One of the biggest challenges in changing your lifestyle from an employee to an entrepreneur is focusing on maintaining the right ownership elements, instead of having a boss who sets the business goals and provides performance feedback. Most entrepreneurs relish being their own boss, but find the transition to “ownership thinking” more difficult than anticipated.
Even if you were an “A Player” in your previous organization (top 10-percent performer, high integrity, exceeding on commitments), you had peers and executives around you to provide coaching and keep you centered. Rick Crossland, who has almost 30 years of experience in developing, recruiting and leading high-performance cultures in bigger companies, outlines the elements and perspectives every A Player needs for ownership thinking in his book, The A Player. The strategies he writes about are the same strategies I have been recommending to every entrepreneur for growing their business for years.
Here are eight of the key ones that I often prioritize for startups:
1. Align all actions to the purpose of the business.
Every entrepreneur needs to start with a purpose for the business -- something that goes beyond making money, or working on your own schedule, just like employees seeking to be A Players need to look above their immediate tasks. Every business purpose must be customer-centric and even altruistic.
2. Spend time working on the business as well as in the business.
Most entrepreneurs, whether they be technologists or restaurant owners, spend too much time working in the business, rather than planning their next best move on the business. Employees can be much more productive if they fully understand strategic issues and focus correspondingly.
3. Understand the need for an investment well before results.
Unfortunately, we all live in an age of instant gratification, where we expect immediate payment for every effort. Entrepreneurs need to evaluate investment size and cycles for future payoffs, while employees need to realize that promotions require investment in learning and skills.
4. Quantify the return on investment before taking action.
In startups, I see technical entrepreneurs who build things just because they can. Comparably, in larger businesses, I see employees who work hard on things that have little return, for them or the business. Both need to first evaluate the value equation for the business to get where they want to be.
5. Accept personal growth as directly related to business growth.
If the business is unhealthy, it’s hard to be an A Player. In this highly competitive world, no growth means falling behind, as a business or in your career. Great entrepreneurs are always focused on the growth dimensions of more revenue, change and profit.
6. Recognize business growth means attracting more customers.
Employees and startups need to focus on the two dimensions of customer pipeline -- how many people need what you are selling, and what percent will actually buy, based on your actions. Everyone needs to see their actions as part of solving customer problems and selling.
7. Increase ownership thinking on business efficiency.
As an A Player or an entrepreneur, the focus of work must not be on hours spent, but time and cost savings without micro-management. Everyone wins when more efficient work on the right items results in higher customer satisfaction, lower prices and more profit per employee.
8. Enhance team engagement and business culture.
In every business, large or small, there must be no “us versus them.” Team success requires all members be engaged and working together. Business success requires employees, executives, partners and customers not fighting for advantage through a business culture of win-win relationships.
If you are contemplating a future as an entrepreneur, now is the time to hone your focus and skills that relate to ownership thinking. It you do it well, you will win be being an A Player in your current role, and your odds of success in the startup world are much greater. That’s the definition of a win-win opportunity.