• Mark Thomas

How to create a culture of self-employment within your organization

In A Perfect World

In a perfect world, most people would like the freedom, independence and control over their destiny, similar to what a business owner enjoys. This aspiration includes the flexibility to work on what they choose and the monetary rewards that come with achieving success. However, most people don’t have the financial wherewithal and/or the risk tolerance to realize this dream.

My challenge for CEOs is to create a work environment in which your employees have a sense of ownership and the commensurate fiscal rewards that come with self-employment.

What if we could give our employees the ability to work for themselves, the freedom and independence of self-employment, without the risk of capital that business ownership demands? My challenge for CEOs is to create a work environment in which your employees have a sense of ownership and the commensurate fiscal rewards that come with self-employment.

Say what?

My belief is that most people are success minded. That is, they aspire to do well for themselves and the company where they work. They seek opportunities for pathways toward growth, professionally and financially. Most of us are also looking for a better work-life balance, the ability to make more money and to have more control over the future.

Furthermore, who is the most motivated, hardest working person in a company? It’s almost always the business owner, founder or CEO. Why? They have the most to win and the most to lose. If you believe, as I do, that most hard-working people have ambitions beyond getting a paycheck, then how can CEOs and business owners provide that environment and align individual employee aspirations with company vision, mission and strategy?

Begin with a plan

Imagine sitting down with your employee, asking them about their goals and aspirations and sharing your commitment to help them realize those dreams. How do you think they would respond? Has any other employer asked them such questions or showed an interest in understanding their personal objectives?

I see four things that must happen in order to create a “self-employment” culture for employees while aligning those activities with the needs of the business:

  1. Create a career plan with the employee that clarifies their personal vision, mission and strategy for their definition of success.

  2. Clearly communicate your company’s business plan with the employee to help them understand its vision, mission and strategy.

  3. Find common ground between the two plans and develop specific, measurable goals and key performance indicators (KPIs) for you and the employee to track.

  4. Create a compensation package that provides added incentive to work hard and engenders a business owner’s mindset.

If you have a business owner’s mindset and vested interest in the success of the company, you bring a different work ethic and attitude to the job. You’re a much better problem solver. You’re more inclined to innovate. You’re continuously looking for ways to improve client relations and internal operations.

Self-employment mentality works

After many years in corporate America, I had the opportunity to work for a venture capital technology startup. It was during the “dot-com” era and for those of you that may remember this period, it was a buoyant time with crazy stock market valuations and company founders cashing in extraordinary gains after taking their company public.

No matter the size of your company, creating a business owner’s mindset throughout the organization offers a compelling growth strategy for leaders to consider. If your company’s goals are in line with the personal goals of the employee, they will be more motivated to move the business forward.

Stories about founders buying $300K cars and funding their retirement in one fell swoop were the talk of the town in the venture capital world. What I witnessed during those two years was extraordinary. Everyone worked long hours, for little guaranteed pay, but with the promise that if we were successful in fulfilling the vision, mission and strategy laid out by the CEO there would be a huge payday. This is the perfect example of an entire organization embodying the work ethic of a business owner. It certainly motivated me to work hard.

Contact me if you’d like to learn more about creating a “self-employment culture.” I believe we’ll see more companies adopting this strategy to keep employees engaged in the 2020s.


About the Author: I’m a Vistage Chair and Executive Coach specializing in helping my clients become better leaders and achieve their most ambitious definition of success. I can be reached at Mark.Thomas@VistageChair.com.

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