Gavin Moffat: Why less is more in business

Gavin Moffat

This article is an extract from entrepreneur and communications expert Gavin Moffat’s book: ‘Swimming with Sharks – Simple business guidelines for a complex world’ (published by Tracey McDonald Publishers). The book is currently available in bookstores and as a Kindle edition on

My eldest daughter Page is an artist. She has tremendous talent in a number of artistic areas, and I don’t say this just because I’m her dad. Like many creatively inclined children, her creations were riots of colour and ideas. When she began showing talent my wife provided her with a guiding principle that she took to heart: sometimes less is more.

This is a tough thing to learn at any stage in your life. It’s so tempting to add just that one extra stroke on the drawing or painting. One extra snip of the bush as you are pruning in the garden. Just one extra layer of management in the company to make reporting lines easier.

Sometimes less is more. It’s a tough concept when you are trying to do just about anything. It works, though, and fits in neatly with Ockham’s razor, a wonderful principle from a 13th century Franciscan monk and philosopher that says, ‘When you have two competing theories that make the same predictions, the simpler one is the better’.

We tend to over-complicate things. Not on purpose. It is simply part of our nature to believe that more is better. Take South Africa’s labour legislation for example. It is often maligned as being a direct cause of declining employment numbers. Instead of the labour market being allowed to ebb and flow naturally, as it should, it is over-regulated with the result that hiring happens less than it should, and illegal hiring practices are rife – which means that employees are unprotected by the many laws that set out to do that.

With an inordinate number of rules and regulations around how your teams interact within their own business, let alone with your customer, the chances of successful, enjoyable and productive interactions are less than ideal.

Over-complicating a loyalty plan makes it less useful. So that’s a bit of a waste, unless underutilisation is in fact your intention.

South African insurer Discovery Health’s Vitality programme is an example. It’s just a little bit too complicated to get into but when you do, there are benefits that can have a significant impact on your household budget, particularly when you reach the Diamond status. But it is understanding the system that matters. I bet the people at Discovery believe that they do a fabulous job at both educating and keeping it simple.

There is, without doubt, a need to have a framework to provide guidelines or rules of engagement. But if you make yourself tough to deal with by placing unnecessary hoops to jump through, the outcome is inevitable, unless you’re Apple. But, there is only one Apple and Mac fans will do what they will do.

When your rules, solutions, packages and products are simpler to understand, you should be able to sell more. Let’s not even get to banking products or mobile operator packages or medical aids – is there anyone who understands their cellphone package or medical aid plan?

So less is more. It’s tough if you are working with outdated or legacy systems, policies and procedures but it’s worthwhile revisiting them to see what can be carved off and what is critical to the success of your business.

In fact, to summarise, less is more. Do away with complications. Sell more. The end.