Always Start with Why

entrepreneurshipAs I was binge-watching House of Cards this weekend I was reminded of a link someone had sent me from Fortune that lists 7 great documentaries every entrepreneur should see that are available on Netflix.

I thought I should probably take a look at a couple since what I write about is entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship! These films have some great stories with some great time-tested lessons for entrepreneurs, but the theme throughout that struck me the most was “start with why.” Starting a business can seem like the cool or hip thing to do – be your own boss, make millions, etc. etc. How hard can it be? Right? The reality is that it’s always hard and you will always run into obstacles that will take you down or make you stronger. You just don’t know when they are coming, where they will be, and how they will affect you.

If you look at the most successful entrepreneurs, they know the “why” of starting the business and more importantly, they know the “why” of the product or service they are offering. The first “why” is about why you are even thinking about starting a business in the first place. Some do it because of an inability to get a job, some because they have a dream and want to see it realized, some decide it’s the best way to earn money, some want to provide jobs for others, and some agree to a partnership with a friend, (just to name a few).

None of these reasons are better or worse than others as far as the likelihood of success. The key is being honest about what it is, embracing it and making sure it meets your end goal. The “why” has to feel real to you, be real to you and ring true. If your “why” is made up because you think it will sound good to other people, put your money back in the bank and get a job. Game over. In my book, Putting Together the Entrepreneurial Puzzle, Chapter 10 is about “the exit strategy.” In it, I talk about beginning with the end in mind. If you don’t, the end will be unintentional and most likely not what you wanted. Build to the exit, don’t let the exit door hit you on the way out.

The second “why” that is crucial in a business is the product or service. If you don’t know why this will be important to the customer or partner, they won’t either. As Simon Sinek says, people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. Even if you are clear on the why, if you can’t communicate it well, if your marketing doesn’t capture it, you’ll struggle. Small businesses have to do so many things correctly, right from the start, that a mistake in the “why” in either case can lead to lost money, lost friends, lost reputations, lost family and more.

Take a look at the 7 inspirational stories in the documentaries on Netflix and I’m sure you’ll find an insight or two that you hadn’t thought about for a while, if ever!