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The Northwood Perspective

Chairman’s Message: Starting With Why

Tom McCullough

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:

This really resonates with me. Maybe because we started Northwood with a vision too. It was never just 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 it’s still why we do what we do.


Tom McCullough

Tom McCullough is Chairman and CEO of Northwood Family Office. The combination of his background, along with his own family’s desire for a truly ‘comprehensive, customized and confidential service, led him on a search for a multi-family office. Tom is a frequent speaker on issues relevant to families of wealth and is the co-author of Wealth of Wisdom: The Top 50 Questions Wealthy Families Ask and Family Wealth Management: Imperatives for Successful Investing in the New World Order and the soon-to-be-released Wealth of Wisdom: Top Practices for Wealthy Families and Their Advisors. He is an adjunct professor and Executive-in-Residence at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management MBA program. He is an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Western University’s Ivey School of Business and a member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Wealth Management. He was recently awarded ‘Best Individual Contribution to Thought Leadership in the Wealth Management Industry’ by the 2020 Family Wealth Report Awards.

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