A little bit about the theory of business
Start with Why
Prior to my studies and projects at ProAkatemia, I studied International Business at the main campus of Tampere University of Applied Sciences for one and a half years. I went through several courses about topics such as marketing, accounting, experience economy, business planning, operations management, sales and so on. Although a lot of these courses are held about completely different topics, there usually are a couple of supporting and common themes throughout all of them. Two of these common themes are differentiation and positioning.
The words different, differentiation, position, competition and competitors would come up in our lectures and conversations during most of these courses I listed above. One lecturer said something along the lines of “a company must differentiate itself from its competitors” and another one might have asked “what is this company’s position relative to its competitors?”.
After those courses I’ve also started to think of those questions with my own business ideas, passions and now with my projects at ProAkatemia. “Why would someone buy from me? How is my idea different?” At Tampere University of Applied Sciences ‘s main campus we had a list of the things that would make a company different and how the leader or the manager or the owner of the company could position the company in the market it operated in. The list included items such as price, novelty, quality and convenience. Simon Sinek’s book called Start with Why gives another alternative to the question “why would someone buy from me?”.
As Sinek explains in his book, it is not every day one creates or stumbles upon a completely new, innovative idea. There aren’t many companies in the world that sell such a product or a service, that a customer couldn’t get from some other company for about the same service, price, quality and features. (Sinek 2009, 16, 44)
The saying “there is nothing new under the sun” is true. And if one can’t use innovation as a differentiation from the existing market and companies when creating a new company, how will they position the company?
I have also struggled with this issue myself. With my own ideas and projects at ProAkatemia, I constantly ask myself “why”. “Why would someone prefer my product? Why would someone buy from me?”
I am very passionate about paper products and I love all kinds of analog tools. The good old pen and paper. I really like writing letters, sending post cards, journaling, notebooks, stickers, pens, decorative tapes and anything stationery related. This is exactly why I would love to have my projects somehow relate to stationery or these analog tools.
The problem is that notebooks are already invented. Post cards already exist. There are stores and online shops that sell stationery items. How would my business be any different? Should I have extremely low prices? Or offer a bit more expensive product with premium quality and more features? Would it help if visiting my store would be more of an experience than just a transaction?
Sinek offers a different answer in his book Start with Why. He keeps repeating this: “people don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it”. According to him, price, quality, convenience or features don’t make a difference when a consumer is deciding where to buy from. The “whats” only matter when the consumer is deciding which notebook they buy from this company. But they choose to buy from a specific company because of the company’s why. (Sinek 2009, 41)
It makes perfect sense. As humans, we like to find the people that believe in the same things as we do and have the same values as we do. How would for example religions exist otherwise? The same goes for companies. We like to find the ones that believe in the same things as we do and have the same values as we do.
That being said, I think I need to find my why before I move on with my stationery ideas and projects. I do know for sure that my why isn’t to make a ton of money or to produce beautiful stationery items. It is something bigger than that. I just need to find it.
Sinek, S. 2009. Start with Why. How great leaders inspire everyone to take action. 1st edition. Great Britain.