OnStartups

Business Lessons From Blue Man: The Why To Guide

Posted by Dharmesh Shah on March 12, 2008 in strategy 5 Comments

I recently came across an article by my friend Allison Shapira about Blue Man Group as a business. The article is based on a reading Allison did as part of her "Strategic Communications" course and looks at the business of Blue Man Group.

Here's the part that struck a chord with me:

"How did Blue Man Group manage to maintain their vision, even with 38 performers around the country? They wrote a “Why To” manual.  Not a “How To” manual, which tells you how do things, but a “Why To” manual, which tells you why to do things - it explains the vision..."

At my startup, we talk a lot about the "why to" part of the business (partly, because we're all pretty analytical and like to have debates on just about everything).  We don't call them "Why To" discussions, but probably should.

Here are some examples:

Why To Charge Monthly Subscriptions (instead of yearly contracts):  Because it breeds the right company culture. With monthly subscriptions, we have to earn our customer's business every month.  There are no "drive-by sales".  Also, the data is worth more to us than the cash right now.  We want to learn as much as we can (and right now, the lessons are cheaper).  If we charged yearly, it'd defer a lot of this learning until the customer had to decide whether to renew.

Why To Not Sell To Anyone Willing To Pay:  Because the product is not going to be equally beneficial to everyone.  Our happiness (and our profits) is going to be based on how happy our customers are in the future.  If you know a customer is unlikely to be happy in the future, don't sell them.  Make them sell you and convince you otherwise.

 Why To Resist Hiring For Resumes:  Just about the entire team at HubSpot wasn't hired for their resume.  We solve for intelligence, passion and integrity.  Why?  Because someone with 14 years of experience at a Fortune 500 company managing a $100MM budget may not know much about our customers and our market.  We'd rather bring people on that are smart and will jump in and figure things out.

How about you?  What kinds of "Why To" concepts are floating around in your startup?  Does your team often ask the "why" question?