Do You Need to Be a Minimalist to Succeed With a Minimalist Business?


There is no definitive answer to this question, but in this post I'll attempt to provide you with how I see a Minimalist Business (MB) being a natural expression of the character and mindset of its owner.

There is no certification for being minimalist

That's true unless you're Ev Bogue, author of The Art of Being Minimalist. In which case you can't be considered a minimalist unless you own less than 100 things.

Ev writes the following in his chapter titled, The Rules of Being Minimalist:

"Ok, get your pitchforks all of you hoarders. This one will make you angry.

The fact that you even have a pitchfork makes you not a minimalist. You're an average fat American clinging to the consumerist age with too much stuff.

The rules of being minimalist are simple:

  1. You can't own more than 100 things
  2. All of your things fit into one bag
  3. This bag fits into overhead storage on an aeroplane or Mexibus
  4. You can carry all of your stuff with you
  5. So you can leave whenever you want to"

However, I don't think it's that simple. As much as I aspire to minimizing down to 100 things (I'm close) and living out of one bag, I haven't yet been able to do this. And still, I consider myself a minimalist.

Sorry, Ev. We can agree to disagree.

For me, living as a minimalist means owning only those items that bring me joy, are useful, and are not a duplication. 

Minimalism is first a mindset, then a practice. Minimalism happens first in the mind and is then followed by continual practice. When I first decided to become minimalist, I knew in my mind that it was right for me. It fit like a quality pair of jeans. It was immediately comfortable. My choices to get rid of duplicitous and non-essential items reinforced this mindset.

The minimalist mindset only increases the enjoyment of a MB

Like minimalism, the MB is a solitary, yet exhilarating undertaking. If your MB is to travel with you everywhere, you can't really have a printer, a filing cabinet, a bunch of papers, a nice big flatscreen. Your MB needs to reside in your laptop.

In order to be comfortable with these constraints, the owner needs to be comfortable with having less at her disposal. If a minimalist business owner (MBO) has a significant history in the corporate world, this can be an adjustment. 

In the corporate world there are large copier/printers, filling cabinets, conference rooms, lunch rooms, etc. It can take a period of adjustment to gain comfort in working in the contrasting minimalist manner.

How being minimalist benefits a MBO

If minimalism is first a mindset and then a practice, then as the owner of a MB, a practicing minimalist is far more prepared to succeed than is a non-minimalist.

Here are three fundamental qualities that a practicing minimalist can benefit from in starting and running a MB:

1. Practicing minimalists possess an ability to focus on the essential

Focusing on the essentials is at the core of minimalism.   Focusing on what is essential in business is the hallmark of the successful MB. MBOs realize that they don't need every new piece of software that comes out on the market. They know that using what's already resident on their laptop, in most cases, will be sufficient. If they find that specialty software is essential for longer creative projects or projects specific to their type of MB, then so be it. The point is that minimalist MBOs know what's essential and what's not.

2. Practicing minimalists aren't easily distracted

Practicing minimalism produces a force field of sorts that insulates from distraction. It's like an antibiotic that fights the 'Oooh, Shiny!' syndrome.  The combination of a powerful ability to focus and the resulting insulation from distraction allows results in quality work. Quality becomes the marker for the MB and customers are always attracted to quality.

3. Practicing minimalists are better managers of their time

Minimalists are time management ninjas. When you don't have all the distractions of excess crap, extraneous relationships, and over-committed calendars in your life, you're better able to focus, resist distraction and get shit done.* Time can't be saved or stockpiled; It can only be managed in real time. The ability to focus on what's essential without distraction produces a present moment where shit gets done.

*a technical term that includes writing, creating, thinking, planning, and all the other MB tasks.  8-)