At the height of the 2008 economic crisis, I started my company with a six-month runway to cover my basic expenses. I designed and printed business cards myself with my name and title, new email and domain name, and my logo on the front, plus a little blurb about what we do on the back.
They arrived in mail a week later. I put them in my wallet and started handed them out to people I met, whether they could be a potential client or not. I had 2,000 cards to give.
Then my six-month runway ended. I wasn't profitable, even though I was working 80-100 hours per week networking, calling, emailing, blogging, etc. and I was already halfway through the box of cards. Over a year into my business, I realized that my business cards weren't bringing me business.
With each card I handed out, my mind shifted from enthusiasm to scarcity. They say necessity is the father of invention, but not for me. With my back and my business against the wall, I wasn't creative. I was being driven by the fear of "not enough." It wasn't a healthy place to be. I was stressed, I got sick; I spent way too much time at my computer, and less time with the people I loved.
The law of scarcity is one of the foundations of economics, but I didn’t want to build my business from that place. From there, you underprice, you take any customer, you don't do your best work.
I needed to enter a space of abundance. I ordered 50 assorted blank thank you cards for less than a dollar each online. When they arrived, I expressing my gratitude in writing to the first 20 people that came to mind. These people included my mentors, professors, friends and best customers.
I mailed them, and I didn’t receive any responses. But then again, I wasn’t looking for a response. My intention was to simply shift my mindset from a place of scarcity to a place of abundance by honoring, recognizing and affirming all that I already had.
Three years later, the economy hasn’t grown much, but my revenues have grown tenfold. I haven’t changed what I’ve been doing much, but I have changed how I think about what I do and I’ve clarified why I do what I do. Those two things have made all the difference in my bottom line.
From writing so many thank you cards, I’ve also learned that:
- It's better to start with what I have, not with what’s missing (i.e. money, a team member, press, etc.).
- Actively looking for people, moments and things to be grateful for only yields more
- Whether in scarcity or abundance, honor the small moments, not just the big ones -- life is in the minute moments.
- Your customers are your investors, so show them love.
- When you thank people, thank them for the action and who they are by saying, "I appreciate you and it."
- Gratitude begins with giving (more so time and attention than things), not receiving; therefore everyone can access it.
- It's better to give to give -- don't give to receive.
- What we appreciate, appreciates in value.
- True wealth comes in the form of moments, not just money.
What do you think will happen to you and your business if you gave out 200 thank you cards instead of 2,000 business cards? Those thank you cards have done more for my business than any business card that I have given or received. And I’m grateful.
Jullien "PurposeFinder" Gordon is a high performance coach and consultant for corporations and non-profits. His work as a founding partner at New Higher helps increase employee performance, motivation, engagement, and retention. He was trained at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and is the author of 4 books on personal and professional development.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.