How Do You Start with Why?

“Sunshine, go to and pull up the transcript of Simon Sinek’s talk, ‘How Great Leaders Inspire Action.'”

“His famous TED-X talk in Puget Sound?”

“That’s the one.”

“I love that guy.”

“Me, too,” smiled the old man. And then he looked at the younger man and said, “You run a business. You believe in your company. You believe you deliver a better experience than your competitors.”

The younger man nodded his agreement.

“Is your confidence based on your intentions, your goals, your values and your personal commitment to your customer’s happiness?”

The younger man looked mildly confused, but didn’t answer. The old man continued, “We judge ourselves by our intentions, but customers judge us by our actions. Judging yourself by your intentions isn’t a danger among friends, because a friend knows your heart. But it’s a very real danger in business. What happens when a prospective customer makes contact with your company? Do they meet your best employee on that employee’s best day? Of course not. They meet an average employee on an average day. Or worse, they meet a below-average employee on a below-average day. And then you are confused by those negative reviews.”

The younger man looked puzzled, then concerned.

The old man continued. “Sad, isn’t it? Your intentions and motivations and personal commitments never quite made it to the party.”

“I don’t know what to say, Poobah.”

The old man smiled, “Wouldn’t it be great if your employees were consistently delivering the experience you believe in?”

The younger man leaned forward. “Tell me how to make that happen.”

“Look at the transcript of that TED talk.”

“You’re not going to tell me to ‘Start with Why,’ are you?”

“No, I’m going to tell you how to actually do what Simon is talking about.”

“I tried to ‘start with why,’ Poobah, but it quickly became fuzzy and generic.”

“The key is to take what’s in your heart – your highest and brightest and best intentions – and bury those intentions and motivations deep in the hearts of your employees. Frances Frei, that most beloved of Harvard Business School professors, says, ‘You can’t change a person’s performance until you first change their beliefs.’ And my friend Don Kuhl agrees with that. Listen closely to what Simon Sinek says, ‘People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe. In fact, people will do things that they believe.'”

“I remember Simon Sinek saying that,” the younger man said, “but I focused on the word Why. Are you suggesting I should have focused on the word, Believe?”

“You and everyone else,” the old man said. “Now a look at that transcription. Count how many times Simon Sinek says Believe right after he talks about Why.”

After a moment the younger man said, “Here’s one. At the 4-minute mark, Sinek says, ‘Here’s how Apple actually communicates. ‘Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently.’ And at 5 and 1/2 minutes, he says, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. The goal is not to do business with everybody who needs what you have. The goal is to do business with people who believe what you believe.’ Why have I never seen this before, Poobah?”

“Keep reading.”

A moment later, “At 7 and 1/2 minutes, he says, ‘The goal is not just to sell to people who need what you have; the goal is to sell to people who believe what you believe. The goal is not just to hire people who need a job; it’s to hire people who believe what you believe. I always say that, you know, if you hire people just because they can do a job, they’ll work for your money, but if they believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood and sweat and tears…’ Wow. Here’s another one, just before the 11-minute mark, ‘People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. If you talk about what you believe, you will attract those who believe what you believe.”

The younger man looked up from his laptop. “Okay, Poobah. I’m convinced.”

“Now look just beyond the 15-minute mark, where he starts talking about Martin Luther King.”

“Here it is. Speaking of Dr. King, he says, ‘He went around and told people what he believed. I believe, I believe, I believe, he told people. And people who believed what he believed took his cause, and they made it their own, and they told people.”

“Sunshine,” the old man said, “You’ll find your corporate ‘Why’ when you write 10 true sentences that each start with ‘We believe…’ Do you remember Dewey Jenkins?”

“The air conditioning guy in Charlotte?”

“Goettl is another air conditioning company that’s loved like that.”


“Arizona and Nevada.”

“This is what Ken Goodrich says about his company, Goettl.

We believe in showing up on time.
We believe in doing things the right way, not the easy way.
We believe in super-sealing the air ducts because no one needs to air condition their attic.
We believe in eliminating every squeak, rattle and hum, because if you don’t, bigger problems will come.
We believe air conditioning should be quiet.
We believe in replacing every screw – even the ones other people left out – so that we can tighten the unit up like new.
We install everything level, plumb and square because this is the signature of a superior technician.
We believe every customer deserves our very best work.”

