Wednesday, March 22, 2023

8 Elements Of Ownership Thinking And Startup Success

consulting-training-learn-fingerIf you feel trapped in an unsatisfying and limiting role as a business professional, I urge you to assess your own interest and level of ownership thinking as a means of enhancing your career or growing your own business. I have personally worked as an employee of large businesses, as well as a partner in new ventures, and found the latter to have more potential for satisfaction.

Many business leaders today, including Howard Schultz, didn’t start the businesses they are now known for, but worked their way up the corporate ranks with ownership thinking. Others, including Jeff Bezos, spent time in a big company or two before breaking away to form their own. Jeff Bezos now manages Amazon, which encompasses over 40 subsidiaries and operates worldwide.

There are many components of an ownership thinking strategy, but here are some of the key ones from my own perspective, as a mentor and advisor to aspiring entrepreneurs and new business owners:

  1. Willing to take smart risks which lead to long-term growth. Some people expect instant gratification and are stressed out by any risk. Smart business owners realize that no returns occur without some investment and risk. Top performers are constantly looking for new opportunities and are willing to evaluate risk versus reward potential.
  2. Count business results as a measure of personal growth. For some people, business is just a job, whereas with ownership thinking, your business health is the real measure of your personal success and growth. Rather than a focus on salary and perks, your focus is on customers, revenue, and operations. Your personal goal is to succeed in business.

  3. Seek out a higher purpose for the business and live it. Business owners whose priority is only a financial gain will struggle to find satisfaction and happiness. A better purpose is to be your own boss, or advance a cause that you are passionate about, such as helping the disadvantaged or reducing the negative impact of climate change.

    For example, founder Blake Mycoskie of TOMS shoes inspired everyone by highlighting and effectively communicating the higher purpose from of helping the needy by donating a pair of shoes for every pair sold. The return and satisfaction were greater than the cost.

  4. Relish the fun of innovatively shaping the business. As an employee, you only get to execute what others tell you, even if you enjoy the challenge of new requirements and customer feedback. Enjoy the personal learning and growth of new business models, more efficient processes, and existing customers who remain loyal due to your initiatives.

    Amazon and Jeff Bezos credit much of their growth and success to incenting innovative business “experiments.” Bezos believes that if you double the number of experiments you do per year, you’re going to double your agility, and thus grow the business more rapidly.

  5. Incent high employee engagement and accountability. Business success, and yours, requires collaboration and accountability at all levels, including vendors, partners, and other constituents. You must focus on nurturing a culture of working together, continuous learning, and constant change to keep up with new customer and market changes.

  6. More new, repeat, and loyal customers means career success. Solving customer problems as a first priority is key to ownership thinking. Employee thinking is looking for higher pay and less work per customer. In my experience, the level of customer focus by the whole team is a good barometer of the overall business health, growth, and culture.

  7. Use metrics and data to quantify progress and return. Ownership thinking requires tracking progress and seeking feedback on results. Unfortunately, continuing to perform without collecting business data or measuring customer metrics is a recipe for failure. I recommend customer satisfaction as well as financial metrics to track business health.

  8. Don’t rely on micro-management for business efficiency. Successful ownership thinking requires an ability to delegate and coach others, rather than a dictatorial level of micro-management. You and the business both win when everyone takes responsibility for their actions, resulting in high productivity, customer satisfaction, and higher returns.

Thus, whether your objective is to rise to the top of your current company, or enjoy the challenge of building your own business, I recommend that you hone your ownership thinking abilities with the strategies outlined here, and related ones. Don’t jeopardize your health or your long-term satisfaction by pushing harder and harder on the wrong work elements, and enjoying it less.

Marty Zwilling

*** First published on on 3/8/2023 ***

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