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Don't put lipstick on a pig.

Let me first share a personal story.

I was part of a virtual sales team helping nonprofit executives to improve brand awareness and drive more traffic to their website. We did this by leveraging Google’s $120,000 Google AdWords (now called Ads) Grant for nonprofits.

I loved the role and the work. We did an amazing job helping nonprofits qualify, apply, and get funding. We also provided PPC managed services. We offered Done-for-You ad campaigns and managed clients’ Google Ads platforms.

I got deeper into the process, obtained certifications, and learned more about Search Engine Optimization & Marketing, website design and development, and Google Analytics and AdWords. Very exciting!

But I became jaded and disillusioned. We were putting lipstick on a pig! (I believe this principle was first voiced by ex-Texas Governor Ann Richards.

Each client invested on average $600/month ($3,600/year). And for the most part, they experienced an increase in quality traffic to their website. That’s good.

But most clients’ websites and web page designs were not ready, they were terrible – old looking site, poor webpage design, hard to navigate, not mobile or user friendly, poorly written content, broken links, no calls to action, no thank you pages, and dysfunctional in so many other ways.

The company I worked for did not offer website design and development services (something I suggested). Clients were completely wasting their money, because in the backend the results were low to no conversions and little to no website visitor engagement or donations.

Foundational elements need to be in place across your business or organization. You have to do the work and not take shortcuts. You don’t want to put lipstick on your pig, do you?

Do you have your North Star? Mine is this: be principle-based, data driven, holistically strategic, and customer-centric. Here are some more general thoughts around this principle.


Don’t Be Superficial - Putting "lipstick on a pig" does not solve the real problem.

Many people need a quick solution, or so they think. Your fix may appear to work, at least initially, but if you look under the hood, below the surface, or peel back the layers (that’s a lot of sayings), you’ll usually discover the issue remains unresolved.

Businesses and nonprofit organizations are systems. A change or correction in one area, right or wrong, will affect other areas of your enterprise.

Putting lipstick on a pig is only masking your problem. You really need to address root causes. If left alone, these will eventually lead to bigger challenges down the road.


Be Authentic – Trust is the cornerstone of sustainable success.

Trust is the currency of any successful endeavor. Your stakeholders – customers, employees, vendors, donors, volunteers – all need to believe in your authenticity.

Business has a lot of moving parts and can be complicated. Presenting yourself other than you really are to cover up on shortcomings or hide the truth, erodes trust and relationships.

Build your solid foundation on honesty and authenticity. You will foster trust and lay the groundwork for sustainable success.


Build On Bedrock – Have solid foundations under all functional areas.

Imagine constructing a skyscraper on shaky ground - it is a disaster waiting to happen.

In your business and nonprofit organization, every functional area must rest on a solid foundation. And be aligned with one another with a focus on high standards and solid core values.

Each component or moving part plays an important role in your enterprise’s overall success. Don’t neglect any of these areas – be holistically strategic. Don’t try to prop them up or apply quick fixes. This is a recipe for failure.


Act With Integrity - How authenticity enhances operational efficiency.

When you are data driven and detail oriented, and open and trustworthy, your authenticity permeates every aspect of your organization. Magic happens – your operational efficiency soars.

Your employees will feel seen and heard. They will feel empowered to speak up and share ideas on how to improve efficiency and effectiveness. They will create. They will propose solutions – they will innovate.

Customers and donors will be more likely to engage with your brand and support your mission. By aligning right actions, leveraging core and shared values, and operating with integrity, you create an environment for everyone – an innovator, a disruptor!


Design Your Culture - Foster authenticity throughout your organizational DNA.

What’s the saying – “culture eats strategy for breakfast!” Culture is something you intentionally create and develop.

At the heart of any thriving organization is an open and authentic culture. You are the model for others. I’ve worked in companies where the walls were plastered with motivational posters (lipstick), but the leaders did not “walk the walk.” Toxic environments!

Your authentic culture starts from within, then top down/bottom up, and across functional departments. Prioritize transparency, inclusivity, and collaboration.


Execute From Strategy - Align actions with core values.

Don’t you love vision and mission statements? Fuzzy wording, confusing language, and broad, general statements that carry little meaning or clarity. And many employees can’t recite these statements or know what the statements mean.

You and your team members need clarity, preciseness, and measured impact. Live and breathe your vision, your mission, and your values by the second.

From strategic decision-making to day-to-day operations, every action should reflect your organization's mission, core values, and standards of excellence. Be awake, be clear, and be aligned. You will inspire others on your journey.


Navigate Challenges - How authenticity serves as a guiding light.

Your journey is not a straight line. The road will curve and have bumps, detours, and unexpected obstacles along the way.

Anchor your organization in authenticity, kindness, and trust. Don’t allow someone to put lipstick on a pig, to cover up, take a shortcut, or take the easy way out. You need problem solvers (creators) who find innovative solutions to your real challenges.

You can be the guiding light. Your employees, customers, donors, and other relationships will follow you and navigate their way through the stormy seas of life.

See things as they are. Don’t run from challenges. Understand your numbers, analyze your data, and gain insights. You will foster trust, resilience, adaptability, and innovation.

You will solve problems, build a strong infrastructure, and impact the world!