Small Business Superstitions and Why They Work
My little social media marketing company in Corpus Christi, Neovia Solutions, is growing up. We’re moving into a bona fide office space on June 1. I went full-time with the business mid-February, and it’s hard for me to believe we’re already here. Aside from the fact we’re growing, I was equally excited about what this meant: I got to outfit the office.
Like all good start-ups, I trekked to Ikea to find the least expensive (yet majorly fashionable) office furniture I could. My little Pontiac Vibe was packed to the brim with cardboard boxes and silver metal legs and accessories – and yet, stuck in the midst of the brown and grey jungle, a little green sprig. Bamboo.
My business partner may beg to differ about the necessity of this little piece of office décor, but I am adamant about it’s luck-creating properties. My mom was raised in Japan, and she always said that bamboo brings luck to the room in which it resides. So what’s the first thing my first business’s first office needs? Bamboo.
And I’m not alone. Matt Egan, who owns the San Antonio SEO company Image Freedom, has a pair of lucky shoes he calls the “signing shoes.” He wears them to all his contract signings. Greenville branding firm Brains On Fire believes it’s a bad omen if a new employee eats alone their first day of work. Ryan Paugh, cofounder of Gen Y networking site Brazen Careerist, carries a bad-energy blocking stone in his pocket.
For some, business superstitions revolve more around about not creating bad luck. Employees at San Antonio Web Design firm Internet Direct think it’s bad juju just to talk about their servers. “We don’t ever speak badly about our servers,” tweeted David Stinemetze. “They somehow always find out and crash on us.”
I don’t actually have any reinforcing proof that bamboo has brought me luck. As a matter of fact, I ended up killing all of my bamboo when I moved in with my boyfriend by accidentally leaving it outside for a few months, unattended. And we’re still pretty lucky in love.
But, I persist in my belief enough to think it’s better to have bamboo in our office than not to have it. And that seems to be the key to understanding why superstitions actually work.
SUPERSTITIONS CREATE PERSISTENCE.
This is due to something psychologists call the partial reinforcement effect. Here’s my Alton Brown-style breakdown of partial reinforcement: Whenever someone does something expecting reinforcement (the thing we think is going to happen as a result of our superstitious activity), and it doesn’t happen, it actually creates a sense of persistence in that person. In other words, we keep doing the superstitious activity believing that reinforcement will occur at some point. Or that the thing we want to happen has come at certain times in the past as a result of this superstitious action, maybe not all the time, but this might be one of those times.
So, why do I think our superstitions are actually good things for business owners and start-ups?
BECAUSE START-UPS REQUIRE PERSISTENCE.
We grind and toil away in our businesses, sometimes 16 hours a day, giving it all our best. Every day we are faced with the possibility of rejection, failure, negative bankrolls, and bad decisions. We’re not superstitious because we need the extra luck more than others – it’s because of that partial reinforcement effect.
The fact that we put on the lucky shoes over and over again means that even though we didn’t sell the last two clients we wore them to, we’re still wearing them. And that’s important because it means that we’re still pitching and we’re still selling. We are persistent in the belief that we will sell again in those lucky shoes. And because we believe it, we’ll keep putting them on and trying. And the trying is what makes them work.
And so, our lucky bamboo awaits it’s permanent home in our new office, to do it’s job: make me go out there every day, believing that today will be the day the bamboo will deliver me luck.