I’m always fascinated to research why certain businesses and business leaders are able to achieve success on a scale that other people find unachievable. What is it about the underlying spirit and character that defines certain brands and entrepreneurs that will go on to transform an industry, a market, perhaps even the very way in which we think and act?

Apple for example; they continuously create the innovative products and services that competitors can only aspire to. And yes, they’re ‘just’ a computer company. They’re just like everyone else. They have access to the same talent, the same agencies, the same consultants, the same marketing…. and yet, they’re different!

Why is it that Richard Branson has been able to achieve so much over his business lifetime? Why do so many of his customers around the world trust him and his Virgin empire? Why him?

I recently discovered a lecture online by a person called Simon Sinek who believes that there is an identifiable pattern to how these people think. He believes that the world’s most inspiring and charismatic leaders – and the movements and organisations they lead and serve - whether that be Apple in the twenty-first century or perhaps Martin Luther King or the Wright brothers from the previous century - all think, act and communicate in the exact same way. And it's the complete opposite to everyone else.

He believes the answer comes from posing three basic questions: What? How? Why? With only one of these questions being key to their success.

According to Simon Sinek, every single person and every single company understand ‘what’ they do. The majority can communicate ‘how’ they do it (whether via a mission statement or USP). But very few know ‘why’ they do it, and if they do know, they fail to communicate this.

Incidentally, by ‘why’ he doesn’t mean ‘to make a profit.’ That's a result.

I believe he is saying what's your purpose or what's your cause and, critically, what's your belief? Why does your organisation exist? Why do you get out of bed in the morning? And why should anyone care?

Key to this is the belief that the world’s most successful brands don’t set out to do business with those who simply aspire to what they have or what they produce. Their goal is essentially to influence and do business with consumers and followers who understand and believe in what they do and why they do it.

We recognise Apple as a company that think different. Their goal is to produce products that make peoples’ lives better.

We have learned to view Virgin Group’s objective as contributing to creating happy and fulfilling lives that are also sustainable.

Customers don't just buy these companies’ products and services; they buy into why they do it.

At my own business, Ultimate Creative Communications, we genuinely want to work hard and do great work. That’s our mission statement: Work hard, do great work. I believe it. Our clients believe it. And our people believe it.

Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not claiming that Ultimate is a world leading business. Well, not yet! What I am saying is that we are solely driven by the service we provide and the quality of the creative work we produce for our clients (and not by financial forecasts or profits, although these are a natural precursor and by-product of what we do and how we do it!). We believe that being great to work with goes hand in hand with doing great work, and by keeping loyal to this ethic, success will follow. That’s simply it.

Every aspiring business needs to have a brand story. A genuine story, not just a killer combination of buzzwords and clichés. A brand story must be true to ‘why’ your organisation exists. A unified purpose you, your people and your customers believe in - inside and out. A purpose so powerful it can create a tribal reaction from your target consumers.

Customers don't just randomly buy products and services; for most brand leaders (and aspiring brand leaders) there is a cerebral process at work encouraging them to buy into the why and not simply the what and how.

About the author:

Matthew Townsend is an entrepreneur, chief executive & agency owner with over 20 years’ experience in the digital and traditional creative media industry, in addition to technology focused businesses.

Written by Matt Townsend November of 2014