Rediscovering the "Why" of Your Business

Sep 24th 2012
Share this content

By Tony Batman
chairman and chief executive officer
1st Global

Like me, many business leaders are vigorous consumers of information. We’re constantly seeking data that either challenges our assumptions or validates them.

Every once in a while, we come across something that makes us stand up and take notice. That’s what happened recently when I read Simon Sinek’s bestselling book, “Start with WHY.” Sinek brilliantly illustrates an energizing philosophy for leadership and decision-making that renews the focus and restores energy to organizations that find themselves adrift.

Whether you own a local mom-and-pop store or run a global enterprise, all businesses that achieve sustainable growth have one important attribute in common – they never lose sight of “why” they are in the business. These strong businesses build momentum because their “why” is unambiguously compelling and built upon a strong moral and emotional foundation.

In contrast, growth for marginal businesses usually stalls because they have no “why.” These businesses work on the functional level and ignore the philosophical level. Their leaders only know “what” they do and “how” they can outpace their competition in margin and scale. They have lost their “why,” or never even had one at all.

Think of the question, “Why do I do what I do?” The power of your answer provides the energy that enables and empowers businesses and people to achieve greatness against all friction and resistance.

Unfortunately, most firms and businesses don’t know “why.” Without a concrete philosophy of decision making, they fall back to the masses of stalled and declining businesses that are crippled by an anxious and fearful state of mind. By failing to differentiate themselves and their value proposition by anything other than price, they find themselves frustrated and lost.

Finding the Five “Why’s” of Your Organization

The key for businesses that have lost their way is to discover or rediscover their “why.”

There are five reasons people and businesses do what they do: Economic, Utilitarian, Expressive, Emotional and Moral. Major decisions are usually based on one or more of those five reasons. Ideally, these reasons are public and transparent to customers, prospects and staff.

Reason One - Economic: This is the financial basis in which we make decisions. “Will we make more money commensurate with our effort and risk?” Profit is a noble motive. Without profit, there is no capital. Without capital, there is no labor. And without labor, no value is created for others.

However, profit cannot be the basis of your value proposition. If the purpose of your business is to improve the life of your customers, profit cannot be the primary motivation since the recipient of the profit is you or your business, not the customer.

Reason Two – Utilitarian: A utilitarian reason complements an existing brand or product line, or indirectly solves other threats to the business. These are the rationales behind tactical decisions, not major strategic decisions or shifts in the direction of the company. Utilitarian motivation answers, “If I offer this additional product or service, how will it help me retain my current clients?”

One example of a utilitarian reason driving a service offering is for a CPA firm to add a new service in order to “play big,” while never obtaining the competencies to adequately and proficiently provide the service to clients in a world-class manner.

Reason Three – Expressive: Expressive reasons are based on how the product or service enables the provider to outwardly express the company or one’s own self-image. An expressive reason answers the questions, “Does what I own or do for a living express a healthy self-image?” “Does my profession enable others to view me in a desirable way?”

An example of this consumer psychology is apparent in environmentally conscious automobile owners of low-emission, hybrid cars. They drive them with pride, displaying their “greenness.” Consumers who purchase designer clothing do so, in part, to identify with the image of the brand. Some professionals are attracted to the wealth management industry or medical profession because they wish to express the image of sophistication, benevolence or intelligence. These people place a lower priority on economic or utilitarian motivations.

Reason Four – Emotional: Emotional reasons drive personal satisfaction. This is how doing the work makes them feel. Emotional ties to one’s vocation are the basis for the claims, “I love what I do” or “I love who I work for.”

Emotional drivers are primarily based in doing non-repetitive work that solves unique problems regardless of the economic, utilitarian or expressive reasons one may have for their career or business. Emotional bonds with one’s work generally lead to proficiency in what they do and incomes, along with personal satisfaction, tend to rise accordingly.

Reason Five – Moral: Moral reasons drive ultimate satisfaction in our careers and are the source of our energy to succeed. An example of a moral reason is, “The purpose of my business is to intentionally make my clients’ lives better because I deeply care for their well-being and I must fend off the chaos and evil that can destroy their happiness.” This moral standing is the source of power that allows businesses and their leaders to persevere against all obstacles, to transcend classic business problems and know what it takes to make themselves irresistibly attractive to clients.

From these businesses, power and energy emanates. Truth and honesty are unquestioned. Perpetual success is guaranteed.

The key for all businesses, struggling or succeeding, is to find the moral basis for their “why.” It is usually found in the historical origins of the business, yet it has only been temporarily lost or suppressed due to the demands of growth and the loss of history caused by the broken connections from people who have come and gone from the tribe over the years.

Once the moral “why” is rediscovered and restored, the perpetual energy to succeed reappears.

1st Global Capital Corp. is a member of FINRA and SIPC and is headquartered at 8150 N. Central Expressway, Suite 500 in Dallas, Texas 75206; (214) 265-1201. Additional information about 1st Global is available via the Internet at

1st Global was founded by CPAs on the belief that accounting, tax and estate planning firms are uniquely qualified to provide comprehensive wealth management services to their clients. Each affiliated firm is provided with education, technology, business-building framework and client solutions that make these firms leaders in their professions through dedicated professional client relationships built around wealth management.

Replies (0)

Please login or register to join the discussion.

There are currently no replies, be the first to post a reply.