A Reflection on Simon Sinek’s book, Start with Why
By Aaron S. Robertson, MSM
Watch Simon Sinek's TED Talk on the book at YouTube:
From the end of 2007 to the end of 2013, I served as president of a small Web design and online marketing company called Intrepid Innovations, Inc. My two partners were old friends from college. We knew we wanted to go into business together at some point, but we struggled in the beginning phases of brainstorming our business plan with the how we were going to go into business with one another. We all had different majors in college. And while we shared some similar interests, we were also very different from one another in interests, talents, and basic skill sets.
Finally, we figured out how we were going into business. Though my major was in political science (rounded out nicely by minors in sociology and philosophy), I had a strong passion for online marketing, search engine optimization, and writing. I was also a big networker and all-around schmoozer with some good connections. My partner Phil was a graphic designer by major and picked up on Web design along the way, and my partner Dan was a writing major with a knack for copy writing. That’s essentially how the formula came about for the services we were going to offer. But looking back on it all, we never really developed the why, and I suspect that explains many of the challenges we ran into further down the road, and why we eventually scrapped the business.
Over the course of all the years we were in business, we constantly struggled to compete on price. For Web design, graphic arts, and writing services, there was simply too much competition. Everyone out there claimed to be some sort of online marketing wizard, or copy writing guru, or social media genius. Online marketplaces that brought freelancers and buyers together allowed those buyers to get dirt-cheap rates from freelancers overseas, primarily from India, and there was no way we could reasonably match those prices. Finally, on that note, many DIY Web design services sprang up, allowing buyers to create their own Web sites quickly and cheaply without having to know complicated code. The result of all of these factors combined was that we continuously found ourselves nickeled-and-dimed to death. And it was very difficult to build long-lasting, repeat business from clients. They seemed to always look for the immediate fix, and they often had little money and/or understanding to invest in their marketing efforts for the long haul – many of our clients were small mom-and-pop shops and one-person professionals like consultants of all stripes, accountants, attorneys, contractors, etc.
The bottom line, to sum this all up, we failed to figure out the why. In the end, we were just another commodity out there, competing with an endless sea of other similar providers. There was nothing particularly outstanding that truly differentiated us, that made us really stand out from the rest, and we allowed ourselves to become victims of pricing wars. We ended the business in 2013 after we finally realized it was no longer fun or rewarding.