From The Editor | January 21, 2013

13 Ways To Practically Apply Ownership Thinking


Consultant and businessperson Tom Bouwer, the featured speaker at the Retail Solutions Providers Association (RSPA) annual Inspire winter conference, doused the 80 attendees at today’s workshop with Ownership Thinking principles. Bouwer is educating executives from retail IT reseller, vendor, and distributor organizations at the Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort in Curacao.

Here are three fulcrum principles of Ownership Thinking along with practical advice on how to implement this philosophy in your organization.

How can you expect your employees to care if they don't know what's going on? A foundation of Ownership Thinking is educating employees how your business makes money and getting them to understand if you’re making money. This won’t happen after just one meeting; achieving this goal is a journey that will require several quarters of your effort.

How to apply:

  • Host a monthly company lunch. At the lunch, share an update on your company’s financials. Don’t hide anything and be sure to explain the why. Interpret the numbers for the team and share with them how you feel. That will help them better understand how they should feel.
  • At this lunch, set aside time for questions. At first, employees may be reluctant to ask questions. So spark the discussion by saying, “You might be wondering about this …” and put a difficult subject on the table.
  • Institute a recognition program for all employees, both sales and operations. When publicly recognizing the employees, tie in how their performance has positively impacted your company and your customers.
  • Sit down with the appropriate employees (i.e. managers) in your organization with your financial reports and walk through them together. Answer their questions. Do this until those employees can accurately walk you through the financial reports.
  • Establish clear job descriptions. Tie the job descriptions into your organization’s outcomes so employees understand how they are helping (or hurting) the team.

Apply pressure while applying support. Pressure takes the form of required achievement; support takes the form of information, counseling, and tools. Bouwer also said, "People are their keenest when you put some pressure on them. Create positive anxiety. If it's too easy, do you truly value it?"

How to apply:

  • Schedule regular one-on-one meetings with each of your employees. Newer or struggling employees will need a more frequent meeting (weekly). You may not need to meet as often with performing employees (twice a month, monthly). But don’t go longer than monthly to meet with any employee, not matter how stellar they are. These meetings will keep them – and you – moving as fast as you can.
  • Set clear goals during these meetings. Don’t start the conversation with goals. Start by asking questions, receiving updates, gathering information. Then you and the employee can set their goals together in great detail. The key word is “together.” You shouldn’t dictate to them, and they shouldn’t do that to you, either. Goals should be an agreement.
  • For all takeaways, clearly establish who will do what when. Clearly stating who, what, and when applies pressure. Clarifying how you will help the employee get what they need to achieve their goals is the support.
  • Write down who, what, and when. Your memory isn’t that good, and neither is theirs.


Always, always, always hire for values.

This is the foundation to having the right culture in your company. I feel so strongly about hiring right, I wrote a book on the subject – Hire Like You Just Beat Cancer. (Sorry for the self-promotion, but that’s my recommended resource for how you can build a thorough hiring system for your organization.)

How to apply:

  • Establish a consistent and detailed hiring process at your company. Don’t trust your gut.
  • Hire for skill, personality, and character. Most managers can do a fine job hiring for skills and personality. They spend some time with the candidate talking about their resume. But how do you acquire insight on values? Ask questions that go beyond the resume and reveal the candidate’s character.
  • For a primer on that subject, you can read this article I wrote recently for an HR website: 5 Ways To Find Candidates Who Fit Your Culture.
  • Of course, you can buy my book.

Side note: Thanks to Mark Olson, the RSPA chairman and president of APG Cash Drawer, for allowing me to paraphrase his line “Always, always, always pay by cash” as the header to this section.


The Los Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort in Curacao is hosting RSPA Inspire Jan. 20-23, 2013. For complete coverage of RSPA Inspire, go to