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According to Times of Entrepreneurship, 81% of entrepreneurs start a company without funding. Starting a business without cash on hand means that most entrepreneurs operate from a place of scarcity — saving every dollar, tasking employees with multiple jobs and working long hours with little sleep. There is never enough: never enough time, money, staff, resources or sleep. We have been taught to believe this mindset is necessary for survival of the enterprise.
But is it?
What if entrepreneurs flipped the script and operated from abundance? An abundance script says, “There is always enough.”
Giving is the secret of abundance. When I started FlyteVu, my partner and I made the decision that we would operate with an abundance script. Rooted in our faith, we believed that there would always be enough, and if there is always enough, there is always something to share with others.
From the first day of business, we started by giving 10% of all revenue to charity, doubling that number in two years to 20%, and then creating the FlyteVu Fund, a donor-advised fund that collectively has now exceeded $1 million in donations to local and national nonprofits and charities.
In 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic struck, we decided to focus our giving efforts on another important group: our clients.
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In May of 2020, as one of my clients delivered the bad news that she would be terminating our agency retainer due to budget cuts as a result of Covid, she broke down in tears. We had done excellent work, but she had to choose between keeping her employees or ours. I didn’t fault her for making the choice she did; I would have made the same one to protect my own team. It was one of eight calls she was going to make that day, terminating agencies, partners and contracts, and with that, she would carry the weight of what that meant for hundreds of jobs. She wasn’t going to sleep well that night, and neither was I.
Covid-19 brought high levels of stress and burnout
Many leaders thrive on pressure and performance, but only when balanced with achievement and results. During Covid, leaders were thrust into crisis situations and stayed in crisis mode for more than a year, resulting in the highest levels of stress and burnout.
These leaders had spent a year bearing the weight of making tough decisions for their businesses, terminating top-performing staff without cause, furloughing employees, taking unexpected pay cuts themselves to cover for staff and carrying the emotional weight of the team who looked to them for stability. Good leaders were forced to take on the needs of everyone else, putting themselves and their needs last, or ignoring them altogether. Navigating the stresses of Covid in the workplace as well as at home, leaders did not have a safe community to offload pain. The normal isolation that comes with a leadership position, now amplified because of Covid and coupled with the prolonged crisis response, had led to one commonality: massive burnout and depression.
Although Covid had taken a toll on our own staff, we realized we had an opportunity to operate from abundance. We decided to lean in and talk to these executives about their hopes and dreams, what they’d do if they had 24 hours free of responsibilities — which seemed impossible when there wasn’t enough time, energy or financial resources to go around. Circumstances from the pandemic had forced them to work from a scarcity script and even thinking about hopes and dreams felt impossible. Their tanks were empty and inspiration had flown out the sunroof on the highway to burnout.
So, we flipped the script.
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“Don’t put a toe in the water; grab your knees and do a cannonball”
We brought together a like-minded group of ten top executives from our list of clients including UPS, Cracker Barrel, Vistaprint, the American Red Cross and more for a virtual session under the guise of “inspiration.” To host the session, we invited Bob Goff, speaker and author of Dream Big. Goff had inspired me when I made the decision to become an entrepreneur. One of my favorite quotes of his is, “Don’t put a toe in the water; grab your knees and do a cannonball.” Goff’s words apply perfectly to the leap of faith required in entrepreneurship, but also the faith required to live with abundance. You can’t just dip your toe in; you have to do a cannonball. And that’s just what we did.
Together, we surprised each executive by revealing that we had made his or her bucket-list dream come true — a cruise to Alaska, a trip to meet a favorite musician, an opportunity to showcase photography with a famed photographer and more — all at our cost.
But there was one caveat. They had just minutes to accept as their dreams would be fulfilled in the next 24 hours.
I knew that if we didn’t force these executives to make a quick decision, they would talk themselves out of it. The excuses would pile up: too many responsibilities, too many meetings, too many important family obligations. Indecision is the worst enemy of an entrepreneur. Being a leader means making decisions, taking risks and being accountable for the results.
And the results were fascinating:
- Seven out of ten accepted the “bucket-list dream” on the spot.
- Two out of the seven who accepted backed out after saying yes, claiming they didn’t have the time (operating from a scarcity script).
- Five followed through with the dreams.
The act of abundance was far more meaningful than the actual gift.
So how does one live an abundance script? Here are my top five tips:
- Give. give. give. Everyone has something to give. Start by giving $1 for every $100 you make. Instead of missing that $1, you get used to operating with $99, and soon you’ll realize that the act of giving is better than having the $1 in hand.
- Celebrate all the wins, even if they aren’t yours. Abundance mentality says that there is enough for everyone, so someone else’s gain is not your loss. When someone else succeeds, you know that you can still have your own success. So, celebrate all the wins.
- Be a rainbow. As Maya Angelou says, “Be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud.” Look for the clouds in someone’s life and show up as a rainbow. I keep a calendar of my clients’ and employees’ worst days — the death of a loved one, a divorce, the loss of a child. These are the days I make sure to show up, often overlooked by others, an opportunity to give and serve, and draw from the well of abundance.
- Choose joy. If you’re not happy with what you have now, you won’t be happy with more of it. Stop waiting for a goal to be achieved or a certain level of success or your bank account to reach a certain number. Choose joy in what you have today. Because all you may have is today.
- Choose your thoughts. When scarcity thoughts cross your mind, let them cross your mind, leave your mind and wish them well. Recognize them, but do not claim them as your own. When I recognize a thought as a “scarcity” thought, I write it and put it in my “thought box,” a little box that serves as the graveyard for all the thoughts and fears I don’t want to pick up. This is a great experiential tool to help me control my thoughts and not let them control me.
“Abundance is the simple recognition of enough”
Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx, is known for her abundance-based leadership. After announcing she had sold majority stake of her company to Blackstone, she rewarded each of her employees with $10,000 and two first-class tickets to any place in the world of their choosing. Other founders have led companies from startup to IPO, or sold to private equity, but Blakely will be admired and remembered most for her abundance script.
Building a business from abundance will feel uncertain, unstable and uncomfortable when you start. But the investment will pay off in dividends, transforming your culture, clients and everyone you encounter. It means anyone can be rich, with or without money or resources, because abundance is the simple recognition of enough. And there is always enough.
Related: Lead With Thoughts of Abundance, Not Scarcity