One day you see it clearly. Your employees are acting like owners. How did it happen? When did it happen? Why did it happen? These are all good questions. Chances are if your employees are acting like owners it is because you treat them like owners. What are the signs? Here are five big ones.

Make Decisions
Employees who act like owners don’t wait for you to send down an edict about what should be done. They take responsibility. They ask thoughtful questions and then they get the work done. They are not afraid to make a change in their schedule, to do something for a customer that is out of the ordinary, to step-up when something requires action. They may not always make the right decision… but no one is always right. What’s important is that they have the confidence to try.

Work to Innovate
Employees who think like owners are always looking for a better way to get the work done. Call it continuous improvement, constant innovation, being creative or any other label you want to use. The fact is employees who think and act like owners are not satisfied with doing the same thing over and over. They seek out ways to improve a process, a product or the work environment. They also are not afraid to tell you, the owner, that you need to step it up and change along with them.

Fiscally Responsible
A company, especially a small to medium size one, does not have unlimited financial resources. Employees who act like owners know that equipment, software and other business expenditures are necessary and an investment in the company’s future. They also know you have to spend money wisely to make money. At my company we put together a wish list every year of things we need and prioritize the items. Employees understand that if we buy some things that may affect how much money we have for the bonus pool. Often they decide that we should buy that new camera or server because it is a good business decision for the long term. Additionally, I see my employees being fiscally responsible when spending our client’s money. If they are traveling they book the best fares. If they are buying stock photos they look for the best deals. They spend our client’s money as if it were our money.

Care Passionately About Clients
One thing I have never heard any of my employees say is, “It’s not my job.” When an employee acts like an owner they care about satisfying every client, even the ones that can be difficult. And, they don’t pass off work just because it may not be something that they are involved in directly.  We all serve customers no matter what the business. They are the reason we are in business and we cannot survive if we don’t deliver on what we promise. Employees are critical to this effort and those who act like owners know the importance of developing a deep relationship with clients. 

All In
Let’s face it, as a business owner you do many things you love and lots of things you would prefer not to do. That is the nature of business. Employees who act like owners are “all in” no matter what the task. There are people who profess to be all in but complain if they need to come in early or work on a job that is difficult. Employees who are all in do not sit on the sidelines and take shots. They are committed to the business and their fellow employees.  They are less concerned about self-promotion and more concerned about doing everything they can to insure the success of the organization.

It is rare to be able to create an organization where employees act like owners. It takes the perfect blend of the right people and an owner who is dedicated to creating a culture of ownership. I’ll explore that topic next time.


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