Crisis is the great revealer - what I learnt from Simon Sinek

In partnership with Virgin StartUp, Simon Sinek was given a platform to share his thoughts, experiences and 'why' with over 800 early stage founders and small business owners.

To open the event, colleagues from Virgin StartUp (Ben Keene, Holly Branson & Andy Fishburn) shared their developments over the last 6 months and recognised and praised the audience for persevering with their businesses through the pandemic. Simon was then interviewed by Ben for an hour with a cheeky little visit from Sir Richard Branson at the end for lols!

I want to say a massive thank you to the team at Virgin Startup for hosting such a meaningful event and for those that weren't there, here are my notes!

Your team:

  • Do your people belong?
  • Trust in people and recognise that change is tough for everyone
  • Culture builds trust – it’s the little things
  • Leadership – crisis is the great revealer – look at politicians, who has survived, who has thrived? Who has used their team and listened before they have acted?
  • Exercise for a team, ask them to bring 15 ideas of what the company could sell/do in 48 hours and set the criteria – why is it 15? Because the first 6 will all be the same, it’s when you get to the higher numbers that true creativity will show. Some people won’t be good at it, that’s fine they might not be ideas people, but they will be able to execute the idea. It’s contributions, not competition. Develop the ideas as a team so not one person can claim ownership and then put them into a green, yellow and red pile. Green is what you can do now, yellow is what you can do in the immediate future and red is a for a rainy day!

Your customers:

  • You don’t need to change the world just change the lives of your customers
  • Value is a feeling – enhancing people’s lives, capitalism that centers activity around the customer not the shareholder is the future
  • Law of diffusion (bell curve)
  • 2% of the world are visionaries
  • 12-13% are early adopters
  • The rest is the majority and they look for price, quality, features
  • Don’t target the majority, devote your time to the early adopters
  • 15-18% is the tipping point, from your street, to your city to the world….
  • Now is the time to change – customers are a little more patient and understanding why you work things out
  • Name your customers, put photos of them on your desk, call them – read the book Leaders Eat Last.

Your business

  • There are 2 types of pivot – put the business in the centre of the problem and say what are we going to do about it or put your customers in the middle of it and ask how are we going to help them?
  • Big businesses are now pretending to be startups instead of trying to do what they used to do online
  • Best way to tackle a crisis? Do a resource/asset check… he used the story of a Pizza restaurant, they had a pizza oven that could get up to temperatures of 1000 degrees… whilst they couldn’t make pizzas they began melting plastic and fabricating face shields to sell to local health care organisations
  • If we started the business today, what would we do?
  • “Growth at all costs” is a model pushed by investors, so they make money in 3-5 years.
  • Awareness of flaws of old business models, “maximise profit for shareholders” capitalism is broken - what about ethics and value?
  • Build a resilient business not a sustainable one – sustainable is hunkering down and weathering the storm, resilient is reinventing, reimagining the future
  • Profit comes second to value


  • 2 ways to approach disruption, panic or find the opportunities
  • What entrepreneurial skills are coming to the forefront right now? Asking for help, including the team, sharing the vision.
  • Disruption is a gift
  • Finite thinkers make plans, use the past as learning, hate surprises – look at soldiers or athletes training – “I didn’t think, I just did it” – muscle memory
  • Infinite thinkers love surprises and uncertainty
  • Creatives find patterns in chaos
  • The difference between positivity and optimism?
  • Positivity is blind – not helpful
  • Optimism is awareness of the problem but seeing the light at the end of the tunnel
  • If you are feeling your way in the dark, when the lights come on it’ll be a mess!
  • With optimism you have directions and focus
  • Optimism comes from the quality of our relationships – it gives hope
  • Like alcohol, social media has become the new addiction and posting opinions on Facebook is not showing vulnerability
  • Call people and be vulnerable, if you get the call instead of “take your time” or “you can do this” say “go on, I am with you” – HUMAN relationships
  • Self-doubt – if not you, who? If not now when?
  • Do not set out to change the world, set out to change lives with your product or service
  • Legacy lives on in people, not business
  • Simon’s dirty secret? – show up to give rather than take and you will succeed….

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