Your Employees: Five Ways to Get Them Acting Like Owners

By Andrew J. Birol, President, Birol Growth Consulting

If you are a business owner, your company is your baby. And, like any parent, you feel frustrated when people don't treat your beloved with the same care you do. Whether you run a service, manufacturing, or retailing business, how you address problems and opportunities is never how your employees do. Their commitment, urgency, and results fall short of yours, and this can frustrate you to no end. Well, two things are true: 1) your business is not their baby, and 2) they will rarely treat it as such. Whether your employees have stock, profit sharing, or are an ESOP, only you are in the position to:

  1. Take risks without possibly getting fired,
  2. Invest but enjoy the profits, and
  3. Live for results while even your senior management avoids risk.

Even if you tossed your company keys to your employees, most would play it safe, turning down potential rewards for the security of following someone else's orders. So, how can you get your employees to act like the owners they will never be? Here are five ways to foster an entrepreneurial spirit throughout your organization:

  • Correct errors of commission; punish errors of omission. As much as it hurts to watch your employees screw up, at least they did something! Nothing is worse than hearing an employee say, “Well, you didn't tell me I should do that.” If owners have a problem educating personnel, they have a bigger one instilling common sense and responsibility. Don't punish someone who reacted and tried. Punish the one who stood by and did nothing.

  • Don't be a control freak with ADD. If entrepreneurs had to take psychological tests (God forbid!) Im sure that more than a few would learn they are control freaks with ADD. If your people are giving up rather than following up, ask yourself, “Am I the problem?” If the old expression, “Let God; let go,” resonates for you, practice what you preach. If you always step in and nothing still happens, then step out and see if it helps.

  • Reward actions and efforts beyond results. Many employees start out caring and give up when their actions don't produce company results or personal rewards. Put another way, stress occurs when people feel no control over their situation. If one of your employees feels passionately about taking an action that failed, take a hard look at why. Perhaps he feels he has lost the battle in a war you know is winnable.

  • Support champions, long shots, and rebels. One of my favorite expressions from the man who taught me marketing was, “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” If your company has succeeded enough to require change from within, recognize and reward those who can drive it.

  • Identify and reward those doing right for the business. Too often, the people most able to stop loss, prevent waste, and report theft don't do it because they don't think you care if they care. Walk your own talk and recognize those who did right without being told. Nothing serves as a good example more effectively than a good example next door. Take spontaneous and immediate actions that signal what you stand for.

Make no mistake, entrepreneurs and employees are different animals. The former are needed in small numbers, while a majority of the latter ensures that the work gets done. Still, if you respect your employees for who they are and how they help you succeed, they will support you. While most of your people avoid the risks you live to take, they will cover your flank if you demonstrate that you respect them for doing so.


Articles by Birol Growth Consulting are © copyrighted and all rights are reserved. However, articles may be reprinted with prior written consent if attribution is included as follows:

© Copyrighted by Andrew J. Birol, President of Birol Growth Consulting, who helps owners grow their businesses by growing their Best and Highest Use ®. Andy can be reached at (412) 973-2080, by email at, or on the web at

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