In a growing company, it is very easy to be afraid that you will not have enough—not enough money, not enough staff, not enough time, not enough customers. I call that the culture of scarcity. And in today’s tough economic times, we are being bombarded relentlessly by scarcity messages in all media.
But in order to grow your company, you must cultivate a culture of abundance—a belief that the glass is half-full, and that yes, we can even have a bigger glass!
The culture of abundance is much more a matter of perception than of reality. There is no absolute number or rule of thumb that enables us to say “this is scarcity” or “this is abundance.” How we manage the resources we have is more important than the actual amount of resources, and how we think and feel and behave about resources is far more important to a growth path than our objective measures.
If you allow the scarcity lens to color your company’s culture, four anti-growth things will happen:
- Your own people will compete for resources, making short-term, self-centered or department-centered decisions rather than participating in a collaborative view of the enterprise. This competition will reinforce the silos and limit collaboration. Speed, agility, innovation—all the great advantages of small companies—will suffer. And the workplace atmosphere will be tense and unhappy.
- If they think they are playing a zero-sum game, people hoard their chips. They resist sharing knowledge, experience, or expertise and are reluctant to “pitch in” for the good of the cause.
- Your company will become resistant to the ebb and flow of a global economy—joint ventures, strategic alliances, giving value into the marketplace beyond quid pro quo. You will be unable to play, let alone to lead, in the exciting, future-oriented arenas of business.
- And the most deadly outcome will be you can’t say NO. Whale Hunting is all about saying No to opportunities that don’t fit—opportunities that are off your mark, too small, too cheap, too difficult. But saying no takes confidence, courage, and belief in an abundant universe. When you are afraid to say no, you consign your company to a constant stream of tedious, unprofitable, unfulfilling or otherwise just plain wrong business. And this makes the scarcity culture even more dominant.
So, you want to avoid this deadly cycle into the pit of scarcity. If you see signs of a scarcity mentality in your company or within your team, what can you do about it?
- Talk it out. Ask people what they are afraid of and why they are afraid. What would it take to ease their scarcity threats?
- Prove it. Make sure their fears are not realized. If you want your village to welcome whales, you need to provide adequate resources to serve the whale well.
- Educate. Give your team many examples of strategies that were built in the culture of abundance. A few to consider:
- New networks: The hardware investment in a fax machine or a cell phone, the time investment in Twitter or Facebook– these did not pay off until the customers came and created the network. They epitomize the culture of abundance.
- New markets: The global marketplace of pre-teen children and teenage youth didn’t exist before the Internet.
- New demands: How long have we had a national franchise devoted to the care of our pets? A mail-order on-demand service for movies at home? Franchises like DinnersDoneRight where you fix a week’s worth of family meals in 2 hours with no shopping, preparation, or clean up?
Through the lens of abundance, your company can create attitudes that yield high performance: increased sales, innovation, superior customer service, cross-functional learning and support.
Abundance isn’t really about money. You can spend frugally and feel blessed or you can spend flagrantly and feel deprived. What culture are you living in?