Every startup has at least one. What’s an ugly stepchild, you ask?


A mission-critical area of your business that’s often neglected.

Why all startups have ugly stepchildren

Yes, even the most successful startup founders have ugly stepchildren. But why would any founder or entrepreneur ignore an area of their business critical to their long-term success? My theory is because there’s nobody on the executive management team passionate about that area of the business. And when you’re a small(ish) startup, there’s no way you’re going to have enough diversity within your team to care about every important aspect of your business. Especially if you started your company with like-minded¬†individuals.

How to identify your ugly stepchild

  • Look around your company for islands. People working by themselves, or “doing their own thing” are great clues.
  • Look inside your executive team. What do you – as a team – avoid the most? What’s the one big area of your business you honestly don’t really care about?
  • What projects do you know you should be doing, but for some reason you keep pushing them off?

What to do with these unwanted children?

Half of the battle is publicly acknowledging your ugly stepchild. Tell your team, be honest. Make it known nobody is passionate about this area of the business.

Beyond acknowledging your child, hire someone who is passionate about this child.

But the work doesn’t end there.¬†Just hiring someone passionate about the ugly area of your business won’t be enough. You’re still going to have to sink time into this new hire, train them, and give them support from the whole team. If you cast them away to their own island, the problem child will never get better.

The hardest part

The hardest part is learning to love the ugly stepchild. You have to do it before you can build a successful company. If you can’t love this kid yourself, you need to find a co-founder or member of your executive team that can. And if you don’t have anyone capable of loving this child with all their heart, you need to bring on a new owner or executive who can. If nobody in upper management cares, how can you expect your employees to care?

Or, if that’s not possible or desirable, you might have to change your entire business strategy to avoid the ugly stepchild¬†altogether.

To be completely honest, we haven’t quite figured out how to deal with our ugly stepchild. If you have any ideas, leave a comment – let’s get this discussion started!