All In: How Women Entrepreneurs Can Think Bigger, Build Sustainable Businesses, and Change the World
April 11, 2017
Stephanie Breedlove's new book is written specifically for women entrepreneurs, but many of its lessons—like how to create a company of owners—are important for all leaders.
All In is written for women entrepreneurs by a woman entrepreneur. Through research-based information, case studies and transparent insights from her 20-year journey, the author delivers business and life strategies, and recommended steps at each stage of business building. Sharing her journey from startup to scale to a $55 million acquisition, Stephanie Breedlove recognizes that the advancement of women in entrepreneurship requires transparent discussion of barriers, plus an authentic look into the journey. With only 14,000 women-owned U.S. businesses over $10M in revenue and women-owned businesses comprising only 12% of those with over $1M in revenue, Breedlove has joined the efforts to increase the number of women building companies of scale.
In the following excerpt, Breedlove is sharing her philosophy, strategy and experience with building company culture.
Create a Company of Owners
“Stephanie, we have an emergency. I think Dan is going to leave. He’s been with us less than two years, but he’s crucial to the company,” Bill said as he pulled up a chair and leaned forward on my desk ready to put our heads together. “He’s burned out. He’s tired from the effort required to complete the latest big project in time for the year-end tax deadline. It was as stressful as it gets, you know. The additional bonus really isn’t enough. Although our current recommendations for his team are intended to provide support for efficiency and more manageable workflow, he seems to be unsure of whether we are supporting him or undermining him. I don’t think he’s feeling the fit here, and we can’t force it.” “You’re right,” I said. “We can’t force it if we are not right for him. However, if this is a mess of misperception, then we need to set the record straight, make sure he sees our honesty and transparency, and give him the support he deserves. Let’s put our best foot forward and no matter the outcome, it will be the right one for all of us.”
The next day, we sat down and I laid out everything, exactly as Bill and I had discussed it. We say what we mean. We do what we say. We don’t play politics with ulterior motives. We value the talents and viewpoints of every team member. We welcome tough conversation. It’s how things get done. We support others with all we’ve got. We are proud of what we do, how we do it, and we believe strongly in the power it creates for the company and its people. We don’t claim to have all of the answers and understand fully that our Kool-Aid isn’t for everyone.
After we sat down with Dan, the misperceptions melted away. He had never worked for a company like ours, and in that moment he became a believer and one of the strongest advocates for the culture created by a company of owners.
We went about the business of building and scaling our company by building the foundation of people and their talents, their passions, their desire to learn and grow, their drive to be successful, and their need to add value and to be valued. It was important to recognize that our team wanted to love what they did and who they did it for. A business is more than just people; however, when the culture the people create becomes the foundation for every business decision, you are building a company the right way.
Daren Martin, a PhD in psychology and a business change expert, terms it creating a company of owners. His perspective on this topic is refreshing. In his book, A Company of Owners: Maximizing Employee Engagement, he shares that, “If you believe this is a pipe dream, be prepared to be left in the dust by individuals, leaders, and companies for whom this is the only way of operating.”
A Company of Owners Is a Company of Engaged Individuals
Have you ever worked for a company of owners? It’s the rare company that has what it takes to do the work to achieve it. A company of owners is a culture of individuals who thrive, take ownership, and produce superior results. Its leaders desire success for every individual in the organization as the method for creating company success. Mentorship is not an extra or a benefit. It is built into the way you work, and it is smart business. You have an opportunity to engage this unique way of thinking to take your company to new heights. It all starts with engagement.
According to Jim Clifton, CEO of Gallup and author of The Coming Jobs War, creating world-class business models that will ignite GDP growth and job creation requires engaged employees. Gallup research shows that 28% of the U.S. workforce is engaged. The rest are killing time or disengaged at a level that is damaging your company. Engaged employees are the creative force behind everything good that happens in a company. The ability to make progress in meaningful work is the most important factor in engaging people in their jobs. An enriching learning and growing environment where people can succeed often and want to succeed allows them to produce at higher levels. The result is a team that has a psychological stake in the success of the company that drives forward progress on a daily basis.
Breedlove & Associates (now Care.com HomePay) is a classic case study proving the success that results from creating a company of owners. A majority of companies don’t do this, because it requires long-term commitment and hard work that most don’t want to muster. By creating a company of owners:
- Your company will grow comfortably and swiftly, maximizing pace while delivering excellence.
- Your company will have ease in capitalizing on new opportunity.
- Your company will maximize efficiency and profitability.
- Your company will grow in quality and value throughout its lifetime.
Understanding the benefit of creating a company of owners is one of my unique talents. It is a subtle talent, but one that has come naturally for me throughout my time building a business. My passion for it gives me comfort and conviction in my statement that it is the right way to build a business, not to mention that I’ve had the opportunity to live it in all of its glory.
A Call to Action
Start by establishing a corporate ideology that becomes the foundation for every business decision, and is the engine that keeps everything moving in the right direction. Ensure your company’s overarching goal is also a mantra for your team’s efforts. It should provide a passionate call to action. When all strategies and actions are consciously aligned with the highest-level goal, everyone in the company has a clear understanding of where you are going and how their efforts matter. I have steered clear of layering on an additional mission statement, as it conjures up feelings of corporate prose that no one understands or bothers to remember. Instead, keep it simple. Make it tangible.
Use it as a litmus test for decisions. Our company goal is to be the undisputed industry experts with an unparalleled offering. We often asked ourselves, “Does this decision enhance the quality of our service offering? Will adding a new expertise add value?” When you march in unison toward a common goal, you grow the power of company unity.
Then go to work. I have boiled down our methods for creating a company of owners to ten. These ten methods, listed below … are the ingredients that built a foundation with the strength to maximize impact and become a sustained value creator:
- Hire to groom yourself out of a job
- Train at every level
- Create new opportunities
- Make communication key
- Make decisions with a top-down approach
- Set expectations and create accountability
- Offer partnership
- Deliver quality not quantity
- Support the healthy whole
- Make it fun
Excerpted from All In: How Women Entrepreneurs Can Think Bigger, Build Sustainable Businesses, and Change the World by Stephanie Breedlove.
Excerpted with permission of the publisher, Greenleaf Book Group Press.
Copyright © 2017 by Stephanie Breedlove.
All rights reserved.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Stephanie Breedlove has been a successful entrepreneur for over twenty years. After launching a career in corporate America with Accenture, she found her true calling as co-founder and CEO of Care.com HomePay (previously Breedlove & Associates), the nation’s largest and most comprehensive household payroll and tax firm. Her startup grew to national leadership, was later acquired for $55 million, and plays a vital role in the quality and professionalism of the in-home care industry. Stephanie’s expertise has been showcased in The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, Working Mother, The New York Times, and more. She is an active angel investor and is engaged with organizations that share her passion for strengthening entrepreneurship.