The old man continued,

“Jean Hunt and her partners run Ski Cellar Snowboard in Calgary.

We believe in helping people find exactly what they’re looking for.
We believe your time is valuable.
We believe low quality products are never a good value.
We believe in giving you back your money when something’s not right and we can’t fix it.
We believe the hill is more fun when your stuff is waxed and tuned.
We believe you don’t have to be cold in winter.
We believe you have an inner child that wants to play in the snow.
We believe that being outdoors is good for you.
We believe in slippery hillsides and gravity.
We believe you’d be happier if you played more.
We believe in letting you trade stuff in when you outgrow it.
We believe anyone can learn to ski. Even you.
And we believe you were born to snowboard.

Sunshine, do you know about”

“Of course. Ryan Deiss.”

“Here’s Ryan’s ‘We Believe.’

We believe the best product – not the best marketer – should win.
We believe we shouldn’t teach something until we do it first.
We believe the biggest marketing sin is being boring.
We believe theory is for posers.
We believe in sharing and even celebrating our failures.
We believe it ain’t braggin’ if it’s true.
We believe nothing happens until something is sold.
We believe in making decisions and owning the results.
We believe you should have at least one good belly laugh every day.
We believe in leveling the playing field so those who truly give a damn can win.

And speaking of “give-a-damn”…
We believe give-a-damn is essential for success, but, sadly, can’t be taught.
We believe the duck billed platypus is proof that God has a sense of humor.
We believe you don’t have to crush your competition to succeed.
We believe that girls are usually smarter than boys, and harder working.
We believe it’s ok to be proven wrong.
We believe it’s ok to change your mind.
We believe it’s ok to cry when you’re having a really crappy day.
We believe the best ideas often come from the most unlikely of places.
We believe Google sometimes does evil.
We believe in delivering step-by-step solutions, NOT data without interpretations.

And speaking of “data without interpretation”
We believe that’s for cowards.
We believe that’s unhelpful.
We believe that’s the primary source of all the world’s logical lies.

And speaking of logical lies…
We believe they wind up in a special circle of hell along with the people who popularize them.
We believe in saying “sorry” when we screw up. Like just now, for example… sorry about that “circle of hell” thing… that was maybe a little harsh.
We believe in passing knowledge down.
We believe if you have to rely on deception to sell, your business doesn’t deserve to exist.
We believe it’s usually better to ask for forgiveness than permission.
We believe no one has all the answers.
We believe in doing the hard work FIRST.
We believe Kanye should smile more. And so should you.
We believe success and failure are temporary conditions.
We believe “chucklehead” is a word.
We believe information is worthless absent execution.
We believe half-assed is better than no ass.
We believe being an asshole should be a crime.
We believe it’s ok to call someone an asshole publicly when they’re being an asshole.
We believe in giving everyone the benefit of the doubt.
We believe if you buy something from us and it isn’t a fit – even if it’s your fault – you should get your money back.
We believe in always saying “Please” and “Thank you”…”Sir” and “Ma’am”.
We believe you should never, NEVER stop learning.
We believe in knowing what others don’t, and doing what others won’t.
We believe small businesses can change the world.
We believe we can help small businesses grow and succeed…

And therefore…
We believe we can change the world.”

“Are you catching on, Sunshine?”

“Wow. When you hear a company’s We Believe statements, you really feel like you know them.”

“And when your We Believes are accelerated by your Brandable Chunks, it creates a kind of marketing flywheel that will outdistance anything else you can do.”

“Brandable Chunks?”

“Brandable Chunks are memorable phrases that become identified with your company. If you use these phrases in your advertising and make sure your people say them to your customers every day, Brandable Chunks accelerate your culture and amplify your brand and allow you to articulate your Why at every touch-point with your customer. The strongest companies have between 8 and 14 of them.”

“Give me an example of Brandable Chunks and how they work with We Believe.”

“Okay. Peoria, Illinois.”

