Turning Your Employees Into Owners
Phone: 314.283.1589

Your company works because of the business savvy and institutional knowledge of everyone on your team. To successfully transfer your business to new leadership, you have to transfer that knowledge. The tricky thing is that not all of the magic resides in your brain—everyone who works for you, regardless of position, has a piece of the puzzle.

So, how do you find and document all the information the future leaders need?

Employee surveys, customer surveys, and full SWOT analyses (“SWOT” stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) can only take you so far. These are all important parts of the strategic planning process, but I’d like to suggest doing something different as well.

Instead of just collecting information and analyzing it with your central leadership team, really talk to people—and listen. Listen more than you talk, so that your employees feel empowered to speak freely. These conversations give you an opportunity to get the perspectives of others so you can develop a holistic understanding of the company together.

This process–gathering information, exploring and sharing different perspectives, and then organizing and prioritizing the results—should sound familiar; it is the foundation of good strategic planning. It is also a great way to gather the information your successors need to get a good start to their own strategic planning process.

Key Takeaways

  • You probably don’t personally know all the components of your business’s success, but you need to find that information so you can pass it on.
  • Traditional planning tools, such as employee surveys and SWOT analyses, are important, but do not provide complete understanding.
  • Take the time to talk with all of your employees, no matter what their positions are, and ask for their perspective on the company. Then listen.

Creating a Shared Fate

As a business leader, I think it is helpful to create an all-for-one, one-for-all type mentality.  When I purchased my company, I used our first meeting together to talk about where the company had been and where it was going. But to make those plans a reality, I needed each and every member of the firm to be 100% invested in the future of the company. One of many factors that we used to align all of our values was to create the Shared Fate Program.

How Shared Fate Works

Each year’s earnings became the baseline for the next year’s profit-sharing program. We shared a portion of profits over that baseline with all employees. Each employee’s share was based on his or her position’s influence on the bottom line.

Every month, we calculated how much money would go into the program based on the average day’s outstanding on accounts receivable. We distributed the money monthly as well, the idea being that the team got paid when the company got paid. I wanted everybody in the firm to be exactly as pleased or as not-pleased as I was over the performance of the organization.

How Shared Fate Worked Out

The Shared Fate Program had a couple of outcomes:

  • When things were tough and we had to make difficult decisions, people were more supportive because they understood what we had to do and why we had to do it.
  • When we were bouncing back from the recession, people were more willing to work extended hours, including, sometimes, working over the weekend. They understood the importance of coming back slowly, instead of being in a rush to rehire a lot of people. Because we didn’t get trapped in overconfidence, and instead were willing to put in the extra work, the team as a whole benefitted.
  • The last outcome is a little more indirect. In a lot of companies, if people notice somebody is slacking off, they don’t do anything. They might say “hey, I can’t believe the leadership hasn’t noticed what Phil’s doing,” but they don’t see it as their problem. In our organization, the Shared Fate Program created a culture of accountability where if someone wasn’t doing their job, the others would say something to that person. People who didn’t want to pick up the pace would usually leave on their own because they didn’t feel like they fit in. The result was an organization where everyone was really working together towards common goals.

Key Takeaways

The Shared Fate Program created an all-for-one, one-for-all mentality that we all benefited from. By sharing information about money, as well as a portion of the money itself, we got a better-informed, more supportive, and more responsible workforce. When the leadership acted like we were all on the same team together, everyone else got into the act, too.