Finding Happiness Inside Dunbar’s Number

Dunbar's numberHave you ever heard of Dunbar’s Number? No? Well don’t feel bad; I hadn’t really heard of it either until I had a conversation with Ben Bergeron, the owner of CrossFit New England, not too long ago.

We were talking about Box growth and what an owner should consider when looking to expand. That’s when he educated me in regards to Dunbar’s number.

This number is the suggested cognitive limit by which individuals can maintain stable social relationships. “I think a lot of people get caught up in bigger is better,” explained Bergeron. “There’s a number called Dunbar’s number which is 150. This carries over to the military [and] to big corporations so they keep divisions of their business under 150. In the CrossFit world this shows up really well.”

According to Bergeron, Affiliates that are inside of 150 members should have a very cohesive membership base with very little drama. “Everybody can have a meaningful relationship with everybody,” he said. “That’s a beautiful place to be. Once you get into that next tier and you’re into that 200 to 250 number, that’s where you’re well past Dunbar’s number and you’ll start to experience a thing called entrepreneurial regret, which is, in this space, people usually haven’t systematized their business … so they are still running their business like a sole proprietor, yet they are running a much bigger business.”

This regret is derived because the business has so much more overhead and stress, but just being in that next tier doesn’t necessarily equate to an exorbitant amount of money. Instead the Affiliate creates more work for not much more money and the frustration consumes the individual. “It’s no longer a passion, it’s now a chore and a duty. It’s consuming their whole life. They don’t have any free time, and this career they got into because they were passionate about, they actually start to regret,” explained Bergeron. “That’s a really difficult place to be, because even from that 150 number to 225, what happens a lot of times is the staff grows, but the bottom line doesn’t get any bigger.”

So this brings us to our thought and concern about Affiliation. It’s vital to keep a strong watch on your membership numbers. Although you may think that more and bigger is better, it’s vital that as you reach 150 — which can happen quickly for some Affiliates — that you take the time to systematize your business to prepare yourself, and your staff, to make that leap into the 150 plus tier.

So ask yourself two questions: Are you ready to jump to that next tier? Or have you truly found blissfulness inside of Dunbar’s number?

Look for more from this interview in the 2015 September/October edition of Box Pro Magazine.


 Photo by Jordan Samuel Photography

Tyler is a former editor of Box Pro Magazine.