The Most Important Business Question You Can Ask

In this time of economic uncertainty, what is it that is going to set you or your company apart and drive business through your doors? We all have access to the same resources, so what is it that is going to allow you to achieve more than your competitors?

I would like to suggest that it starts by asking yourself the question, “Why?”.


In his book Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, Simon Sinek makes the argument that while every person or organization knows what they do, and some know how they do it, it is far fewer that know why. And it is those who know the why behind what they do that inspire others to join them, both by working with them or by consuming their products and services. 

A great example of how knowing the why differentiates a business from its competitors is Apple Computer. Back in the early 2000s, Gateway computers were all over the place. You may remember the brand—you could spot the cow-patterned black and white boxes from across the mall. They made a quality product, but why did people stop buying from them? 

It wasn’t what they were making—they made a computer that worked well just like Apple. It wasn’t how they were making it—they likely used many of the same parts suppliers and manufacturing techniques as Apple. What set Apple apart from Gateway (as well as Dell, HP, Acer, etc.) was that Steve Jobs wasn’t selling the speed of the processor or how much memory his computer had—he was calling on us to “Think Different.” 


Businesses that set themselves apart are those who inspire. This is the golden circle, a communications hierarchy identified by Simon Sinek. Most businesses move from the outside of the circle inward. When making a sales pitch, they will start with the product they are selling (what), then move on to the features and benefits of the product (how), and then make their call to action—”buy my product.“

But businesses that inspire, Sinek argues, start with their why because “people don’t buy what you do—they buy why you do it.” It is also true that your best employees work because they share your why. “If you hire people just because they can do a job, they’ll work for your money. But if you hire people who believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood, sweat, and tears.” 

Your goal, then, is to find the people who have the same why as you—who believe what you believe—and then hire them and sell to them.


With all the turmoil that is going on around us right now, people are looking for someone to lead them. If you not only want to survive this downturn, but come out of it thriving, start attracting those who believe what you believe—who share your why. And they won’t know what you believe until you tell them why you do what you do.

So it may be important for you to figure out how to rearrange your floor space to allow 50% occupancy, but while you’re doing that, you should also figure out how to answer the question “Why do you and your business exist?”

Here at Cowart Reese Sargent, CPAs, we believe every individual has value and we seek to help you reach your vision by doing professional work with honesty, integrity, excellence, compassion, and intention. If we can help you achieve your whys, give us a call at (888) 272-7102 or send us a message.

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