Acting like an owner is not enough

There is an old piece of conventional wisdom regarding leadership. Encourage your employees to act like owners.

The idea seems good on the surface. An owner would ideally have more connection and engagement with his or her business. This would hopefully lead to decisions that are more centered around the business’s success.

However, even the strongest connection to your business isn’t enough. There are plenty of owners whose businesses fail. It’s not because they didn’t care or put the business first. It’s because they didn’t know what they were doing.

A while back, my brother and I had a showdown at the cash register of a fast food restaurant. We both wanted to treat for lunch. I un-holstered my credit card while he drew a wad of cash. When the dust cleared, my credit card had been swiped and his cash lay silently on the counter.

As we left the store, my brother commented, “You can tell that she’s not the owner. The owner would always take the cash.”

My brother is a chef and has run many restaurants including his own. He understands the difference and implications of cash and credit card payments.

My guess is that the cashier had no clue about those differences. She probably assumed that accepting a credit card for the purchase was pretty much the same as accepting cash. Most likely, no one ever told her the difference.

To act like an owner, your people must understand how the business works. They need to know the difference between cash and credit. They need to understand how money, information, products, and services flow through the organization. They have to understand how the end-to-end customer experience works. Only then can they truly act like an owner and make good decisions.

I wonder how many leaders take the time to give their people the business context needed to act like owners?

As leaders, we can’t expect our people to act like owners if we aren’t willing to provide the information, motivation, and ability needed to do so.


Brad Kolar is an executive consultant, speaker, and author with Avail Advisors. He can be reached at

Print Friendly, PDF & Email