Rethink the Bottom Line. Rethink Business.


There is more joy found in owning less than can be found in pursuing more.

This is a mantra I have learned to be true over the past number of years. Deciding intentionally to own fewer possessions has brought great benefit into my life: less cleaning, less debt, less stress, more freedom, more purpose, more opportunity to pursue lasting impact.

Its truth has begun to spill into other aspects of my life. It has brought fullness to my understanding of happiness, generosity, and busyness. It has changed my thoughts on consumerism, technology, and the words I choose.  It has affected how I view work, money, and success.

Owning less is an exercise in freedom that brings significant impact into our work and our business. It can positively impact how we view each of them. In fact, correctly understood, it allows us to entirely rethink business and how we conduct it. When we start to rethink our bottom line, our entire methodology of business and entrepreneurship begins to change—and for the better.

But before we begin to consider some of the benefits of rethinking business, let me cut off a few objections:

  • First, I am not anti-capitalist (as some may likely infer). I am all for a free-market system that rewards those who work hard. But there are better rewards to pursue than financial gain.
  • Second, I fully realize the benefit of profitability in business. Profits allow businesses to keep their doors open and employ workers, who in turn, feed their families. I am not against profitability. But profitability alone as the ultimate goal in business is short-sighted.
  • Third, I understand the responsibility to shareholders and investors. If investors/partners put up resources and own a stake in our business based on certain expectations, we must work to fulfill those expectations. But whether we are an employee, a small business owner, a partner, or a chairman of the board, we can still work to create a new culture in our organization and in our economy.

I have been noticing lately how minimalism (intentionally living with less) can impact our loftiest goals in business. When we become content with less, our lives are open to new pursuits. And as our expenses lessen, we are freed to pursue entrepreneurial passions. After all, if the fear of money can be removed, the greatest obstacle to chasing our dreams can be easily overcome.

But more than that, minimalism also begins to impact how we conduct our business. If we see the benefit of owning less and are content with a simple life because of the joy it offers, our need for an ever-growing bottom line begins to diminish. If we have enough money to meet our needs, we discover new opportunity to evaluate our bottom line. In short, we become freed to pursue other pursuits than financial gain.

And if we begin to rethink our bottom line, we are also freed to rethink how we conduct our entire business. We can begin to experience a more fulfilling way to build it and lead it.

When we begin to rethink our bottom line and value more than ever-increasing profitability, we are freed to:

Pursue passion projects, not just profit projects. When the bottom line goal is measured only in dollars, we are held hostage to profit projects. Sure, there may be some overlap between the jobs/projects we desire to take and those that provide the most revenue. But often times, when forced with the option, a business motivated by profits alone will choose the latter.

Find work/life balance. Once our financial needs are met, we can begin meeting other significant needs in our lives. We can find time for rest. We can find time for serving others. We can close the laptop guilt-free. And we can be the parent our children desire.

Place people over profits. As the importance of our bottom line begins to fade, we can begin caring for other peoples’ bottom lines—particularly our employees. We can pay wages above the industry average. We can offer generous benefits to improve their quality of life (vacation/insurance/family priorities). We can treat others with respect and dignity. And when we do, we attract higher quality employees and retain the most competent. This, in turn, increases our joy of working each day. (Thanks to Bob Moore of Bob’s Red Mill for modeling this for all of us).

Invest in our local community. We can serve and support our local community through our business’s services and money. Likely, we can save some dollars and cut some expenses by shopping around for larger economies of scale. But if we are content with less, we can support our local marketplace and invest in our local community instead. Oh, and we can also buy some t-shirts for the local tee ball team too.

Preserve the environment. Building and functioning in an environmentally-conscious way is not always the most cost-effective—especially in the short-run. But in the long-run, it is always the best choice… even if you are not around to see its impact.

Promote social causes. There are so many wonderful organizations doing amazingly-important work in our world today. They are striving to bring justice, education, water, and opportunity to those who have had it denied to them. Our profits can be such a blessing to them—especially as we begin to realize we don’t need to keep all of them.

Build leaders. There is a well-known saying that goes like this, “There are two secrets to success: 1. Never tell everything you know.” I get it, I really do. I understand the humor. But I also understand that too many people believe it and follow it closely. As a result, knowledge is rarely transferred and leaders are rarely built up. When the only goal is an ever-increasing bottom line, there is less incentive to train, equip, and encourage others. But when the goal of a business can expand beyond mere dollars, the opportunity to train future leaders and bless them in their endeavors grows.

Deliver fairness. There is an important joy and fulfillment found in providing a fair product for a fair price. It is easier to lay our head on the pillow at night knowing we worked diligently to the best of our ability providing honest contribution to those who placed their trust in us.

