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Breaking the Minnow Mindset, by Barbara Weaver Smith

Fri, 11/09/2012 - 4:26pm | by bweaversmith

Greetings! A Successful Woman invited me to do a 3-part series of guest posts on the topic of overcoming obstacles to a success mindset. So here goes!

First, a little background. My company, The Whale Hunters LLC, provides consulting and training to other small and mid-sized companies about how to grow your business by doing bigger deals with bigger customers -- whales. As I've worked with clients, I've observed that women owners and management team leaders have been especially good at implementing the Whale Hunters Process at their companies. I think it's because whale hunting is a team-based process that succeeds through learning, planning, and collaboration. So I began exploring how women do their deals, and that led to my new eBook, Whale Hunting Women: How Women Do Big Deals. The book celebrates the innate talents and learned skills that women bring to deal-making, and it also addresses the particular challenges we face--often challenges that exist in our own minds.

I'll write about three of those challenges: overcome the minnow mindset, overcome the culture of scarcity, and overcome this slow economy.

Break the minnow mindset
When your business is brand new, you do it all-- you market, you sell, you make the products or deliver the services, you keep the books, and you take any kind of work that you can get in order to establish yourself and build cash flow. But as your business grows, you gradually try to build a team-- either employees or outsource partners-- €”to help differentiate these roles and allow you to concentrate on those particular skills that are unique to you. In other words, you start out feeling like a minnow, a starter, a very small fish. And over time you become bigger, stronger, and more capable.

But do you allow yourself to be more confident? One obstacle to success is that "minnow mindset" - an abiding fear that you are too small to say no, too small to raise your prices, too small to do a really big deal.

One premise of whale hunting is that it costs as much to do a small deal as a big deal. Gradually increasing the size of your deals is a promising way to grow revenues and to increase profit margins. If you grow only by adding more small customers or small deals, you won'€™t achieve those economies. I bet you have customers who are not a good fit for you, customers that cost more than their business is worth. Or you have new opportunities that are not good enough and that will sabotage your goals for continued growth. If you'€™re in the minnow mindset, you are afraid to say no to business that no longer fits your model.

How do you break the minnow mindset? Get help! The Inuit whale hunters didn't go out solo to hunt a whale. They launched a boat-- €”harpooner in the front, shaman in the back, oarsmen in the middle. You can launch a boat to go after bigger deals. Create an advisory board to help you define optimal opportunities. Outsource your too-small work to a partner or smaller competitor. Talk to your best customers about why they value you. Get your banker, accountant, or key supplier on board. Clear some time and resource to devote to your bigger future.

And while you're at it, allow yourself to experience the joy of becoming more than a minnow. Women sometimes deflect praise or resist self-promotion. Whenever an achievement of yours is recognized, don't say "It's not that big a deal." Say, "It's the biggest deal I've done so far, and I'm really pleased with it." That attitude is good for business, good for your business community, and good for you!

Barbara Weaver Smith

To learn about Whale Hunting Women and to order your copy today, visit

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