“What’s in Peoria?”


“What do they sell?”

“Appliances. Electronics. Furniture.”

“Does Peoria have Best Buy, Home Depot, Lowe’s and Sears?”

“Of course they do.”

“Do you know this Sherman guy?”

“His name’s Paul. He’s a friend.”

“It’s hard to believe he’s selling any appliances with all four Big Boys down the street.”

“Sunshine, Sherman’s sells more appliances in Peoria than Best Buy, Home Depot, Lowe’s and Sears combined. He’s got a company culture so alive it’s electric.”


“Combined,” said the old man. “These are Sherman’s We Believes:

We believe in listening.
We believe you should know exactly which products have the lowest return rates, the highest national reviews and the strongest endorsements by experts.
We believe in doing exactly what we say.
We believe in delivering mattresses and appliances tomorrow.
We believe we should offer to set up and connect any electronic components you buy.
We believe our in-home repair team should be able to service and repair any appliance we sell.
We believe we should be willing to haul away any furniture or appliances you no longer need.
We believe in taking the time to help you find exactly the right furniture for your home.
We believe in being nice, no matter what.
We believe you’ll be happy you chose Sherman’s.”

“You said you would give me some examples of Brandable Chunks.”

“Listen for how they reinforce and agree with all of Sherman’s We Believes.”

“These are the phrases that will be used by the staff and in their ads right?”

“Right,” the old man said. Here are the Brandable Chunks:

‘I’m listening.’
‘The lowest return rates, the highest national reviews and the strongest endorsements by experts.’
‘I promise we can do exactly that.’
‘We can have it to you tomorrow.’
‘And we can set this up and connect it all together in your home.’
‘Our in-home repair team can service and repair any appliance we sell.’
‘We can haul away any furniture or appliances you no longer need.’
‘It takes time to find exactly the right furniture for your home.’
‘I’ve got all the time you need.’
‘I’m really glad you said that.’
‘You’ll be happy you chose Sherman’s.'”

“Where did you learn about Brandable Chunks and We Believe, Poobah?”

“Wizard Academy.”

The younger man started to laugh.

The old man said, “Believe it or not, it’s a real place and it’s older than the Harry Potter books. Wizard Academy is where business people, entrepreneurs and like-minded lunatics learn big things quickly in a fun environment.”

“Big things quickly?”

“How to grow a business. Most classes are 2 or 3 days. The Academy tower sits on a plateau overlooking Austin, Texas, from 900 feet above the city.”

“It sounds amazing.”

“I think you might finally be ready to go. You know the stories I’ve been telling you?”

“You mean about Kessler and Dewey Jenkins and Brian Scudamore and Spence Diamonds and Don Kuhl?”

“And Paul Sherman and Ryan Deiss and Goettl and Ski Cellar Snowboard and several hundred other highly successful small companies. Everyone we’ve talked about today, except for the Fortune 500 folks, are alumni and supporters of Wizard Academy.”

The younger man was looking at his laptop.

The old man wandered up to the counter and came back with two cups of cocoa. The younger man took a sip, smiled, then raised his cup in a toast. “Here’s to We Believe and Brandable Chunks.”

The old man lifted his cocoa and said, “May your crazy stay this side of legal, and may you return to us before we have time to miss you.”

“Where did you hear that?” asked the younger man.

“It’s the parting toast given at the end of every class by the vice-chancellor of the Academy.”

“What, exactly, do they teach?”

“Most of the curricula was created by reverse-engineering the successful actions of talented people.”

“I don’t get it.”

“Talent is unconscious competence, Sunshine. Talented people know the right thing to do, but they usually have a hard time explaining it. But if you reverse-engineer the actions that led to their success, you can teach regular folks how to achieve similar results.”

“So if talent is unconscious competence, what do we call conscious competence?”


“Like the four pillars of Amazon?”

“And a long list of other things, too.


© 2017, Roy H. Williams -

Jeffrey and Bryan Eisenberg -

Be Like Amazon: Even a Lemonade Stand Can Do It
By Jeffrey Eisenberg, Bryan Eisenberg, Roy H Williams