Based on my own business experience of many years on both sides of the owner-employee role, I believe that one of the quickest ways to improve your employee career is to think like an owner. Conversely, the best owners are those who relate to the positions of their employees. I’m convinced that is why many great business leaders remember working their way up the ranks.
For example, Howard Schultz was not the founder of Starbucks but started his career in one of their first 60 shops. After various roles in this one, he worked his way up the corporate ranks to run the organization of now almost 30,000 stores. Steve Jobs started his technical career creating circuit boards at Atari, before joining Steve Wozniak to build personal computers in his garage.
Both of these leaders and countless others practiced ownership thinking well before they were actually in an ownership position. Yet I find that most employees I know limit their scope of thinking to the specific role they are assigned, and rarely tune their thinking and results to the following key principles that every business owner can relate to:
- Connect every action to a business focus on customers. Many employees stay self-centered or focused on internal politics as they fight for change, new systems, or bigger budgets, rather than communicate how their interests are really aligned with helping customers and growing the business. Your career will only grow as the business grows.
- Don’t forget to work on the business as well as your role. If your job is processing transactions, you need to work on ways of enhancing transactions from a customer perspective and how to attract more business, rather than just counting transactions. Your boss will see more value in you, you will learn more, and have more fun.
- Be willing to invest in effort, before expecting results. Too many employees expect a raise or promotion before they accept new responsibility, rather than demonstrating their value, getting training and experience first. Every business owner understands the need for making an investment first, before realizing any return or instant gratification.
- Communicate the business justification for your efforts. Being busy or working long hours does not always mean a larger value to the business. Your help in quantifying the return to the business will solidify your career, make your requests for new assistance and new tools easier, and give you the insight to perhaps start your own business.
- Realize that your growth is related to business success. This starts with picking your roles carefully – to be in the right place at the right time. Get out of dead-end jobs, and don’t be afraid to move on to a new company if the current one is not healthy. I advise owners that they have to know when to give up a business, as well as when to buy one.
- Recognize career growth requires changing with the business. If you hate change or don’t see it as a new opportunity, you are not thinking like a business owner. Owners realize that customers and the market change rapidly these days, and innovative change is necessary to keep ahead of the competition and survive. Accept and capitalize on change.
- Highlight your productivity and efficiency rather than workload. Quantify your results in terms of cost per transaction, higher customer satisfaction, lower prices, and profit per employee, rather than the number of transactions or hours worked. Help your owner get beyond the misleading metrics of employee overtime and salary increases.
- Recommend ways to improve team engagement and culture. Owners know that their success requires that all team members be fully engaged and working together. They see top performers as employees who are the glue that makes this happen, by mentoring new employees, recommending improvements, and jumping in where help is needed.
Thinking like an owner in your current job is especially valuable if you are contemplating a future as an entrepreneur. But it works just as well if you are merely looking to advance in your own company, or simply want to improve your quality of life and satisfaction in an existing role.
Start today in overcoming any “we-versus-them” or “win-lose” mentality. Only you have the power to make your career a win-win opportunity.