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The Standout CEO: 3 Steps to Uncovering What Makes You Extraordinary

Written by: Hillary Weiss

Any smart founder knows: showing up in the online space in exactly the same way as your competitors, or creating content that’s identical to hundreds of other brands in your industry, can signal a death knell for even the best-run companies.

After all, in this golden age of transparency (thanks to the prevalence of online reviews and social media) it’s no longer enough to just be “OK” at what you do. Everything you do is on display – from the way your customers comment on the quality of your offerings, to your brand’s voice, vibe, and style of engagement.

That means you need to dig down deep to uncover exactly what it is that makes your company extraordinary – from the way you think about your work, employees, and customers, to the way you solve problems.

But this kind of extraordinary is more than an attitude, and more than an ad campaign; it has to be obvious in every facet of your company’s culture, including in the way you look and feel as a brand, your internal and external systems and processes, and more.

And to make that happen? You have to be clear, and you have to be confident in exactly how you want to be perceived, and understood.

After all, you’re so much more than a business owner – with every communication you make, every blog post, sales pitch, and social share, you’re creating an experience.

That experience is your chance to showcase what makes your company phenomenal, and helps you stand out in your space.

So, to uncover and unleash your own extraordinary, you have to pin down: what experience are you trying to create?

We profiled three extraordinary and unconventional entrepreneurs who mastered their own experiences in this post. These founders have mastered the art of the unusual sale, stepped away from social media completely, and developed an “anti-advice” voice in their space — and it’s made them giants in their respective industries.

But that post also left a lot of our readers wondering: “How can I crack that code? How can I create a business that really looks, feels, and sounds like me, while also creating even more awesome stuff for the world?”

Of course there’s no single answer – but the journey to your specific kind of extraordinary starts with the right questions.

And today, we want to help you ask them.

Read on to learn the 3 steps that will help you uncover your extraordinary values, goals, and the way you want to be seen in your niche, so you can develop your own unforgettable experience.



Step 1: Create a deep list of your values – your real values.

If you did this when you first founded your company, I recommend giving it another whirl. Your business and leadership evolves right along with you, so taking the time to review where you are now can help you make adjustments to your current customer service or fulfillment processes, content strategy, team onboarding systems, and even the way you live your life, day to day.

Keith Squires, President and CEO of PathMaker Group in Colleyville, Texas shared this insight on the importance of values with Paul Spiegelman of

“I chose to focus a new company on a niche within IT Security called “identity management”. We went to work right away and after some personal soul searching each of us brought our ideas to the table. We ended up with five core values that continue to be the keys to our long-term survival:

  1. Personal growth
  2. Leadership and mentoring
  3. Creativity and thought leadership
  4. Work and family balance
  5. High quality results”

Keith firmly believes his company’s reputation for making great hires, maintaining a creative, engaged, passionate team, cultivating great customer relationships, and more, can all be tied back to those core values.

So consider: What are your values? Why did you start your business in the first place – and what do you want people to take away from interacting with your brand?

The kind of culture you want to create, and the role you want to play in your industry, should be the backbone of your long-term strategy as a founder. So take time to answer these questions, and dig deep as you answer them.

Feel free to use this as a freewriting exercise, but if you’re not sure where to begin, here are a some value examples to consider:

(Note: we know not all of these will apply to every one of our readers. So read it over, and choose which ones you want to dive into!)

  • What is the most important thing you want your audience to understand, and believe?
  • Do you want to someday live your life away from social media, where only the people who really want to find you will, by word of mouth?
  • Do you want to strip the pomp and circumstance away from your industry, and give your buyers exactly what they need (no more, no less)?
  • Do you want to lead a global community?
  • If so, what action steps do you want that community to take to make a positive impact in the world, and their own lives?

Step 2: Create a list of things you want to see more of, and less of, in your industry.

In entrepreneurship, the things you dislike about your industry or niche are just as important as the things you enjoy when it comes to developing your signature approach to business.

One famous example of creating what you want to see more of? Sarah Blakely, founder of the multi-million dollar Spanx underwear empire, realized one day that she wanted to create a kind of undergarment women actually needed — without the oversexed fanfare.

She hated the way lingerie companies traditionally talked to women in their marketing – like they were objects, or “needed” to be sexier. As she said in her celebrate Forbes article: “I literally was writing things on the packaging how I’d tell a girlfriend. It wasn’t saying, ‘it’s the sheerest of the sheerest most sheer elegance.’ Just, ‘it makes your butt look better.'”

So – if you’re tired of seeing the same ideas and jargon being repeated ad nauseum, this is your chance to differentiate yourself in your space by calling out that behavior, and sharing more of the ideas you find impactful, and valuable.

Not sure what you should focus on? Here are a few things to watch out for:

  • Do you see a lot of the same articles over and over?
  • Are there annoying catchphrases you’d like to see gone?
  • Is there a deeper soul to the work you, and even your competitors, are doing that should be brought to the forefront?
  • How do you think your customers actually want to interact with and use your specific product or offering?

Step 3: Re-consider problems you want to solve.

Much like reviewing your values, re-examining the current problems you want to solve for your customer base (by exploring new market research, as well as reading online reviews, etc) can offer you a new perspective on how you want to approach your customer experience, and make it truly exceptional.

According to, startup FirstJob saw a critical gap in the job search industry: every job board, and every candidate, looked pretty much the same. No one was able to stand out, customize their profile, or make themselves noticeable outside of their drab cover letters – which was especially frustrating to millennials fresh out of college.

So they created FirstJob, which takes a more colorful approach to helping job seekers land great opportunities. Every profile is full color, and allows feature photos, and every listing on the boards is targeted to millennial candidates; complete with details on company culture, perks and office styles. It now has over 1.3 million users – for great reason!

Of course, your problems will vary market to market, and industry to industry – but a few good questions to start with are:

  • Are there distribution challenges in your niche?
  • Do you find your competitors don’t tend to offer quality customer experiences?
  • Are there worn-out systems in your industry that you’d like to see revamped?
  • What’s the “dinosaur” of your niche?

Now, examine the three lists above side by side, and start looking for patterns and links that you could combine.

Congratulations, you’ve created a roadmap to cementing your signature approach to business — one that could eventually make the experiences your company creates even more iconic in your industry.

These three steps will help you get clear on who you want to be, how you want to express yourself, and how you can create solutions (and fantastic processes) that will keep your customers coming back again and again.

Now: Are you ready?

It’s time to present your most authentic, unforgettable, and extraordinary self to the world — and corner your market on your own terms.

Here’s to standing out in the sea of sameness – and everything that’s next for you.

Updated on July 19th, 2018

About the author: Hillary Weiss is the chief copywriter and ghostwriter at, and has had her work featured on Business Insider, The Next Web, The New York Observer, and more. Since 2011, she’s helped over 150 brands find their voice, and get seen & heard with content that truly speaks their language, and fits their phenomenal work. Because words that lift hearts, ignite minds, and get results can do more than just change your business – they can change the world too. Catch her riffs on creativity and the art of writing on her blog, or you say hi to her on Twitter @hcweiss.