very clear on our why: “to make people happy”. While it took us many years to discover how we would deliver on our why, we’ve always had a clear path that we needed to follow. Understanding the underlying theory in Start with Why was critical in helping us navigate our journey.
Start with Why is one of the most common books we giveaway to start-up companies that we work with. So, if you know anyone thinking of starting out by themselves, someone who is struggling to verbalise why they want to start their own business, or why they want a career change, this is a great Christmas gift. Still not convinced? Check out his Ted Talk on YouTube for a summary of the key theory.