Do You Think Like a Business Owner or a Boss?

by Susan Mazza | Posted | Leadership

Do You Think Like a Business Owner or a Boss?

Do you consider yourself a business owner? If you don’t, it might be time to change your mindset. After all, ownership is one of those qualities that leaders often say is lacking among those they lead and manage. Unfortunately for many of us, ownership is more of an elusive “concept” than a clearly articulated expectation of how we should think, strategize and perform on the job.

It’s not enough to simply ask someone to be an owner. If you want to cause people to act as owners, you will need to impact the way they think about their role. Why? Because behavior is always an expression of mindset.

Here’s how to begin: consider how you think about your role as a leader. Start your inquiry into your own mindset by asking this question: do you think like a business owner or do you think like a boss?

Consider the following differences between the mindset of a business owner vs. a boss:

Business owners focus on both getting the job done and ensuring what they do delivers the best possible value. Bosses focus primarily on getting the job done well.

“You need to spend all of your time and energy on creating something that actually brings value to the people you’re asking for money!” – Gary Vaynerchuk, Founder and CEO of VaynerMedia

Of course, it’s not that a boss doesn’t bring a laser-like focus to the value created through execution. It’s just that when you work as an employee, you are held accountable for getting the job done vs. being held accountable for maximizing the value that fuels profitability now and into the future.

The additional value you add in everything you do as an employee goes to the heart of the difference between meeting expectations and exceeding expectations. Keep in mind, though, that exceeding expectations is not about doing more work than you promised. Business owners quickly learn that profitability suffers when they do more than they are being paid to do in terms of the cost of resources. But tread lightly, bosses: It can be easy to fall into this trap and not pay more for employees to work, for example, 60 hours instead of 40. However, there is indeed a cost in terms of morale and productivity when you continue to push people to work too hard over time.

Examples of value you can add include leaving a system or process better than it was when you began by improving the process as you go along, providing better information, improving accuracy and increasing efficiency or effectiveness. Value-add can also include increasing customer satisfaction, improving communication and offering innovative ideas for the future based on what you learned and discovered.

Business owners focus on next practices. Bosses focus on best practices.

“It’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen.” —Scott Belsky, Co-founder of Behance

Next practices require innovating what you will do next based on a combination of what has worked, what is changing and what is needed now and into the future. Best practices, on the other hand, involve modeling the best of what has worked in the past.

Many organizations face a persistent pressure to cut costs and do more with less. Given those pressures, it can be hard for a boss to maintain a value-driven mindset and keep their attention on building a better future rather than a better right now. Remember, the same is true for those you lead. Unless you can shift your mindset from focusing on the job at hand to focusing on the potential to create future value, it will be hard for those you lead to start thinking and acting like owners.

Business owners focus on being the best and doing their best for those they serve. Bosses focus on how to get the most out of those who serve them.

“Always deliver more than expected.” – Larry Page

Those you serve includes not only your customers or business partner, but just as importantly, those you lead.

Consider that if you want others to serve you well, you must first consider how well you are serving others.

The most successful business owners recognize they are only as good as the talent they can attract. They seek out people who are the best at what they do and celebrate those who have different or even better capabilities than they do. Performance evaluation and compensation systems do not always encourage this same perspective, nor do they give you as a boss the same freedom or flexibility a business owner may have in terms of compensation. Bosses who think like business owners recognize and actively influence these systems to ensure they are designed to support a mindset of ownership.

Thinking like an owner has its benefits

The bottom line is, if you want to cultivate an attitude of ownership in those you lead, you must be certain you are “going first” by cultivating a mindset of ownership yourself. It is only then that you will be able to actively cause people to make the shift from acting as employees who have a job to do, to acting as owners who have a difference to make in the business and the world.

My hope is that this post helped you consider the question: how can you think more like a business owner, so others can follow your lead?

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