The other day my brother-in-law and I were discussing ways he could generate a larger income. He’s a very successful physician’s assistant and makes a comfortable living, however I was sure that he could do something more with the skills he has. As we spoke and brainstormed, I got really excited about some of the ideas and we even started talking about business plan concepts and possible ways to put those concepts into action. These entrepreneurial thoughts never would have crossed this engineer’s mind 5 years ago. So, what happened? Thinking like an owner happened and changed the way that I and my team members see our world.
How do you get non-owner team members to think entrepreneurial thoughts and act like an owner of a company? The concept seems easy to teach. Ask yourself, “What would the owner of the company do in this situation?” In practice however, it’s much more difficult. It has taken our firm several years of intentional, incremental steps to create and then solidify this concept as part of our culture. The two keys to create the “think like an owner” culture are:
- Live the principle of being 100% responsible for the success of your duties
- Appropriately incentivizing and rewarding those who fulfilled their duties.
Be 100% responsible! How do you teach and reinforce the principle of not allowing anyone to makes excuses for actions related to things they were responsible for? We made sure that all our team members from top to bottom understood that they could no longer blame others, make excuses, or justify errors—even when they were right, and it was someone else’s fault! We taught and repeated the mantra that “The moment you accept responsibility for everything in your life is the moment you gain the power to change anything in your life.” Author Unknown. Make “Be 100% Responsible” one of your focus areas and you will be amazed at how the conversations change from “look what they did” to “what could I have done?”.
Appropriate Incentives and Rewards. How could we reinforce this principle by rewarding our team members appropriately? Our leadership team dedicated an entire strategic planning session to this concept. Countless hours over a 12-month period were used to create and develop a system that tied each person’s responsibilities to their reward. No longer would a discretionary bonus based on subjective opinions cut it. We wanted our employees to be 100% responsible for their actions. Promoting 100% responsibility and enabling our team members to feel that they had control of the amount they received was the key to making them think like owners.
Turning the ownership of our team member’s actions over to them and then rewarding their entrepreneurial effort produced incredible results. Our profitability doubled from 11% to 22%, employee engagement increased, and our proposal win rates climbed to over 50%.
Conversations like the one I had with my brother-in-law are a common occurrence with our entrepreneurial-minded team members. They now see the world with different eyes and are constantly on the lookout for ways to improve our companies, and in turn, their own situation.