When we imagine the business world at large, we tend to think of the hustle and bustle of the daily grind: crowded work commutes, quick breakfasts of coffee and pastries, messy desks piled with documents and notes, and last-minute scrambles for materials needed in important presentations. It is a vision more synonymous with stress than productivity. But what if the vision could be different – a calmer, more effective take on business?
As an entrepreneur who prioritizes efficiency, my business vision is one rooted in minimalism. My minimalism journey began in 2009 while prepping my family for an international move. I discovered that working with my family to free us of physical possessions before moving abroad was not only a practical, money-saving strategy but also one part of a lifestyle change I could integrate into my business practices as well.
Minimalist principles have helped me modernize and streamline my virtual business, and they can do the same for your organization.
This article will define minimalism and its benefits, outline three core minimalist principles to incorporate into your business model, discuss seven ways to practice minimalism as a business owner, and provide a six-step action plan to help you begin your minimalism transition within your business.
"Reduce the complexity of life by eliminating the needless wants of life, and the labors of life reduce themselves." – Edwin Way Teale
Especially as it relates to business, minimalism is about more than simply decluttering tangible items from your space. It is a process centered on conscious, deliberate choices, self-assessment, and the elimination of distractions. The result means we focus only on what we need and truly value, leading to business benefits like the following:
- Greater resourcefulness and creativity
- Improved clarity and confidence in decision making
- Reduced stress throughout the business hierarchy
- Lowered operating costs
- Fewer interruptions impeding goals
- Better time management
- Enhanced workflows and task prioritization
With minimalism and its benefits defined, it is time to evaluate your curiosity about minimalism and the objectives you have for its application within your organization. As you learn more about minimalism and how its principles can advance your business, consider these questions:
- What do you love about your business?
- Which parts of your business arouse negative thoughts or energy?
- What motivated you to explore minimalism as a business philosophy?
- What do you hope to achieve by using minimalist ideas in your business?
- Are your goals realistic or are they daydreams that cannot ultimately apply to your business model?
3 core minimalist principles for businesses
"Truth is ever to be found in simplicity, and not in the multiplicity and confusion of things." – Isaac Newton
Adopting new business ideas can feel burdensome, particularly if the concepts are unfamiliar. Fortunately, minimalism should be included progressively into your business model. A gradual introduction of minimalist business practices will do more to ensure the long-term application and success of your ideals, which should include the following core minimalist principles for improving your organization's functionality, efficiency, and productivity.
Mindfulness is awareness. Within your business, mindfulness is evident by having an umbrella understanding of all organization divisions; implementing reporting processes that funnel high-level division and department news up to you; thinking of failures as opportunities to learn, grow, and improve; accepting and acting on feedback from customers and employees; being present in the face of both achievements and challenges; and responding to those tests with maturity and forward thinking.
Intention is purpose. Businesses that operate with intention embody the company's mission at all levels. Business owners must understand how this mission affects their products and services, staff, customers, economy, local communities and broader professional networks. Through intention as a minimalist principle, the goal is to remove obstacles and disruptions so that the business's purpose never becomes diluted and is always at the heart of every action.
Freedom is flexibility. With minimalist emphasis on value and need, rather than superficiality and accumulation, businesses gain greater financial independence. Reduced debt and overhead costs leave more money available for improving products and services, in addition to providing perks and benefits to staff. Business freedom through minimalism can also translate to flexibility with scheduling, time and work locations.
7 Ways to Practice Minimalism as a Business Owner
"In order to seek one's own direction, one must simplify the mechanics of ordinary, everyday life." – Plato
The core principles of mindfulness, intention and freedom are meant to facilitate an individualized relationship with minimalism. This is also true for how you choose to integrate minimalist strategies within your business, in that no business owner's experience will be like another's. But where to begin?
When designing minimalist strategies for your business, start with these seven practices that can be tailored to suit your business.
1. Use a remote business model.
I am proud to be the CEO and co-founder of a 100% virtual business. While a fully online business structure will not work for every company, most businesses can embrace at least some telecommuting elements like flex time and hybrid remote work policies that allow qualifying staff to work from home at least a couple of days per week. Remote-enabled businesses save money on physical office space, recruiting and equipment. In addition, remote workers spend less on traditional onsite work expenditures like clothing, takeout food orders and transportation.
2. Evaluate what you have to get done, and do that.
If you are a business owner easily overwhelmed by to-do lists, applying minimalist theories to your business goal-setting strategies allows you to focus your mental energies and valuable time on only the most important responsibilities. This type of evaluation means taking a realistic survey of immediate needs and completing those items before moving on to other to-dos that are not as pressing. As you prioritize urgent items, you may even discover that additional tasks are entirely unnecessary.
