When I owned Café Aurora, all of my employees had to be jacks-of-all-trades. They cooked, served, cashiered and cleaned. I knew in my gut that every one of those jobs could contribute to, or take away from, the revenue each day. Each day that they did their best, receipts would be high.
My experience with leadership up to that point had been from leaders who treated their employees as people who should just do their bidding. Secrets were kept, decisions were made behind closed doors and performance was never mentioned until you failed and were terminated.
From the very start, I chose to treat my employees far better than the way I had been treated. I chose to instill pride of ownership in every employee. While I was the owner legally and financially, I could include my employees in decision-making and ask them to figure out how to maximize their performance.
I encouraged all of my employees to create relationships with our customers. I wanted them to converse, not transact. To chat about their lives, their work and their fun. “How are things? How’s your family? What did you think about the game last night? How was your vacation? Any plans for the holiday? How did you like the lasagna or the chicken salad or the chocolate chip cookies? What else would you like us to serve?” They had pride of ownership.
I also shared with them the frustrations of being a tiny shop that got short shrift from the giant food suppliers. We’d get deliveries to the middle of our cafe right at lunch time. My workers would juggle food prep, cashiering and putting the stock away without prompting or complaint. They had pride of ownership.
As I tallied the receipts at the end of each day, I’d share the total with them. They enjoyed feeling great when we had an extraordinary day and they put their heads together with me when it was slow. They would help figure out what we could do to boost business. They were owners is mind and spirit and that made a huge difference. Four years of profit, a nice ROI when I sold. And three women who were able to move out of food service and into better jobs, They had pride of ownership.
This is my philosophy of ownership. It is sharing the good, the bad, the ugly and the really terrific. And it is not about money, although I was sure to compensate them well for their hard work. Early and often I would praise them for making our customers happy and contributing to the day’s receipts.
Our customers would come in asking for “Betsy’s empanadas” or “Arthella’s chocolate chip cookies.” They loved Rosie’s big smile, and they were kind about Lourdes’ shyness. My employees were individual people who became the faces of Café Aurora just as much as I was.
Pride of Ownership Increases Profits
I’ve never known an owner who doesn’t have pride in their chosen life’s work. They had an idea, they gathered the resources and built up the momentum to bring it to the market. They’re committed, no matter the long days, sleepless nights and worries. They know how one great success propels them to work for the next one, and how a great disappointment propels them to work to avoid another one.
When an owner instills pride of ownership in their employees across the board and throughout the organization, they gain partners for this commitment. The more people working towards the goals, the more likely you are to reach the goals; and the more swiftly you are to make course corrections when needed, and to solve problems that hold you back.
Owners know with every fiber of their being that the buck stops with them. Good days, great days, bad days, are on them. And this doesn’t stop when they instill pride of ownership in their employees. It magnifies the value of pride of ownership.
When I say that instilling pride of ownership in every employee is my philosophy of ownership, people ask me to explain. I describe it as way of thinking that goes far beyond the legal and financial definitions of ownership. My philosophy of ownership says that every person, in every job, can contribute to the success of the business. In ways that may not be at all obvious, each person makes a difference to the top line and the bottom line—as long as you, the owner, believes this to be true. And as long as you, the owner, makes pride of ownership the driving force every day, in every way.
The custodial staff? Yes! The coders sitting in dark rooms with ear buds? Yes! The customer service reps? Yes, yes, yes!
One of my most successful clients did not believe this at first. Mike thought that no one else would ever feel pride of ownership the way he did. He thought the person at the service desk in the morning was only there to take customers’ names, phone numbers and keys. When Mike finally agreed to hire someone with better skills, he quickly saw what a difference it made. The new guy was friendly and outgoing, and took pride in answering customers’ questions and ensuring they got their cars back on time and in perfect condition. Instilling pride of ownership in the service desk guy increased Mike’s revenue nearly 30% in the first year.
Instill Pride of Ownership in Your Company
If you realize that there is terrific value in instilling pride of ownership in your employees, and aren’t sure how to do that, do what I do with my clients:
I ask them to describe how they think and converse with people they are close to. Often these are partners, or family members, or their executive team. These owners share the problems as well as their goals, their benchmarks and their actuals compared to plan. They’ll have strategy meetings and set goals.
I then suggest that they bring some of their employees into these conversations. Give them insight into what makes the company hum, and what holds it back. Personal compensation or financial status doesn’t have to be divulged.
Ask these employees how they can help. It’s key to ask this as a very open-ended, high gain question: “How can you help?” There are no boundaries, no votes and no criticism (“We don’t do that here.”). It’s a big, wide ranging conversation. You can return to their ideas in the coming days and weeks, asking for more details, and most importantly, giving them responsibility and authority to write a plan and implement it.
I find that the encouragement with measurement—but no punishments—makes a huge difference very quickly. One HVAC company’s service reps started asking more about people’s habits regarding temperature settings. Customers would describe their preferences and the customer service reps would offer suggestions. There were more sales for improved equipment because the homeowners were buying things that they knew would make them happier in their own homes. There’s no system of scripts and sales quotas that would make that happen. Each rep felt pride of ownership and that made a huge difference.
Start asking yourself how you can instill that in your employees throughout your organization. It is not an executive thing, or a management thing, only. It is a company-wide thing that starts with you. Recognize every single contribution from every single job, and your company-wide pride of ownership will soar.
Trivers Consulting Group has been creating results for privately held companies for 20 years. Give us a call if you are ready to grow both sales and profits. It’s profits that increase the value of your company. 703-801-0345.