The SCARF Model could be your Ultimate Entrepreneur Growth Hack

As entrepreneurs, our ability to interconnect with people is the number one growth hack that determines our success or failure with the SCARF Model as our instruction manual.

We often hear that life did not come with an instruction manual and that mistakes are bound to happen. As entrepreneurs, our ability to interconnect with people is the number one growth hack that determines our success or failure and it is normally at this precise intersection where the shit hits the fan and where we as entrepreneurs need the SCARF Model as our instruction manual after all.

The Scarf Model for Entrepreneurs

Does this not resonate with you? You might be a saint, but unfortunately, I do not fall in that particular category and that is why I was so extremely excited to have discovered the SCARF model. Although the SCARF model is meant to be used in the business world predominantly, I find it extremely helpful in any possible situation you might find yourself in. Understanding why people react the way they do is half the battle won. This proverbial instruction manual could be your make-or-break opportunity.

Dr. David Rocks’ SCARF Model Explained

The SCARF Model was developed by Dr. David Rock, in his paper SCARF: A Brain-Based Model for Collaborating with and influencing others. SCARF stands for the five key areas that can trigger our flight-or-fight reaction. These are:

Status – our relative importance to others.
Certainty – our ability to predict the future.
Autonomy – our sense of control over events.
Relatedness – how safe we feel with others.
Fairness – how fair we perceive the exchanges between people to be.

The importance of the SCARF model is that it can help you minimize perceived threats, and to maximize the positive feelings generated through reward when working alongside others.


Status relates to how we perceive our position in relation to others we have a relationship with. This includes our friends, family, colleagues, or superiors. It can include job titles, recognition or criticism, salary, or any other aspect associated with our status.

Me giving well-meaning advice to a colleague, a spouse, a friend, or my children could be perceived that I believe I am superior to them, which in turn leads to a threat response on their part. Asking them for their input on the other hand will show that we are on equal footing and change the potential threat to a reward.


Certainty relates to how sure we feel about events, people, and situations that affect us. The higher the level of uncertainty, the more likely a threat state will be created.

How often have you seen people finding themselves in uncertain situations acting out in a really bad manner? Your immediate response is to retaliate, but if you understand where they are coming from, you can enact a win-win situation.


Autonomy relates to the level of control we have over the decisions that affect us. The more autonomous we feel, the more engaged, confident, and satisfied we tend to be.

A typical example where autonomy is at stake is if you are trying to micromanage someone. If someone believes they are being trusted, they are bound to add more energy to whatever they do. Or at least that works for the majority of people.

For obvious reasons, this only works if you are sincere about your trust. A passive-aggressive boss could give the impression that he trusts your judgment and work ethic, but the moment you try and make a decision that is not in line with his limited beliefs, you get shut down faster than a crocodile slaps his jaws together.


Relatedness concerns the quality of our relationships with others or our sense of belonging. Generally speaking, people like to feel “part of the group”. Studies (and common sense) have found that the feeling of belonging leads to the release of the feel-good hormone Oxytocin.

The fear to lose our friends if we become successful might sound really insane, but it is real. If I start running faster than my running buddies, I will probably lose their friendship, and if relatedness is of high importance to me, I will rather hang back and not be the odd one out.


Fairness relates to our sense of justice and right and wrong. Our perception of whether we have been dealt with fairly can motivate and keep us engaged or it can move us towards a threat state where we are more likely to respond in a defensive way.

In the event that someone believes to have been treated unfairly, their insular cortex is activated. The insular cortex is that part of the brain associated with disgust. An effective way to counteract this situation is to be open and honest about the situation.

It’s a matter of perception

It is so important to note that all of these feelings are created by our perception thereof. Whether it is true or not is irrelevant. If we perceive it to be true, we and everyone around us are in for a rough ride and that scarf is going to be wrapped around our necks even tighter than before.

It is very easy to be flippant about this, by accusing someone that their feelings are just a figment of their imagination. You might not win every time if you are cognisant of the fact that our emotions are based on perception, but you are guaranteed a loss if you react as if the receiver of your message is crazy.

Benefits of using the SCARF Model as an Entrepreneur

If we are feeling threatened, our productivity will drop. Depending on the specific situation, you might not act immediately or consciously. There might be a build-up period until one day … BOOM … the shit hits the fan. Or it might linger on a little while longer.

Feeling threatened blocks our creativity and essentially blocks our ability to solve problems.

In essence, it takes away the adventure that you have had in your business.

On the other hand, the SCARF model can help us to get ourselves and those around us in a state of flow where everything gels, the energy is in a peak state and we are all having a blast while giving it our all.

The Common Sense Method

The situations discussed above should be in most cases basic common sense in how people should be treated. If a client seems to be completely unreasonable, step back and think before you react. This could be likewise applied to a colleague, your supplier, a child, or anyone else that you come in contact with.

In our world of interrelatedness, you never know when the scales will be turned and you will be on the receiving end.

Matthew 7:12 aptly sums up the concept. In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.

The Ultimate Growth Hack for Entrepreneurs

It is believed that amongst all the ammunition we have in our arsenal as entrepreneurs, our ability to control our emotions is our ultimate growth hack as entrepreneurs. There are very few things in your life as an entrepreneur that are so depressing as the thought of “I should have handled it differently” or “I have got so much going for me, why am I not feeling on top of the world.”

I think it is time to warp that SCARF nice and cozy around yourself.

Your day might just be so much warmer with it.

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