Don’t Do This: 3 Ways to Build an Unsustainable Business

February 4, 2010

My pal, Steve Castle, has been writing a lot about sustainable business lately. Though we are going to be telling you more about how to build sustainable businesses in the coming weeks and months, I’d like to take this time and play out the other side of the coin.


That’s right, friends. Unsustainability is something I know a lot about, having built a few businesses that ended up in the deep weeds. What I know about creating an unstainable business could fill volumes. Okay, I’ve built a couple of sustainable ones, too, but their stories aren’t nearly as well-suited to epic whinery.

So, I present for your personal libation and philosophical consideration my Manifesto for Building an Unsustainable Business.

1. Don’t Bother Getting to Know Your Customers Well

Get this straight right now. You know a lot  more about what your customers should want than they do. So don’t bother wasting your precious time learning more about them and their “needs.” No one likes a needy customer. And for heaven’s sake don’t start in with those ridiculous events in which you do things like attempt to inform or educate the folks who have been doing business with you.

In fact, for maximum unsustainability I recommend that you push your “solutions packages” on them until they can barely breathe. Knowing what people want never matters. Relationships are all about you, aren’t they?

Never give them what they want. It will only cause trouble because the next thing you know they’ll be coming back and asking for something else they “want.”

In fact…

2. Beat Your Customers. Beat Them Senseless.

Bring out the cattle prods. The one thing you must never, ever do is give people more in use value than they give you in cash value. What are you, a sucker? Forget all that over-delivery nonsense. Heck, you don’t want customers coming back anyhow. All they do ask ridiculous questions like, “Could you fix this for me?” “Do you have any more of these?” and “Is there an instruction manual I can read?” What a pain.

Do not call them and ask how they’re liking their recent purchase. Do not write them. Absolutely do not say thank you. Above all, never let them know how much you appreciate the fact that they spent their money with you.

Ignore that little voice inside your head that tells you to treat people the way you want to be treated. You never got that from anybody, so why bother yourself over something so trivial?

3. Don’t Bother Promoting at All

There’s just something unseemly about promoting yourself, isn’t there? Didn’t your mother tell you not to blow your own horn? You’ve got the world’s greatest mousetrap anyhow, so people will beat a path to your door. Besides, the sound of all those crickets chirping outside is so very soothing to the ear.

If any of these points sounds even the least bit familiar to you, then you need to hold your business up to the mirror and take a good, hard look.

You know the economy is changing. People — at least for the time being — aren’t interested in purchasing stuff for stuff’s sake. That means we’re all going to have to actually work at our businesses now. Truth is, the key to building a sustainable business starts with purposeful action in service of others.

We’re going to have to step outside our comfort zones and do a little hard work. Ask bigger questions about who we’re serving and what they want from us. Write a real business plan, one that isn’t about going to the bank for money and sits on the shelf gathering dust, but one that lays out how we’re going to create better ways to help people get what they want. This isn’t a time for laziness. It’s a time for good questions and thoughtful action.

Unless you want that unsustainability thing happening in spades. If that’s the case, see Items 1 through 3 above.

Surely more to come…


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