Why do so few businesses grow into substantial companies? Successful entrepreneurs around the world tell us that the difference between a business that has stopped growing and one that keeps expanding is far less to do with the activity itself than the attitude of the entrepreneur.
Back in the early 19th century, Sir Walter Scott, one of the great British writers and a very astute observer of human nature, came to the same conclusion: “Success or failure in business is caused more by the mental attitude even than by mental capacities.”
The top business schools agree with him. The most important aspect of running a business is the mental attitude of the boss, rather than systems and procedures, they say, and this is what most of them set out to deliver.
What is mental attitude? It is a combination of many aspects: how you see yourself, how much you are affected by the attitude of others to you and their expectation of you; self-imposed glass ceilings; and habits you have acquired over the years.
“They say the chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken,” says Warren Buffett, the American business magnate. “The chains you put around yourself now have enormous consequences as you go through life.”
Buffett spent his life identifying and breaking those chains of habit and ended up as the world’s richest man at some point.
One of the mental attitudes that stops most people from fully achieving their potential is thinking small. Psychologists say that many people are actually afraid of thinking big; they are worried about what people will say about them and also because they do not want to stand up above the crowd. They prefer the ‘safety of numbers’.
Yet most of us deep down do want to stand above the crowd and many of us do dream big but we quash those thoughts and let our attitudes kill our ambition. One man who is not worried about standing above his peers is Donald Trump.
“As long as you’re going to be thinking anyway, think big,” he advises and he has lived up to his motto. He decided to run for the US Presidency and even though everybody, including the media, laughed at him for doing so, he went ahead. So, as he says, if you are going to think anyway, think big.