3. Simplify and automate processes.
Respective of your industry and business structure, minimalist business owners should simplify or automate as many regular processes as possible. These are examples of areas within your business that could be reviewed for streamlining and reduced human involvement:
- Payments for monthly bills, rentals, and/or software subscriptions
- SMS notifications for project updates
- Help desk tickets
- Data report generation
- Management reporting
- Order entry or frequent customer support questions
- Scheduling or event reminders
- Applicant screening
- Invoice processing
- Sales and/or CRM processes
- New hire or client onboarding
- Customer satisfaction surveys and/or reviews
- Email lists
4. Utilize productivity and collaboration tools.
To assist in simplifying and automating frequent procedures like those above, rely on technology. It may be cliche, but we are privileged to live and work in the "there's an app for that" age. Software programs and applications can aid business owners in streamlining processes for sales, accountability, hiring, customer service, email marketing, social media, and more.
5. Focus on results.
Quality over quantity should be the objective. Your business can be more productive if you prioritize the outcome of a task or project rather than the time it takes to achieve the goal. Figure out the metrics that work for your business, and measure your company's success against those criteria rather than another business's standards, which may not work for you. This practice combines all the core principles essential to minimalism in business: mindfulness, intention, and freedom.
6. Hire experts.
Hiring the right people for the right jobs is essential to not only practicing minimalism as a business owner but also helping your business be successful. When you enlist the right staff the first time, you reduce redundancy and save time and money associated with revolving-door recruiting. This also gives you the freedom to delegate tasks when appropriate. When you trust your staff to shoulder responsibilities appropriate to their job descriptions, you have the freedom to abandon the work-obsessed mindset fueled by daily grind culture.
7. Recognize that you are separate from your business.
Making sound hiring decisions and appointing responsibilities to your staff are both essential steps toward the seventh way to practice minimalism as a business owner. Although the nature of entrepreneurship means work-life integration is unavoidable at times, it is essential to separate yourself, the individual, from your business, which is an entity. This is especially important if your business is incorporated or licensed with your name or face as part of the branding. Your business is part of you, but you are not your business. It is important for business owners to protect their time, mental health, and identity by honoring this minimalist component to business ownership.
6-Step minimalism action plan for business owners
"Minimalism is the pursuit of the essence of things, not the appearance." – Claudio Silvestrin
If the philosophies and tenets of minimalism outlined in this article appeal to you as a business owner, then you should act. This six-step minimalism action plan will aid your journey of operating a lean and cohesive company.
- Step 1: Declutter and simplify your personal workspace. This will help put you in a minimalist mindset and inspire additional positive steps. If you work onsite, this step sets an example for the rest of your staff. If you work remotely, share a photo of your updated work area with your distributed team. As the business owner, you must embody the changes you want to witness in others and within your organization.
- Step 2: Now that you are in a minimalist space and mindset, determine the key goals for your new minimalism plan. Answering the five questions in the "minimalism defined" section of this article will assist you in deciding your aims.
- Step 3: Set rules for your minimalism business strategies. Your rules should be based on the three core minimalist principles for businesses discussed above: mindfulness, intention and freedom. They should also incorporate the seven suggested methods for practicing minimalism in your business, as applicable within your industry and business structure.
- Step 4: Establish a timeline for the phased implementation of the minimalism rules for your business. Break out your timeline to personal goals that you have for your business, long-term changes you want to make to your organization and minimalist strategies you also expect your staff to follow.
- Step 5: On your calendar, set reminders for periodic check-ins on your timeline and implementation of your minimalism plan. Your check-ins should include self-reflection, an evaluation of elements that are working and how others can be improved, as well as constructive feedback from your staff. Remember, minimalism is a process, not an exact science. It is organic, and should adjust to meet your changing needs and those of your business.
- Step 6: Continue learning and growing. In addition to gaining insights from the experiences and feedback of the staff working within your minimalist business, it is important to further your own understanding of minimalism and how it relates to your organization. I encourage you to explore the writings and teachings of minimalist thinkers, network with other business leaders and entrepreneurs of a similar mindset, and document your minimalist growth journey in a personal diary or even a business blog to help other business owners along their paths.
Minimalism is not a cure-all to remedy business woes. It will not act as an antidote if there are serious internal issues within your organization. What minimalism can do, however, is provide a source of simplicity, intelligibility and uniqueness to your business that will translate to tangible improvements in your company's finances, culture and endurance.
Through the mindfulness, intention and freedom of minimalism, you will set your business on course to be the best version of the vision you have for it and, in turn, make your own entrepreneurial journey more meaningful and rewarding.