The Boss Rules: Rule #3

I’ve worked for a lot of years, enjoyed a lot of roles in my career, and had a lot of supervisors who imparted their wisdom to me.   I thought I would share some of their best stuff with you in this series of posts called, “The Boss Rules.”

Rule #3:  Become an “Owner”

Sometimes the best things a boss can say to you hurt a little.  I remember going into a review feeling pretty good – sales were above goal, profits were good, and there had been no mutinies.  I was a newer sales manager so I was comfortable (and probably a little cocky) that all the metrics were where they needed to be as I walked into Joe’s office.

At the end of my review Joe said, “Butch, you’re becoming a fine manager and things are looking pretty good.  But you know, what I really want you to do is focus on becoming an owner.”

I thought, “An owner!  Am I being offered a stock option?”  But then I remembered we were a privately held company.

“Butch, we serve a lot of restaurants,” he said.  “Have you ever noticed the difference the owner of a restaurant behaves compared to the rest of his staff? “

“Yes,” I replied, “They stay late and come in early, they shovel the drive when it snows, and they fill in for the cook who calls in sick.  They work really hard.  And I think I’ve been doing those things.”

“You are doing those things, Butch, and that’s really good,” he said. “But there’s something else about ownership you should consider:  owners put their family names on the signs outside.  At the end of the day, not matter what calamity befalls them; owners know that they must take care of their customers because their business is a reflection not only of them, but of their entire family.”

“I’m proud of my work, Joe.”

“I know you are and you should be, but ownership is more than doing good work.  Ownership is an attitude.  When a customer at a restaurant has a complaint about a bad experience, a manager says, ‘Sorry, my cook called in sick’ or ‘we’re short of staff’ or ‘my delivery guy was late’ or ‘our internet connection went down.’  But the truth is:  Customers don’t care about why they didn’t get a good meal; they just want a good meal.  Owners are ultimately responsible and they have to behave accordingly. 

Butch, during our last review you said you were going to get an appointment at the Burger Boy account. When I asked you about how that was going, you said ‘I sent three letters, four emails, a made three phone calls but they haven’t called me back yet.’  That’s an effort, Butch, and that’s exactly what a manager would do.  But an owner would just get the appointment – some way, somehow – he’d figure it out.  Does that make sense?”

“Joe, I was just trying to tell you I was making an effort.”

“I know Butch, but I want you to know that I trust you and I want to empower you.  So, moving forward, when we decide to do something, I’m going to ask you just one question:

       ‘Do you own this?’ 

If you say ‘yes’ then I’ll assume it’s going to happen.  I’ll assume you’ll give it every possible effort, and I won’t have to worry that it’s going to happen.  And I’ll assume you will ask me for help if you can’t get it done on your own.  And when I ask you about it, you can say to me, ‘I have this done’ or ‘I don’t.’  Cool?”

“Cool.  I can own this.”