In a rapid-fire, and at times emotional, closing keynote Tuesday afternoon, author and business consultant Simon Sinek implored audience members at FSI’s OneVoice conference in Orlando to go beyond the norm in how they think of themselves, their product and their clients.
Sinek’s presentation, titled, “Why Leadership Starts With Why?” sought to “reverse the order of executive thinking when developing a company brand.”
He began by attacking conventional wisdom on the Internet’s ability to connect people.
“Unlimited access to unlimited information is what the Internet initially promised,” he said. “We realized rather quickly that was not what we wanted, which led to the development of the search engine. People want simplicity, not overwhelming choice.”
He used the example of Google, comparing it to the problems its main competitor, Yahoo, is currently experiencing.
“If you look at Google’s home page, what do you see?” Sinek rhetorically asked. “It’s a clear, white page with nothing but a search bar. Yahoo, on the other hand, has everything listed on its home page, essentially saying, “Look at how great we are.” Yahoo is putting themselves first by trying to proclaim how great they are and they have everything you need. But what they don’t realize is that you fundamentally can’t convince someone of what they want. That’s manipulation, and manipulation is of little brand value.”
The alternative to manipulation, he claimed, is inspiration. The capacity to inspire as a company leads to more innovation, loyal customers and loyal employees.
To demonstrate, he drew three concentric circles on a whiteboard. In the inner circle he wrote “why,” in the middle circle he wrote “how” and in the outer circle he wrote “what.”
“The ‘why’ is the reason we get out of bed in the morning; it’s who we are and are fundamental reason for living,” he explained. “The ‘how’ is the operational process and the ‘what’ is the result. Too often, companies begin their branding by telling customers what they are selling; starting with the outside circle and working their way in. To effectively brand yourself, you must reverse the order and move from the inside out.”
The reason, he said, was that despite the Internet, video conferencing, phones and other “faster” mediums of communication, we are social creatures, and relationships between individuals are still most important in personal and business settings.
“Companies are defined by what they are,” he added. “People are defined by why they exist. Authenticity breeds trust. But you can’t implement ‘more authenticity’ in your company. If you tell an employee to do that, it’s totally un-actionable. It has to be a part of who you are.”
It’s one of the reasons, he said, that terms like “gut-feeling” and “go with your heart” are so relevant in the decisions we make. Instinctively, people know whom they trust, despite the slickest, most expensive but ultimately inauthentic branding campaigns.
Using Apple, Southwest Airlines and other examples, Sinek pointed to high-profile successes and failures.
“Look at Harley Davidson,” he noted. “People have Harley Davidson tattoos on their bodies. It’s a corporate logo. How many Proctor and Gamble tattoos have you ever seen? My guess is none. They’re using the Harley Davidson brand to say something about who they are. They’re expressing themselves through a product. That level of loyalty and identification is invaluable and it’s something you all should strive to achieve.”
Companies are too busy inserting new technology that separates them from their customers, he concluded, which is the wrong tactic to take.
“We don’t do business with factories, or companies or entities. The bottom line is that we do business with people.”
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