Back in January, I began a discussion in AQUA about informational resources from outside our industry that might help fuel both individual and shared success. I’d like to continue down that path here with a look at one of the truly visionary business leaders, authors and thinkers working these days – Simon Sinek.

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I’ve been following Sinek for some time now and believe his approach to marketing, sales and business leadership offers a kind of intellectual rocket fuel for almost any type of organization. His hugely successful and influential books, "Start With The Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action", and the follow up, "Find Your Why: A Practical Guide to Discovering Purpose For You or Your Team", are must reads for leaders of all stripes. Online he’s also delivered a widely viewed and discussed TED Talk based on the same ideas. Sinek’s compelling thesis stems from a beautifully simple idea: the key to success is all about focusing on the reasons why you do what you do, why you’re in the business you’re in and why your customers purchase your products or services.

For the hot tub industry, as well as pools and aquatics in general, understanding the whys couldn’t be more important. We have products that offer a set of benefits that can’t be found anywhere else. There are very few other types of experiences that are so immensely pleasurable as soaking in a hot tub, while at the same time so beneficial for for our health.Unfortunately our industry has never done a good job of embracing and promoting those amazing qualities. That disconnection is evident in the way the hot tub industry has become very features-oriented. There’s a seemingly never-ending arms race of jet configurations, seat and lounge designs, lighting effects, control technology and product aesthetics. Certainly such ambitious product development is a part of the big picture and I applaud those efforts. But, let’s face it; fancy bells, whistles and nozzles are not why most people want to own a hot tub. Still, sales and marketing people are often all-too eager to cut straight to the features and as a result miss the main reason why the customer is there in the first place.

Sinek’s ideas are the antidote to that shortcoming; a perfect fit for businesses that are missing that kind of opportunity to speak directly to the customers’ most fundamental wants and needs. As he says, “People don't buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” He explained the concept in a popular TED Talk, which you can see below. (This is 18 minutes, but if you have time, at least watch the first five minutes.)

But Sinek doesn’t stop there: another of his books, "Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t," explores another, and in many ways related, aspect of organizational success. It’s all about how the most successful business leaders facilitate and inspire those they’re leading. 

I’m a big basketball fan; one of the main reasons why is because it’s all about the team. No single player can win a championship on his or her own. I think of the tremendous success of Steve Kerr, head coach of the Golden State Warriors. He’s won more games sooner than any other coach in basketball history. Yes, he has great individual players, but more important they share the ball and play team defense. And, as a former record-setting player himself, Kerr’s players know he has their backs and understands what they need to succeed. And, most important, in his own surprisingly modest way, he also knows how to inspire.

Sinek makes the case that when you look at great leaders in all walks of life, more than any other quality, they know how to inspire others: “Great companies don't hire skilled people and motivate them,” he says, “they hire already motivated people and inspire them.”

Through all of his work, Sinek makes a compelling case that when you combine the whys with empowering leadership, you might be surprised what can be achieved.