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Perspective Newsletter

In his best-selling book Start with Why, author Simon Sinek studied the leaders and companies who’ve had the greatest influence in the world. He discovered that they all think, act, and communicate in the same way – and it’s often the exact opposite of what everyone else does.

Every organization on the planet knows WHAT they do and can itemize the products and services they offer. Some organizations know HOW they do it (i.e. the things that make them special or set them apart from their competition).

But, Sinek says, very few people and organizations can clearly articulate WHY they do what they do. WHY is a purpose, a cause or a belief. It provides a clear answer to why we get out of bed in the morning, why our company or organization even exists, and why that should matter to anyone else.

Sinek argues that people naturally communicate from the outside-in. They usually go from the clearest thing to the fuzziest thing. They tell people WHAT they do, HOW they’re different or special, and then they expect them to choose their product, follow their ideas or vote for them.

Facts and figures make rational sense, but people don’t make decisions purely based on facts and figures. Think about these great leaders and brands who focused on the WHY:

  • Sam Walton (Walmart) wanted to make quality goods affordable and available to average people.
  • Herb Kelleher (Southwest Airlines) wanted to take the stodginess out of air travel, and bring it to the common people.
  • Bill Gates (Microsoft) had a vision of accessible information for all.
  • Steve Jobs (Apple) wanted to think differently and challenge the status quo

This really resonates with me. Maybe because we started Northwood with a vision too. It was never only about WHAT we do (i.e. integrated wealth management, goals-based investing, family governance and education, tax and estate planning). And not just about HOW we do it differently (i.e. objective, holistic, client-centered, proactive, fact-based, integrated).

Rather, it started with WHY we do what we do. When we conceived Northwood in 2002, it had everything to do with helping families. We wanted to help them to identify and meet their goals, to make good decisions, to reduce stress and worry, and to bring a sense of order and control in a topsy-turvy world.

We wanted to provide them with the gift of objectivity and never having to wonder if their advisor had a hidden agenda. We wanted to reduce the worry that important things might fall through the cracks, and help families with the many financial balls they have to juggle. And we wanted to help them have the kind of conversations about family and money that would build their wealth and strengthen their relationships.

We wanted to improve their lives. And we work hard to do this every day.


Northwood Family Office

Tom McCullough

Tom McCullough is Chairman and CEO of Northwood Family Office, which looks after the investments and integrated financial affairs of wealthy families with $10 million or more. He teaches ‘The Management of Private Wealth’ in the MBA program at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, and is also co-author of the books, Family Wealth Management and Wealth of Wisdom: The Top 50 Questions Wealthy Families Ask.

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