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The Ugly Business Syndrome and it’s 8 Curable Causes

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The young, self-absorbed hipster couple exits the hospital after just seeing their first newborn…

Guy: Ugly Baby.

Girl: Yeah, ugly, definitely. But I’m sure it’ll get cuter as it grows up.

Guy: Will it?

Girl: (with a chuckle) Geez, lets hope so…

And that’s what folks will say about your business when it’s first born.

That one-room office with a card table for a desk and the boxes stacked where a filing cabinet should go.

Or maybe you’ve got a bit of a start-up bank-roll and got an office and fancy new equipment.  Doesn’t change anything – not really.

It’s just fancy clothes on an ugly business.

Why your new business is ugly when it’s first born:

  1. Not unique
  2. Not built for success
  3. Not ready
  4. Not aware of its customers
  5. Led by losers
  6. Without core values
  7. Without purpose
  8. Not in harmony

These eight things typify most start-up businesses. And that’s ok – really.

Just like in life, your business is never finished and you should continually be looping through and refining and redirecting your plans.

You see, I’ve come to learn these eight things are ok so long as you don’t stay that way.

Let me explain…

Explaining ugly

1 – Not Unique

People don’t do risky, don’t finance risky, don’t join and work for risky.

People want comfortable, safe bets therefore they want what’s already been done and proven to work. You can’t survive in a marketplace where all business are alike, that’s where price wars and unscrupulous marketplace activity thrives.  So, you must be risky (unique) to ultimately stand out and succeed. Don’t worry, you’ll get there, your business depends on it.

Read Seth Godin’s Purple Cow to make your business remarkable.

2 – Built for success

Every business starts with limitations and deficiencies.

Usually this is in at least one place but often many places including funding, systems, tools and resources, staff and leadership.  You’ll run business from a place of scrappy endurance, constantly trying to put a finger in the dam before it bursts. Some actually succeed at plugging all the holes.  You know what happens to those that don’t.

Make sure you build a business like a champ.

3 – Ready

No start-up is truly ready when it starts.  No business in operation is truly ready to go to the next level.  Just like becoming a parent, you are never ready for your first child, you just do it and figure out what works and what doesn’t work. Its always a game of vision, priority, sacrifice, and investment.

4 – Customers

You need customers and you know you must have a product or service to address that customer.

But beyond that, what do you know about your customer? Start-ups and even mature businesses often do not know their best customer or how to reach them. It’s something that takes shape over time as you experience sales, growth, and what makes your customers happy. It’s experience in a natural way of doing business.  Some companies are more conscious and involved in knowing and finding their best customers than others.

You would be wise to know your customer as soon as possible (and attract more of them). And by all means, please know the value of your customer.

5 – Losers

Both literally and metaphorically, companies are led by losers, misfits, egomaniacs and castaways.

Some call it entrepreneurial others call it rebellion.

The truth is that the leaders in business have drawn a line and decided to go their own way against the grain and disrupt things.  Many of those losers do not adapt, learn, and grow and they indeed fulfill their loser status however a good number reveal to themselves and the world around them that they are winners and set a standard of excellence.  We are all fighting to win, but rarely start as winners – the world is built for losers so the odds are already stacked against you. (controversial thought isn’t it?!)

6 – Core Values

An organization does not have core values, it adopts them. 

Core values come from people and specifically from founders, owners and leadership. 

The natural state of an organization is to be neutered of core values. As in, to not claim core values at all. this often happens because a misconception that core values are an academic exercise or that maintaining core values causes conflict with human resources.  Companies (most leaders) want to “win” not maintain values and often see values as a detriment to success.

You should know that truly great companies have core values, hire with core values in mind, and direct their company by their values. It’s never too early to know what you stand for.

7 – Purpose

An organization must stand for something, a greater good of some sort.

A company without purpose will only work for worldly reasons of greed, power and success.  While those motivations have been proven to work and can be seen in Forbes, Inc Magazine and many other sources, they are the exception not the rule. Enron and countless others illustrate what happens when the purpose of the organization is lost.

While money is good, profit is necessary, “to make money and get rich” is not a sustainable purpose.

Make sure you have a greater good.

8 – Harmony

Both internally and externally, business lack harmony and are in a constant state of vibration.

There is a ripple effect within your business that creates a state of flux and constant stress and struggle.  This inner disruption ripples out into the marketplace to customers, vendors, and competitors. People sense it when they speak to you.

You’ll want to iron our the wrinkles so you can focus on your best work. If all the other seven things are in place, you’re likely to experience perfect bliss!

Ugly is choice!

As odd as it may sound, don’t let your ugly business stop you from living your dream.

Just make sure you address the issues and constantly work to improve it.

I’ve been there myself and discovered some truths along the way.

So what do you say? Got an ugly business?

(photo credit)

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Justin McCullough About Justin McCullough

Justin is a business builder, speaker and author. Over the last 15 years, he has delivered more than 500 critical projects ranging from launching businesses, websites, ecommerce sites, custom apps, newspapers, magazines, books, advertising campaigns, and strategic marketing initiatives. Co-workers, vendors, and clients work with Justin because he listens, clarifies the ambiguous, sets goals, inspires action, and delivers results. Justin is married, the father of two young boys, and Christian. He likes smart people like you!

  • Christi Lloyd Harris

    “Many of those losers do not adapt, learn, and grow and they indeed fulfill their loser status” – This is my favorite line! So true! As human beings in general, we must all learn to ADAPT, be open to LEARN new things and finally, be willing to GROW! Nice article, Justin!

    • Justin McCullough

      Ha! Christi, glad you saw the genius in that ; – ) Thanks so much for reading and sharing!

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