Embrace honesty/integrity. Those who want to get rich are tempted greatly and often fall into all kinds of foolish things. But contentment offers great peace and allows us to live our lives and lead our businesses with honesty and integrity. May we be reminded today there is more joy found in owning less than can be found in pursuing more. And may we embrace honesty, integrity, and character in all our business dealings because of it.

Now, I’m a realist. I know one article is not going to change the climate of an entire economy. But it certainly has the power to change at least one business. And whether you are an artist, a farmer, or a small retail-business owner, you have the power to bring about a cultural change in your business. I encourage you to do so.

In turn, you will discover a greater joy. And as you begin rethinking your bottom line, may countless others take notice.

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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  1. says

    I’m quite sure minimalism is what allowed me to do everything I’m doing now on a daily basis. The reason is because I never think to myself, “Hmm… Is this worth doing if I’m not making money? Money = stuff!”

    Its effects are widespread and sometimes you never see the connection. Business, personal life, social, I think all of it is somehow influenced by the mindset you teach here, Joshua. Thanks for spreading something so powerful.

  2. says

    For me work/life balance is the most important thing when I work. It is one of the first questions I ask of any company that is going to hire me. I have to ensure that no matter how much I’m getting paid, I’ll be able to pursue my hobbies, yoga, travel, dance, writing, reading, and be able to spend time with friends and family, while I’m doing the 9-5 routine. Without the work-life balance criteria fulfilled, I will not work for a company even if they are providing the world in return for the work. I don’t think of the working life as an interlude to retirement. You can’t stop living while you are working. Your life should go on. Who knows if you are going to get to retirement or not? Why wait for some mystical time in the future? Live your life right now in the present.

  3. Queen Mary says

    Joshua et al., I am actually a bit anti-capitalist. I find myself in the greater scheme of things a Christian socialist, sort of an Acts I kind of a chick. I’ve also commented frequently that I’m at a different stage in life and so I have a funny story to tell on myself post-Thanksgiving dinner; post-24 people at Thanksgiving dinner at that being not 1/2 the family. Only one niece has married and no one has grand babies yet — so passing on table cloths is not yet in the cards and having only one set of sheets per bed not yet reasonable as I have a set of flannels for the winter. I managed the large table, 3 card tables and one of those seats 6 folding tables one buys for these occasions at some point in one’s life. But going through the linen closet I noticed two sweet pastel 4-top table cloths I bought when first married that matched our fine china (yes, we are that old). If beloved spouse and I ever sit down to a Valentine’s dinner alone again with fine china, we can use white table cloths – multi-functional – and the sweet pastels are going. And Valentine’s dinners with kids are fun — heart shaped cookie cutters to cut brownies are incredible surprises for kids and much more fun than run of the mill heart shaped cookies and much more memorable — take it from me — 27 year olds and 25 year olds and their friends never forget the brownies, cookies are available everywhere! So yes, even when you think you’ve got a handle on things — green table cloths can go with just about any holiday with proper accoutrements — you’ll always find something someone else can make better use of! Beware the double bed Sesame Street comforter though — it will last through grad school, I can guarantee it! :) xoxo to all! Mary

  4. Randy says

    Joshua, I think this is one of your best articles yet.

    There are so many more positive, uplifting ways to conduct business with integrity than simply chasing the almighty dollar.

  5. Laurie Crews says

    This is my favorite post so far. Unfortunately it’s still idealistic for the top of the consumer chain. But for those who already get it, this is so helpful to share the vision. How much abundance we would have if everyone wanted to live like this!

  6. Lisa says

    SO.SPOT.ON! I’ve recently begun my journey towards a more minimalist life and I find your articles incredibly inspiring! Thank you for sharing with the world! Everyone needs to read this article especially!

  7. Mrs. W says

    What a great post! This goes along with how the Amish live their lives and conduct their business matters. If you have never read, Success Made Simple: An Inside Look at How Amish Businesses Thrive, you would like it.

    Thanks for sharing the link to the story about the owner of Bob Red Mills. I found that really neat and inspiring to read!

  8. says

    Great article, as a business owner myself I got a lot of value out of this. I run an online business, but I definitely agree that investing in the local community is an important thing to do, and is something that both my community and I could get a lot out of. I will definitely be implementing that in my life as I can!

  9. says

    I loved when you stated “After all, if the fear of money can be removed, the greatest obstacle to chasing our dreams can be easily overcome.”

    I don’t feel like most of the minimalist/simple living websites and blogs I read ever address the true aspects of money. Yes our goal as minimalists is to live with less; less possessions, less mental and physical clutter, less unnecessary obligations, and less money, but unfortunately unless we are willing to drop out of society, money is necessary. It is the gear of not being able to meet our basic needs though that holds us back from pursuing our dreams.

    Thank you for a well written and timely post!


