ABC's of Small Business
A is for…
Abundance. And here you thought I might say ‘accountability’ or something business-y! I wanted to start with an over-arching philosophy or belief in the world as it applies to business leaders, both at work and in life. If we can grab hold of this abundant approach to life, we will be happier, more effective, and move closer to achieving the level of success that we have set for ourselves. Please note that success is completely personal and it should look different for each individual.
Abundance might seem an odd lens to view the world of business, but the more I experience the alternative in myself and others, the more necessary I think this shift is needed. It is counter-intuitive and that is what makes it so vital to experiencing the type of transformation often needed to keep moving forward and improving continually.
Yes, abundance recalls notions of plenitude – affluence, wealth, ampleness, bounty, copiousness – much of which we do not feel on a daily basis in running our businesses. But this is often more attitudinal than material. Abundance is an enriched state of mind that opens the door to the enjoyment of what we are creating in the long term and helps us ride the daily ups and downs hurled at us in business.
Stating the obvious: managing a business, its people, and its customers is stressful. Sometimes the stresses dominate and overtake us emotionally. This can be anxiety-inducing and fear-invoking for all stakeholders, not just those who take on the burden of risk. It can impact our physical, mental, and financial health. The weight of commitment and responsibility can be crushing for some, leaving us to wonder what in the world we have gotten ourselves into.
Hey, not everyone is a Steve Jobs or Elon Musk (thank goodness), and nor should they be our standard role models. The goal is not to rule the world and work 20 hours each day. This is unsustainable and reflects a life completely out of whack. Yes, running a business is hard work; it requires a willingness to take on risk, it’s a huge time commitment – unimaginable levels of commitment – but it should not define the entirety of our lives.
At the same time, and perhaps because of this, the rewards of owning a business can be truly unique in all areas, including financial. The admiration I have for business owners grows daily as I encounter and work with committed people who are putting it all on the line to follow their passions/dreams. It is a great story when it all comes together, but the cost can be unbearable for some, and rightly so.
As you might sense, I am no Pollyanna. If anything, I am firmly positioned on the negative side of realism and practicality, more pessimistic than optimistic, and pre-disposed to be worn down by constant stress and pressure. I am not one who easily believes that the universe will provide for me if only I open myself up and state my intention. Yet, time after time, life seems to do just this, even if what unfolds looks different from what I had envisioned. So how then does abundance come into play for a guy like me? To be frank, it’s a matter of survival. Catching my negative thoughts and replacing them with notions of possibility has been a great benefit in helping me cope as well as helping me become a better leader and coach.
How does this apply to business? Well, when cash flow is tight, inflation is raging, interest rates are going up, and qualified employees are hard to unearth, what choice is left? We can succumb to our fears, and become more pinched, negative, and unhealthy, all of which can hasten our demise, or we can commit to finding ways to better enjoy and become more effective in what we are doing. It is a matter of perspective, I suppose, knowing that the world will keep spinning on its axis and that we can tap into the well of resources that brought us to where we are today.
For me, abundance is the opposite of scarcity. When we manage our businesses and lives through the lens of scarcity, we lose touch with possibility and hope. Without possibility, we do not see options that are presenting themselves even if they are right in front of us. Our creativity and innovation, and that of those around us, are stifled and the solutions to the issues that confront us disappear from view. Pulling back the veil of scarcity-thinking gets us out of our own heads so we can focus on opportunity.
A dominant scarcity mentality, simply put, is self-defeating. In working toward solutions, we get in our own way and in that of others. It is not enjoyable being that person, and it thwarts much-needed creativity and risk-taking in our team. While we think it helps us manage the pennies responsibly, it actually leads to our losing vision, passion, and purpose. It robs us of the potential joy of being both present in the moment and focused on the big picture. By seeing our business only through the lens of scarcity we will get in the way of the success of our venture and kill the morale, engagement, and effectiveness of our team. In our current labour market, who wants to engage with leaders who lack genuine warmth and generosity of spirit?
I have lived through and continue to experience times of emotional scarcity. It has not worked for me and has taken its toll. Shifting to an abundance mentality is not about caring less about business performance or ‘taking your foot off the gas’, it is about how we carry ourselves in the world. It is about how we treat ourselves, our business, and all stakeholders. The beauty is that if we can make the shift, it leads to better results, not worse. We become more effective, not less so. Our people become more committed, loyal, and caring for the business.
Abundance, then, is both a mindset and a business tool. It keeps leaders focused on big-picture possibilities regardless of the immediate realities. I am not advocating for false idealism, denialism, or found-less optimism, but rather for reframing how we view our current situation. Abundance-thinking is about taking necessary action but doing so from a place of plenty rather than a place of scarcity that closes us off from the potential of our business, our team, and ourselves. It takes discipline and commitment, but over time, those well-worn grooves in our brains can become shallower and replaced with something far healthier.
Adopting an outlook of abundance will not solve our problems, but it will help us see our options and resources more readily and objectively. While I once would have looked at an abundance attitude as naïve or perhaps as denialism, I have come out the other side. Far from putting our heads in the sand, an abundance mentality allows us to fully embrace reality as it happens with an openness to possibility. Yeah, reality can bite but it is there regardless. At the end of the day, this mental shift allows us to experience more joy and hope as we face the daily trials in business and become far more effective leaders and owners. Let's life each other up and bring more abundance-thinking to our businesses and our world.
Until next time!