What inspires someone to start a company? Perhaps it’s a desire to improve people’s lives. To change the way a product is created. Or to disrupt the way business is done for the better.

No matter the reason, the purpose drives thinking and behavior from the start. A defined purpose fuels the start-up spirit, inspiring employees to give up less meaningful and stable jobs to pursue something they are passionate about.

Remaining true to your purpose.

When a company takes on an almost existential significance that employees and customers truly believe in and rally behind, two significant things happen: customer connection and improved employee experience. Start-ups begin to fail when their purpose becomes diminished or gets buried under layers of bureaucracy. As the pressure for growth increases, founders and leaders can become more tactical, losing the contagious, passionate energy they once had. As more processes and systems get implemented, creativity and passion can fade. And when this bleeds into external-facing communication, the connection with customers also gets lost in the transition.

We know that systems are imperative for growth, but how do we maintain the heart and soul of a company through the growth process? At each phase of growth, you should ask yourself these questions and ask them in relation to your purpose:


  • Are we being true to our essence in how we grow?
  • How do we empower our people?
  • How do we design our systems, spaces, and communication so that our brand’s mission is not only communicated but FELT?

Pinpointing your why.

Simon Sinek eloquently stated how effective leaders inspire action in his Ted Talk. He compared all the great leaders of the world and found that they all led with their why, rather than their what. Sinek says, “The goal isn’t to sell to people who need what you have, the goal is to sell to people who believe what you believe.” People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. All humans have the desire to be inspired and connect, and they connect through similar belief systems.

Let’s use automaker newcomer Rivian as an example of leading with your why. Rivian designed an all-electric truck to head up its first line of Electric Adventure Vehicles (EAVs). The vehicle’s battery and performance blow Tesla out of the water. But what really inspired new customers was the brand’s purpose: enabling people to adventure in remote areas while doing their part to protect them. This story was translated through the website, the color, the messaging, tone, and blurbs we share on social media. All the elements weave together to create an emotional impact—people can feel the purpose and personality of the brand shine through. 

The science of emotions and decision-making.

Let’s look at the science behind this―how do humans use their brains to make decisions?  Our brain is broken into three parts. The most recently evolved part of our brain is our neocortex, the part of the brain responsible for language and rational and analytical thought. When a customer discovers facts like a Rivian vehicle has a 180 kWh battery, one of the largest on the market, the neocortex responds, “Oh, very impressive.” The two older, more primitive parts of our brain, the limbic brains, are responsible for our feelings, like courage and love. They have no capacity for language yet are responsible for human behavior. So when the Rivian brand invites people to get out in the wilderness while protecting the environment, the limbic brains of outdoor enthusiasts respond with, “Yeah, these are my people. When’s our next adventure? How do I get one of these vehicles?”

Reaching customers’ hearts and minds.