If you've spent the past few months racking your brain for innovative ways to cut costs, jump start sales or make your company run a little more smoothly, you're not alone. Any business owner knows all too well how daunting it can be to tackle all of the problems that come along with the job of running a company in good times (not to mention keeping it afloat in turbulent financial waters!). But what if you weren't the only owner of your company? What if you had a couple, a few, or a bunch of other people to whom you could turn and who could help you shoulder the burden?
If you're not quite following, allow authors Pamela Bilbrey and Brian Jones to explain. They say that when it comes to problem-solving, your employees should be your most valuable asset: after all, those who are closest to the work are the most likely to see opportunities for innovative solutions regarding improving customer service, reducing costs, and increasing efficiency. And by helping your employees feel like owners of your company, you'll be able to tap into that important source of solutions and innovative ideas right when you need it most.
"Would your employees act differently if they actually owned your company, and if it was their money being spent?" asks Bilbrey, coauthor along with Jones of the new book Ordinary Greatness: It's Where You Least Expect It...Everywhere (Wiley, July 2009, ISBN: 978-0-470-46172-3, $24.95).
"I'm thinking they probably would. One of the most valuable things that you can do as a business owner and leader is to make your employees feel like they have a stake in what's going on at your company. When you get them to commit to viewing the organization as if they own it, your employees are more likely to voice their ideas for improvement, and they'll be more passionate about putting them into action."
Naturally, creating a sense of ownership in your employees doesn't mean handing over the keys to the front door and taking a vacation yourself. It simply means taking the time to ask your employees what they would do if they were in your shoes. Ask them what they would change to help ensure that the organization runs more efficiently and less expensively.
"The survival of any business depends on whether or not the staff remains engaged and invested in the business by contributing their best ideas," adds Jones. "Creating a sense of ownership increases the energy, enthusiasm, and commitment of your workforce and drives results."
So what's the best way to get the ideas flowing and your staff feeling like owners at your organization? Bilbrey and Jones say that the following questions are great ways to get the creative juices, and eventually, your profits, flowing:
Question #1: What would make this a better place to work? One of the most important aspects of any well-run business is employee retention. If your employees are happy and satisfied, they stick around, meaning less time and money spent recruiting and training new employees. Happy employees are also more productive and do better work. If they like the place where they work and feel as though their needs and concerns are being addressed, they are more likely to want to do what is in the company's best interest.
"Managers often shy away from asking this question for fear of what the answer might be," Bilbrey explains. "And most of the time, they are surprised by the answers they receive. It's often the little things that matter most to employees, and the changes are usually minor and very cost effective. It may be something as simple as making sure that the water cooler stays stocked in the break room, or keeping the temperature in the office regulated throughout the seasons. The answers you get to this question will most likely not be outrageous requests, and your employees will appreciate the opportunity to be heard."