Coaching Employees to Think Like Business Owners


Motivating employees can be difficult. Aren’t they supposed to show up to work already motivated? The zeal that a business owner has for his/her own business is what can make it really challenging for entrepreneurs to keep employees motivated. They just don’t understand how anyone couldn’t be as excited about the business as they are.

How do you coach your employees to think like owners? How do you, as the owner, figure out what motivates your employees, so that they can be self-starters? And when motivation wanes, how do you get it back and maintain it?


o   They make a difference

Show employees that they make a positive difference to the company’s bottom line when they employ and actively participate in cost-saving or efficiency improving measures.

o   Get to know your employees

Everyone is different. You have to know what makes each of your employees tick, because what works for one may mean nothing to another.

o   Respect their feedback

Don’t send marching orders from the top without getting staff participation and input on strategy development. They’re more likely to execute better when they were part of formulating the plan.

o   Employees are winners

Make sure your people know who the company’s competition is, and foster a sense of pride around “us versus them”. Competitive employees will rise to the challenge because they want to win. If they feel like winners, you and the entire company will win too.

o   Invest in employee development

Invest in your staff through education and career development. Have them attend industry trade shows, bring in motivational speakers, send them to school/training to improve their skills. These are all investments with positive ROI that not only add to the bottom line, but also make a deposit into the karma bank.

o   Encourage them to take calculated risks

Do not punish for failure. Failure is part of the learning experience and can be used as a learning tool. Create guidelines and objectives in which they understand the parameters of risk, how much of it they can decide to take on their own, and how much should be decided by the team.

o   Provide clear expectations and responsibilities

Make sure that each team member’s responsibilities are clear to them and written down in the job description manual. Be sure that all incentives and rewards are clearly stated upfront, achievable and agreed upon, to avoid any future conflicts and misunderstandings.

o   Setting expectations and making them accountable

Expect the best from your employees, don’t set the bar too high, but don’t set the bar so low that they lose motivation.

o   Share the love

Share rewards, and not just the financial ones. Be sure to give credit where it’s due. Give them the recognition they deserve. Public praise goes a long way to boosting their self-esteem. Better yet, let the team set up the rewards (decide if they want a pizza party or extra comp time).

o   Build trust

Incrementally give more responsibilities as they demonstrate that they can handle it. Give them authority to make decisions and do what you promise to do (don’t put off taking action on an issue they have asked you to handle repeatedly). This is especially important over time as your employees stick it out through good times and bad times.

o   Be transparent

One of the most difficult aspects of being an owner is sharing revenue information with your employees. Some owners feel that their employees will judge them in terms of how much they are getting paid. If you’re paying your employees fair market wages, this is not an issue. How can your employees work on growing your revenue if they don’t’ know their starting point? Being transparent says that you trust them for this information and they can trust you with helping them achieve the sales goals.

In the long run:

Ideally, you’ve hired a crew that are already motivated. Ultimately, employees have to get something for themselves, such as pride in doing a job well or adding X dollars to the company’s bottom line. Achievement-based motivation usually works best. Inspire them, practice what you preach, nobody likes to be managed or worse yet, micro-managed, but employees do like to be coached, mentored and praised.

Getting to “eCommerce heaven” is a marathon, not a sprint – but you can get better every week.

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