  10. TN says

    Focusing on less short-term fun (buying crap) sacrifices long-term ability to do something really fun but….dieing a minimalist (just a label – watch out for people using labels) and never proudly owning that cool car (that you saved for), the trip to Denali, or the ability to retire early spend time with your grandchildren sounds like a horrible life to me.

    For those of you that think your boss is Scrooge McDuck – grow up. Until you’ve mortgaged your house to make it through the next quarter stop thinking you’re owed being taken care of and coddled. The reason you have the opportunity to think and philosophize so much is that generations before you worked their ass off, innovated, and through capitalism removed more people from poverty than any other society ever.

    I’m with you on not buying junk…..but be careful demonizing people that are working like crazy to bring you that cool phone or device your reading this on. : )

    • Zuma says

      Capitalism actually requires poverty. The fact people do have to second mortgage their house in order to pay the heating bill, even after playing by the rules of work hard and believe in the free market, makes my point.

  11. says

    There’s definitely a way to change the society slowly … I became more of a minimalist almost 3 years ago when gave most of my stuff to charity and started traveling around the world. What a liberating feeling :)

  12. says

    Love this, Joshua! Voluntary frugality and minimalism have been key for our family being able to pursue our fair trade business. It’s true that there are lots of different kinds of compensation. Money is only one of them. While a business has to be profitable enough to stay in business and thrive, there’s a ton of room in sustainable business models to be able to be steward the planet and be involved in people lifting themselves out of poverty. Again, many thanks for this blog post!

  13. says

    A great post. I’m always working to align my work life with my principles. Leaving my job and working for myself has made that much easier, but even while working for myself it can be hard to remember to not just chase the money.

  14. says

    Hi Joshua!

    thanks for this great post… however minimalist I am, I still have this fear of money… I have changed my life to live with the bare minimum I am willing to go for… I live in a small apartment, no cars… very few possession…. no extensive travelling… no expensive hobbies… or sports… we have a life we love… but still… we do NEED money… and as somebody who’s trying to earn her own living I do struggle with making enough to sustain that bare minimum… Any tips on how to do that???
    thanks for being such a great source of inspiration!

  15. The Busy Believer says

    I tweeted this last month and think its worth repeating as it applies here. Great post Josh.

    @thebusybeliever: If we served as our work, compensation would be a result of our love. But we work for compensation, so there’s little love in our serving.

  16. says

    After nearly a year of unemployment, I am back at work. I have a temporary position that won’t last the year so I am saving extra to make up for when I am without work. However, because we own less and want less, I’m not dreading the day my contract ends. It’s helped me accept an open-ended situation which is going to be good for me in the long run because I’ve got an opportunity to learn new things and build my contacts. I also don’t stress over the challenges of what would happen if I lost my job. That’s happened to me this year and I survived (largely because of our small life).

    Being in a big office, I hear those around me talk about how they have to shuffle money around to pay bills, they miss car payments or have to figure out how to buy their grand-kids the latest hockey jersey. While I feel badly for them, it gives me a sense of peace that those are not concerns to weigh on my mind.

    Scaling back has freed my head of a lot. The stuff I don’t have bothers me a lot less than the worries that others have because they have/need/want so much more. This doesn’t mean I don’t worry. But it means when I think of buying something (which is rare), it’s so much easier to take a pass. The peace in your mind ends up feeling stronger than the impulse to acquire.

  17. says

    For me I always try to find the minimum effective dose to get the results I want. Some people think it’s laziness but I just want to make the most of my time. Since I’ve been doing that I have been able to focus more on the things in this great post.

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  19. says

    Great post – I loved it. Thanks for sharing. I’ve just had to make a touch decision, i’d been prolonging, to terminate my current business and get back into the job market. For past 2 years I had a go at starting up my own consulting, then business. But I’ve learned and grown a lot.

  20. says

    A wonderful post, thank you for underlining so many benefits of creating a wider focus in business than just the bottom line. As someone who is very interested in social entrepreneurship, I find it so important to stress that there are more satisfying and important goals than simply more money, more profits, more market share etc. With the right attitude, once we reach a certain level of income, we can take our mind off the money and create value in different ways. Thanks again

  21. Zuma says

    It’s too bad you’re not anti-capitalist Joshua. You’ve got some good insight into how the world really is, but seem to stop when it comes to looking at the system that requires such consumerism and poverty that you are concerned about. There is no free market and reward for working hard is a myth. The hardest workers in our society (those working 2-3 min. wage jobs to feed their kids) make the least amount of money. All the while, those who do no work live off capital gains from money they didn’t even earn.

    I’m finding much benefit in going minimalist, but it doesn’t go far enough. You and all the bloggers are in a position to really cause some change if you can see that you’re still caught in the consumerist ideology and move into a more equitable take on economy.

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