Fuel for the Brain: Do You Have an Owners Mentality?

The mail lady asked me if I would hire her son for a summer job at Tornado. I was a bit taken back by the question since the extent of my discussions with the mail lady are about what snacks we have in the office or why nobody was here for a few days when the mail was delivered.

Now here’s the twist: She went on to tell me that her son is addicted to drugs. She said “he’s stoned most of the time” Yes, I woke up this morning and decided I wanted to hire somebody who’s work ethic must be the pits. What’s worse is she’s ok with this. She said so… “just as long as it is on the weekends.” Insane!

It’s certainly surprising to me that people don’t try to hide facts like this when they’re telling you about qualifications for a job. A few months ago I interviewed a web developer and everything was going great until he told me that he had his contractors license taken away from him by the state of California. Saying he had to “leave California.” I didn’t probe further and immediately wrote him off my list of potential candidates.

These are two rather extreme examples of something I wanted to talk about. A mentality I’m calling the “employee mentality.”

I touched on it briefly in my last post about developing web applications.

What is it? Its the difference between people who go to work just for the paycheck and those who think like an owner and strive to create value and do a better job. People who work for more than just a paycheck. It’s called the owners mentality because business owners tend to go the extra mile with customer service and services for clients.

“Owners” are the people who accomplish two, four, even ten times as much as their peers. To be an owner you don’t have to own a company. In fact, many owners don’t.

In the case of the mail lady’s son, she’s obviously of the opinion that having a warm body in the office is better than nothing and inherently creates value for me. The faceless company. This is completely wrong. It’s wrong for a small business and it’s wrong for a huge company (where people like this often hide).

The owners mentality is difficult to describe. You either have it or you don’t (although you can learn to have it). I think one of the best tests of an owner mentality is when someone is involved in a project and it’s doomed to failure (or so everybody thinks) and one person rises to the occasion and saves the project (and the client) and sees the value of the long term client relationship (rather than the immediate reward).

11 responses to “Fuel for the Brain: Do You Have an Owners Mentality?”

  1. we instill the ‘owners’ mentality into my staff – everyone whose come and gone started with us (we take people fresh out of college/uni and train them up whilst paying little) has moved into really excelletn jobs for big agencies – they still speak highly of us and the people they go to work for are impressed with our approch.

    In a small business such as mine its easy to do – we get people involved early, explain lots about process and introduce newbies into high level meetings (as long as they dont speak)where they get more insight into the project and what makes the customer tick (we ask odd questions that help us identify things that will give a customer a warm and fuzzy feeling) – as far as im conserned, owner mentality can be instilled in people – its bad management that’s often the problem in letting people hide…

  2. employee-mentality: feel entitled, expect to come in and be told what to do and do it with the lowest common denominator in mind. don’t ask questions. live in fear. expect to ‘be there’ forever. wonders when someone ‘moves their cheese’. allows outside forces and boss/client moods to affect personal performance and self-worth. owner-mentality: have ownership in the purpose and the project, see the big picture, always strives to improve self and others. has an inside-out mentality, where the direction and purpose comes from within and affects everything externally.

  3. “It’s certainly surprising to me that people don’t try to hide facts like this when they’re telling you about qualifications for a job.”

    You’d rather they didn’t tell you?

  4. No, I’m glad they told me. The point isn’t that though, the point is WHY they even tell me. I didn’t ask and it doesn’t help them to have me know their situation.

  5. Can I have a job? I get out of jail next tuesday so I could start on wednesday… 🙂

    Yeah, information like that really makes it easy to make a decision… 🙂 From the standpoint of the person seaking a job it makes no sense to disclose it voluntarily… not that it is in their best interests to be dishonest, but, well, ok maybe if they’re drug addicts it would actually be in their best interests…

    I agree though… I don’t see how people can be happy to just be a warm body… They should find a job that they’ll enjoy if possible… 🙂

  6. as an employer myself, i’ve to say i’d agree with anthony.

    honesty in pre-employment disclosure is indicative of a person’s integrity, therefore that person’s possible qualities in a work environment. especially so if these are aspects of a potential employee an employer would never otherwise find out.

    odd, isn’t it, how we ‘punish’ someone for demonstrating the very qualities of honesty and frankness that we expect of them?

    pete rayan
    kuala lumpur, malaysia

  7. Anthony: I understand the point you were trying to make. In both of the two examples I gave the people who mentioned their problems really did it completely out of context. I hadn’t asked if they had any problems like this, and they didn’t reveal it in a manner that says “look, I had some problems but I’m past that” – quite the contrary, the kid was still on drugs and the developer by admitting his past problem revealed an inner quality of lack of respect for authority.

  8. I think the discussion just swayed a little bit from a point about hiring people addicted to drugs or with serious past problems (the developer). Now it’s about whether I appreciate honestly and disclosure. Yes, of course I appreciate honesty. Who doesn’t!? But I’m not about to hire a person who is drugged up on the weekends just because he was honest enough to tell me.

  9. Ownership mentality just a twist of a concept a new way of saying team player.
    Perhaps allowing ones co workers the freedom to succeed as team players is to empower them with the knowledge that even though they are employee’s enthusiasm and innovation are allowed and encouraged. Most businesses will punish their best workers more than their poor ones. And it is a fact most higher level managers get there because of their ability to intimidate, threaten , and bully. In my 45 years in the work force and military it is uncommon to have leadership that effectively promotes the higher level of team work. We as Americans generally value and emulate the wall street vicious competitiveness elements rather than the cooperative goal directed inclusive team spirt.

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