When you think of need versus want, you might think of actual necessities such as food versus non-essentials like (yes, this one is much harder) maybe cable television.  Of course, we tend to lump many more things into the category of “need” than what is truly a need, but my 3 year old toddler decided that EVERYTHING falls into the category of need.  Here are 4 lessons I have learned from her strategy that I think applies to the small business owner.

Need versus Want

Need versus Want- We Fight Harder for Need

When my daughter wants something, she pushes a little (or a lot) less than when she decides she needs something.  Every single thing she now thinks she needs, she fights hard for.  She needs to wash her hands- she will do everything she can to get to a sink and wash her hands (and then play in the water).  When she needs orange juice (that we try NOT to give her), she climbs into the refrigerator and pulls it out, gets a cup, and brings everything to us.  When you decide you need something instead of want something, it becomes a priority for you.  Identifying how may not be as simple as opening the refrigerator and getting a cup, but it becomes easier to figure out the how when you decide you need instead of want something.  By categorizing something as a need, we are more likely to fight harder for that as a need versus want.

Fight Hard

We Need Things Others Do Not

Clearly, the things a 3 year old thinks they need and the things a small business owner need are going to be quite different.  I think back to my manager days (and pretend manager when we did not have one at some of my first jobs) and can clearly identify many things I never even thought of that I need as a small business owner.  The first clear thing I can identify is the need for good employees.  I remember working and managing a lot of people that I would not consider good at their job.  Since I was in a large corporation, those people were lost among many other issues.  I worked with what I had, since I did not have much of a choice.  I may have wanted to have better employees, but since they were not MY employees, it did not occur to me that I would NEED good employees to survive.  Our needs can be lengthy, and perhaps that warrants a different post, but the important thing to remember is that each of our NEEDS are unique to our circumstances, goals, and situations.  It is ok to need something that someone else does not need.  When you identify your need versus want, keep in mind that your needs should support your goals and realistically fall within your circumstances and situation.

Need Can Take Up Too Much Time

One thing I notice about my daughter’s need to do everything and have everything is that it sucks up a lot of time, both for her and me.  That’s not the end of the world when you are 3, but when you are trying to run a business- that can kill your bottom line.  “Time is money” is quite literal for most small business owners.  Unless you already have a system in place to make money on auto-pilot (and even then you are usually still providing some level of maintaining that system), you will have to prioritize your needs to accommodate for the reality of time.  It is OK to need something and identify it as a lower priority.  We NEED food, but we do not need it all the time (trust me on this one, I definitely know this from experience).  We NEED food, but we do not need all foods (again, I can vouch for this one from experience).  If we do not prioritize our needs effectively, we might end up missing out on critical needs.  The end result is to not only identify need versus want, but also to prioritize our needs and organize our actions to meet our needs and maximize efficiency.

It is time

Encourage Need in Others So You Do Less

If need takes up too much time, or we have too many needs to realistically manage, what can we do?  Encourage need in others!  When my daughter tells me she needs something and I do not have the time (or I disagree with her assessment of need), I encourage her to take the actions necessary to meet her need.  As her mommy (that’s the title for a toddler’s mom), her true needs are my needs at that moment (diaper changes are the most critical…I can’t wait for her to be potty trained).  When I shift those needs that appear as our needs to be her needs and encourage her to take the actions necessary to fulfill her need, it creates some freedom for me.  When she needs orange juice, I do not have to drop everything and get her orange juice.  Instead, I keep doing what I am doing until she arrives with the orange juice and cup.  We can take a similar approach by encouraging and implementing our needs in our system.  Employees should know the priorities.  For example, if you have identified that you need to increase the income by a certain percentage and determined how to do that- they need to know the goal and identified processes.  If you do not have employees, look for specialists and experts to help meet your needs.  If you spend too much time doing your taxes, maybe it’s time to hire someone!  Now, you no longer need to do your taxes.  Instead, you just need to get your paperwork to the accountant on time for them to meet that need for you!

When you think of need versus want, I hope you adopt a little toddler in your approach!

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