Start with ‘Who’

I have come to the conclusion that rather than trying to grapple with the illusive ‘why,’ it’s actually easier to start with the ‘who.’

Most business people are familiar with Simon Sinek’s best-selling book ‘Start with Why.’

Written in 2009, the book argues that explaining ‘why’ a brand exists is far more powerful than just saying ‘what’ it does. Sinek goes on to say that “people don’t buy what you do, people buy why you do it.”

And he’s absolutely right – people these days want to know what motivates the person or organisation behind the product or service they are buying, so they can first decide if they trust them to deliver on their ‘promise.’

Which makes explaining ‘why’ you are so committed to a delivering product or service so important. Of course, it has to be much more than just making a profit – it has to be a genuine reason for you wanting to provide something special to your customers.

But how do you explain your ‘why?’

The reason ‘why’ you start a business or create a brand (beyond making money) isn’t a rational reason – it’s emotional and intuitive. Trying to rationalise the deeper reason why we do anything is like trying to hold a wet bar of soap – it slips out of our hands every time.

A few years ago I came to the conclusion that rather than trying to grapple with the illusive ‘why,’ it’s actually easier to start with the ‘who.’

i.e. Start by working out who you really are – so you can put that at the centre of your brand. That applies equally to an individual running an existing or starting a new business, as it does to an organisation – who’s culture represents who they are.

So I tested the theory, and it worked.

It turns out it’s a lot easier to get business and brand owners to decide ‘who’ they are, than it is to ask them to explain ‘why’ they do what they do.

And that’s why I start all my consulting jobs with an exercise to help the individual or the team to work out who they are in terms of the brand they are representing. Not only is it an engaging and easy exercise to do, it also provides some powerful insights into who they are, and how this influences their brand.

I have also incorporated the ‘who’ as the first day of my ‘12 Days of Purpose’ self-guided online course. The first ‘day’ is free, so you can check it out now if you’re interested.

For more information about this unique and insightful process, please get in touch with me.


Justin Cooper is the founder of Brand Purpose .Co, which helps employees, business owners and business leaders to define their Purpose and leverage it through their work, business or brand in a way that inspires, unites and connects the people they work with.