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Thinking Like Owners – Understanding the Big Picture

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Business Advice

If you own a business, its likely not unreasonable to think that your business could be double what it is today if all your people treated your company with the same passion and effort that you do. If your people executed day-in and day-out making decisions like invested owners instead of regular employees, your profits would likely be more than double what they are today. How to solve how employees think and behave is a issue most businesses struggle with for their entire life cycle… so much that most businesses fail to try.

Without an obvious solution, you are faced with two choices: accept the ‘status quo’, or start working towards a solution. Assuming you’re interested in working toward a solution, read on.

There are two key factors that will get your people thinking like owners, instead of like employees:

  1. Understanding – your people need more of the owner’s ‘big picture’ understanding
  2. Reward Sharing – your people should share in the same risks and opportunities that motivate the owner

This topic will focus its attention on Understanding. Reward sharing requires its own dedicated post. 

When owners and managers think about training or education, most tend to limit their ideas to the following: skills training, health and safety training, domain knowledge (industry/domain training). But if one of your biggest problems is getting your people to think and act like owners, then you are missing arguably one of the most effective types of training: company training.

Company training means that we open company information up to our employees so we can help them act and think like owners do. For some companies, this means opening up the finances and getting employees engaged in the company’s financial success (or failures). For other companies, they aren’t comfortable with an ‘open-book’ policy, but instead focus on process training – helping employees to understand the systems that run the company. These systems might include areas like:

  • Sales – What level of service are we committing to our customer? What promises are made to our customers? What is our target market?
  • Process – How are tasks done in the company? Who is responsible for each task? What are the costs to the company when tasks are incomplete or done incorrectly?
  • Information – What information is required by each area of the company? Why is information important? What are the costs of missing information? How does information flow from start to finish?
  • Finance – What are the costs of mistakes? What are the opportunity costs suffered when things go wrong? How could employees benefit from less mistakes, less opportunities lost?

When you focus on company training, you start to surface the people in your company who can think like entrepreneurs, and those who are in your company simply for a guaranteed paycheque.

Step One:  Train + Align Your Company Around the Processes

Start training your people on company processes, and every area of the company starts falling into alignment. Field workers understand what the office needs, the sales staff better understands production, employees better understand the needs of owners and managers. When each area of your company is co-ordinated, execution, efficiency, and productivity improve. With good, trained processes, employees don’t need an owner/manager telling them what/how they have to act – there’s a company-wide, consistent process that tells everyone exactly how to carry out a specified action – the same way that the owner would.

Step Two:  Get Your People to Really Understand the Why’s

Your people have to know how things are supposed to be done. Once you’ve trained the how, you can move on the why. When people understand why they can make better decisions, and tie their actions better to the goal. Paperwork is a great example. If you’ve got critical paperwork that your people aren’t dilligent at completing, chances are that they don’t value understand how that paperwork ties back to company’s goals. If they understood: 

  • the reason and  importance of the paperwork
  • how the paperwork flows through the company
  • the costs of missing paperwork

You’d find your paperwork problems start to disappear. Understanding the why helps people connect their actions to a purpose. If they cannot connect a policy or a procedure to any meaning, chances are that the policy will go ignored. Focus heavily on the cost of the problems and the lost opportunities for increased prosperity and growth for the people within the company.

Step Three:  Teach Your People How to Solve Problems

Not every situation is going to be solved with a clearly defined system or process. That means we have to constantly rely on our people to do some thinking on their feet. Some people have great instincts for problem solving, others need help. As part of their entrepreneurial nature, many owners have developed a higher ability to solve problems. Owners who don’t share their information, or problem solving skills will constantly be relied to step in and solve problems whenever issues arise! Help your people, and yourself, learn to solve problems more effectively. Once your staff understands the processes, the reasons, and how to go after the root causes of problems, you’ll find your people become more responsible, more capable, and less reliant on you to complete jobs on time and on budget.

Next time you think about training, ask yourself what kind of training would really make a difference in your company. Knowing how to operate a piece of equipment is necessary for safety and efficiency….but does it stop there? How much more efficient could your company be if you had 3 more people thinking like owners rather than like employees?

Landscape Management Network offers members all-inclusive training packages for their employees – focusing on health + safety, production systems, and Lean Landscaping training for problem identification and resolution. For more information on LMN, see the website at

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