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Employees Acting Like Owners

Posted on Dec 2, 2014 by in Leadership | 3 comments

Employees acting like owners?  Who doesn’t want a team of entrepreneurs who are driven, motivated, focused, and acting like owners?  This was a recent discussion I found myself in with a group of investors.  It was actually a simple question I asked, why doesn’t everyone act like an owner, and I got a really simple answer back (honestly, it was kind of a back handed slap – what do you call that again?) — everyone isn’t an owner.

a-employee-cartoon

This got me thinking.  What is it that motivates me, the management teams I work with, and specifically the amazing teams I get a chance to spend time with?  I explored my specific motivations and found that what drives me is:

– Always being treated as a professional

– Not being micromanaged

– Trading complete flexibility for almost ruthless accountability

– Being an owner

Over the last 15 years that I have built my current career (I say current because there is so much more to do) I’ve never been into the beer keg, video game, college culture environments that seem so popular today.  Let us not forget I lived through 1998 – 2001 so the current “cultures” are not new to me, it didn’t motivate me in 1999 when I was in my twenties anymore then it motivates me now.  What motivated me in 1999 and what motivates me now is: being treated as a professional, never being micromanaged, having complete flexibility with my schedule as long as I always deliver, and of course being an owner.

This brings me to the reason for today’s post.  Leaving that meeting (discussion) I committed to myself to never be involved in any business that didn’t map to what motivates me – but – I had a challenge.  WhatCounts was a 14 year old business that at one time everyone was an owner, but that was no longer true.  Yes, I was the founder of a company that candidly had moved away from my primary motivators.  Through a series of acquisitions, rounds of financing, and new benefits packages the “everyone is an owner” got lost.  Let me tell you, that isn’t easy to fix 14 years into a business.

Urvaksh Karkaria of the Atlanta Business Chronicle published an article entitled “Invasion of Tech Giants Forcing Up Salaries”.  He asked me to be interviewed for the article (yes, that moment I realize he only puts me in articles that are published on a Friday following Thanksgiving, so I know you didn’t see it).  In this article I shared that I will never be involved in a business where every single team member is not an owner – and I am proud to say this is now also true for WhatCounts.

The next time you are with me, and I ask a simple question, just slap me, and give me the simple answer, I am a good listener.

3 Comments

  1. You hit the nail on the head with this post. Ownership is everything to employees who are entrepreneurial in nature and thrive off of solving the whole problem. That got me to thinking…
    (how) does one only hire employees who want to be owners? Not everyone wants to be an owner. While I don’t see that much in startups under 15 people, it seems it would be more difficult as you scale up.
    How did you manage to re-instill the ownership mentality at WhatCounts?

  2. I am more of your mindset. However, I am married to someone who does not have the ‘owner mentality’ at all. Is she loyal? As the day is long (so I hope!). Is she passionate? Totally. Is she a great co-worker and employee (we do not work together)? Amazing.

    So whats the difference? Risk + Rules.

    Some people hate risk. Some people love rules. (rules: some call this micromanagement some call it structure)

    I have found this to be a common thread of those who do not think like owners. And that is ok. I even want to work with them. I wouldn’t want them on the cap table.

  3. Great post. It’s an awesome idea to nail down what’s important to you and match that to the companies that you partner with. I’m always shocked at different people’s priorities can be.

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