Avoid Scarcity Mentality in Your Small Business

August 4, 2021 | Roger and Susie Engelau

A scarcity mentality can kill a small business but an abundance mentality spurs growth, positivity and profit.

Most of us exist on a continuum between abundance and scarcity and we sometimes find ourselves battling between the two. The goal is to make a conscious choice to act, decide, and speak with an abundance mentality.

Let’s take a look at the differences between a scarcity mentality and an abundance mentality. Then we’ll share what you can do to make sure your actions and decisions come from an abundance mentality.

The differences between scarcity and abundance mentality

People with a scarcity mentality have the mindset and subsequent behaviors that there are limited options in life. They believe there are only so many opportunities, so much money, a limited number of good books or music or people to love, only so much time. They, therefore, believe they must compete for things like resources, status, attention, customers. It’s negative thinking.

People with an abundance mentality believe there’s plenty of everything to go around, whether it be finances, opportunities, resources, friends, recognition, and success. They believe there are unlimited moments to do, enjoy, and accomplish. They think proactively and see unlimited possibilities. They operate from the belief that they can afford what’s needed.

Here’s a quick comparison of a table to help you do a quick assessment. Put a check mark next the description that matches you most closely:

Scarcity and Abundance Table Inspire Results Business Coaching

What scarcity-based actions look like in small business leadership

For a lot of business owners, scarcity mentality manifests as anxiety over where the next customer will coming from or a lack of money to pay the bills. Maybe it’s a refusal to pay overtime when its due, to pay employees fairly, to give praise, or to purchase the supplies necessary for your employees to do their best job.

You can see it in the small business owner who won’t spend money on improvements, who believes she must hold on to every dime. One business owner’s facility was dark, shabby, with a leaking roof, grimy broken windows, and ancient equipment. He’d convinced himself he can’t afford any of these improvements however his team suffered from low morale and his business suffered from high turnover.

Scarcity mentality can cause a small business leader to dictate and micromanage instead of being open to others’ suggestions and delegating. If they delegate, their lack of trust causes them to wind up doing the job themselves in the end.

If you’re afraid to spend money, you’re not going to make the right kind of investments for growth. Perhaps you opt for hand distributing paper flyers instead of purchasing airtime on the radio. If you as the leader and owner have a belief system of scarcity, it’s probably ingrained in your company culture. This creates a negative culture that can significantly limit the growth and success of the enterprise.

If you think someone has to lose so you can win, your main focus will be on trying to take someone down or take something away from the other guy. If you’re price-matching to a competitor, then you’re not focusing on the customer who may pay more for who you are and what you do.  A myopic focus on competition vs doing things that fit who you are can severely limit growth.  If you feel you’re not winning because of the competition taking your clients, then you’ll tend not to identify who your unique client is and take steps to go after them. A scarcity mentality can cause an adversarial relationship. If you think the customer is trying to take you for everything you have, you try to take them for everything.

The zero sum game belief means you view the other guy’s wins as a loss for you. You spend precious energy blaming others for what you don’t have instead of focusing on what you do have.

If you have a leader or someone else in your company with a scarcity mentality, it can be the source of conflict. It can affect hiring, selection, and retention, and whether you need to let someone go.

We all want to be careful, to protect what we have, and to hold on to it. It’s natural to worry about what’s coming especially in the face of politically motivated negative headlines, recession talk, or as now, a fear of another pandemic. You need to be prepared and have a certain amount of savings, we recommend enough cash on hand to operate for 3 months, but don’t stop growing and leveraging opportunities.

How to move from a scarcity mentality to an abundance mentality

As with anything, the first step is becoming aware when you slip into scarcity mindset. Make a conscious choice to have a different worldview—an abundance mentality, then begin to put disciplines in place that cause you to respond that way until it becomes a second nature. Here’s a list of ways to develop your abundance mentality:

  • Start with small steps —if you catch yourself blaming someone, ask yourself what part of it you can control.
  • Set a goal to catch someone doing something well at least once a day and praise them for it.
  • Check to make sure you’re paying employees fairly and more.
  • If you’re about to say something negative, don’t, or change it to something positive.
  • Try taking bigger steps like outsourcing accounts receivables (which frees you up to do pursue something new and creative).
  • The next time your team runs into an obstacle, turn it around in your mind and look for the opportunity in it
  • Examine your equipment, facilities, and technology for improvements and upgrades and get them on a schedule to be completed over the next year.
  • Give money or time to someone less fortunate. It’s ironic but when you act with abundance you attract abundance… more money flows to you as a result.
  • Look for the silver lining in every situation you find yourself in
  • Get your fears out of your brain by writing them all down, then you’re less likely to act on them.
  • Make a list of things you’re grateful for and review it weekly.
  • When you’re tempted to put off a decision or action decide instead to take immediate action.
  • Understand where your scarcity mentality come from? Maybe it was the world you grew up in or maybe it’s the pressures of the situation you currently find yourself in.
  • Engage in strategic planning time in order to minimize situations that demand you to be reactive.
  • Schedule a celebration of something every month or so.

A scarcity mentality can kill a small business. An abundance mentality will spur positivity, growth, and profit. An abundance mindset opens up doors and experiences you didn’t imagine. As you expand your awareness of any scarcity mentality the depth of your abundance mentality will grow.