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Stan Phelps: What Makes Us Weird Is What Makes Us Wonderful

If you weren’t at Monday’s AMA in the PM, then you missed a dynamic and entertaining presentation by Stan Phelps, author and founder of PurpleGoldfish.com. Stan spoke to AMA Baltimore about how to stand out among your competition by recognizing your flaws and using your weirdness to your advantage. Here are three key takeaways from “Amplifying Weirdness and Embracing Weakness to Stand Out in Business:”

1. Only sweat the things you can control.

Stan owned a goldfish Oscar when he was a kid. He learned that goldfish’s growth depends on five factors: the size of the bowl, the number of fish in the bowl, the quality of the water, the first 120 days of life, and the genetic makeup of the fish.

Businesses are like goldfish – they have similar growth factors. The size of the market, the amount of competition, the economy, the first 120 days of business, and their differentiators are all factors that determine how much growth a company can have. A business cannot control any of these aspects except for the differentiator. It is essential to hone in on what makes your company different in order to separate yourself from your competition and grow.

2. You can’t stand out until you embrace what makes you different and make a conscious effort to avoid being normal.

After studying hundreds of businesses, Stan and co-author Dave Rendall developed an acronym to help define what successful businesses are doing to differentiate themselves – F.L.A.W.S.O.M. It is a combination of “flaws” and “awesome” because our flaws makes us awesome. F.L.A.W.S.O.M stands for:

Flaunting – “to parade without shame”

Lopsided – doing way more of what makes you weird

Antagonizing – doing more of what you like to tick people off

Withholding – purposely doing less of what your competition thinks is normal

Swerving – taking small steps to what makes you different

Opposing – doing the exact opposite of what others are doing

Micro-weirding – doing little experiences that make people remember you

Companies that are making headlines for being innovative, unusual, entertaining, and more are implementing one or more of these F.L.A.W.S.O.M. principles. Buckley’s claims their cough syrup is the worst tasting medicine ever, but “it tastes awful because it works.” Dirty Rotten Flowers sells dying flower bouquets for people who desire payback or those who have a sense of humor.  Magic Castle Hotel has a “Popsicle Hotline” that delivers popsicles poolside on a silver platter. These companies embraced their flaws and found what makes them weird to generate a following.

3. Follow the Four A’s.

It may seem cumbersome to try to figure out what makes us different and how to implement it, but Stan breaks this down into four steps.

Awareness – It is sometimes hard to see what makes us different because we’re close to the brand. Ask your customers why they do business with you instead of someone else.

Acceptance – Own it. Appreciate the things that make you different.

Alignment – The people at your company need to understand what makes you different, and your office needs to reflect it.

Amplification – How can you maximize or minimize your differentiator? (We really loved the Spinal Tap reference, Stan!).

Stan is quick to point out that all of these principles and implementation tactics are not just for business. Everyone has a certain uniqueness that they can bring to a business, and it is important to evaluate yourself and find your personal F.L.A.W.S.O.M. “What makes us weird is what makes us wonderful. What makes us weak is what also makes us strong,” says Stan.

Dive deeper into these concepts in his book newest book, Pink Goldfish and this seven part series on differentiation on Forbes. We are grateful to Stan Phelps for hanging out with AMA Baltimore and inspiring us to get weird.

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