Once a month, I invite a smart business expert to be my guest star on the Bare Bones Biz Teleseminar call. We ask folks to join us on the call to share and learn and have some fun with business building.

In April, my guest was Simon Sinek, www.sinekpartners.com. You could call Simon a marketing expert. However, his approach is unorthodox. He doesn’t talk about products and features and services and company names and Yellow Pages and radio ads. His consulting process can be summed up in one word: why.

Why do you do what you do? Why do people work for you? Why do customers buy from you? Why does your business exist? Why do you get out of bed every morning? Why do you do it?

Why is a heavy question. Answering that question can be liberating. And it can help you create an extraordinary business and a rewarding life.

Simon says his frustration building his own business caused him to bottom out and ask himself, “Why?” He made a life-changing discovery:

“I used to wake up every day and go to work. I used to provide marketing services. Now, I wake up every day very clear on what it is that I really do. I inspire people to do the things that inspire them.

“No matter what you do, there is someone else doing the same thing - offering the same basic services and products, of about the same quality, for about the same price. So why do your loyal customers buy from you again and again? It isn’t about the products and services. It’s about you. People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it.

“You can manipulate your customers to buy - with discounts, offers, additional services - but it is exhausting and stressful. Or, you can inspire them to buy.”

He offered business examples: Harley Davidson, Apple and 1-800-Got-Junk are companies that have figured out their Why. It has nothing, really, to do with motorcycles, computers or junk removal. It’s about building a culture.

1-800-Got-Junk inspires you to pay them to haul your junk away, even though you can put your own junk on the curb and have it hauled away for free.

Apple doesn’t clutter its ads with a laundry list of features. Apple inspires you to be free and creative and challenge the status quo.

Harley Davidson inspires people to tattoo their logo on their bodies!

Simon has inspired me and I have been obsessing over the question, “Why?” (You can listen to the recording of this call at www.barebonesbiz.com. Click on the Teleseminar page.) I’m delighting in finding compelling Whys.

The Why Of Wetheads

Hot Rod and I just got back from Wetstock ’08. Wetstock is an occasional gathering of hydronic heating professionals.

Perhaps the best part about going to a seminar is the time between classes when you visit with the other seminar attendees. You get to talk about life, business, and the best way to make people warm and comfortable. You get to ask anyone you like a question at any time. And you can walk away if you get bored or want to get something to eat.

So, host Dan Holohan dispenses with the seminar proper and offers an informal roundtable event. No speakers at the front of the room. No rules. If you want to, you can sit at a table and discuss the table tent topic. But no one cares if you do that or not. Most folks mill around, greet old friends, meet new friends and get into heated discussions about the best way to arrange pumps and controls.

Here’s one reason why I love Wetheads. Wetstock raised a boatload of money for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation. This is a group that helps prevent and cure breast cancer. Dan and his wife, The Lovely Marianne, raise more money for more great causes than anyone else I know. They know that if you put these heating pros in a room to kibitz, they are going to open their hearts and their wallets. They do, time and time again.

Here’s another reason why I love Wetheads. They are so passionate about what they do. My husband Hot Rod is a Wethead and very clear on his Why. He loves making water warm in creative, beautiful, whimsical ways. He loves harnessing the power of the sun to make people warm and comfortable. He loves the technology.

He loves “green” systems, not because they are so marketable, but because he believes in every cell of his body that it is the right way to do things. He loves sharing what he knows. That’s why Hot Rod is such a magnetic guy.

He is not alone. There are so many tradespeople who feel that way about what they do. They love it so much they do it for free. They would pay people to let them do it. Charging for this wonderful work is a good idea, of course. I’ll tackle that again in another column. Today, let’s just bask in the pure pleasure of doing what you love just because you love to do it. Therein lies your Why.

Can you put it into words? Would you spend some time thinking about why you do what you do? Simon suggests you look into your past and identify the moments where you were really alive and in the moment. Discover the past moments of success and joy, and consider what you were doing and why.

Can you engage in those activities in your business today? Just because you love it? Could you share why you do what you do with your team and your customers?

My Why

As I listened to Simon during the teleseminar, I realized that it is not all about the money for me. Gasp! What an awareness!

Understand that I love money. I love making it and spending it. I love the options it provides. However, sometimes I help people who don’t pay me and I find that work just as rewarding. I am in it for the game. Free, honorable, profitable trade is our best chance at world peace. That’s why I do what I do.

A few weeks ago, I introduced you to a fellow named Randy Mackenzie. He teaches the Commercial Cleaning Class at the Davis Correctional Facility in Holdenville, Okla. Recently, my husband Hot Rod and I went to Holdenville. I delivered a Biz Planning program to some of the inmates. Here’s what I learned: Not everyone thinks these guys deserve another chance.

After my first column about this class, I got some letters from folks who accused me of having lost my mind, of being hoodwinked and of being flat-out wrong to encourage inmates to start businesses. Well, I know I can say, “There but for the grace of God …,” about more than one instance in my reckless past. I’m not going to judge; I am just going to teach.

One student told me that he has been incarcerated for 30 years. He has never used the Internet or held a cell phone. He has had time to think and plan. He has a rockin’ Biz Plan. He’ll be free in about six months, having paid his debt to society, and he is going to put that plan into action. I’ll be cheering him on.

I’m going to go back and teach another class. I know I will learn something. And, I had a great time with Hot Rod, Randy and the students of the Commercial Cleaning Class.

Anyone who knows how to start, fix and grow an extraordinary business is better off. He is free, and has access to more options and opportunities. That’s why I do what I do, and I will share what I know with whoever is interested.

It’s not just about plumbing or heating or baking or candlestick making. It’s about you. Why do you do it?

Here’s to asking, and answering, the big question.

Links