I recently attended an event with a group of business executives, and heard the CEO of a large, successful company speak about his strategy upon coming to the company. His approach rang true to my core passion. He said, “When I came here, I was betting on people, and planning to invest in our employees.”
His strategy reminds me of one of my favorite quotes, “People will work hard for money, but give their life for meaning.” In launching Versique, one of my driving strategies was to invest in people, and the things they are passionate about. My goal was to build a business that brings value to our clients, and provides our employees with a way to invest in what matters most to them – their careers, their families, and their community.
The CEO of this company knew that investing in the right employees would ultimately be the #1 reason they continued to dominate their industry. When speaking in terms of investment, the importance of finding the right people doesn’t stop at the top with the leadership. Rather, it applies to employees at every level of responsibility.
Knowing that people are the most important element of a business, it’s vital to have the leadership team on the same page when it comes to human capital investment. When leadership differs on how a business should be operated, and how they should invest in talent, it causes divisions that are detrimental to the long-term health of a company (as well as the employees and company culture).
Two Types of Business Leaders
For me, this realization came after years of co-owning a successful Minneapolis executive search and consulting firm. As an owner, I made good money, and many leaders would be completely content, but for me, the saying was true, “Money can’t buy you happiness.” I wanted more than what I was experiencing. I wanted to build a Company that had meaning that I continued to be a part of – something that I knew would be exciting, and that our employees were excited to be a part of as well.
Realizing that our leadership team was not all on the same page with our vision for the future, I decided to part ways to build something that my business partner and I could truly feel confident about standing behind.
There are two types of business owners, I have learned – neither right or wrong, just different. They are “Invest Back in the Company & Grow” owners and “Lifestyle” owners. The Lifestyle business owner typically feels the satisfaction of security, consistent revenue, and a set lifestyle acquired through prior input. This type of business owner’s main objective is not necessarily to invest back into the future of the company. They’ve “made it,” and they are satisfied with the current state of success.
The Invest & Grow business has a slightly different approach. This owner keeps driving, investing, and ultimately moving forward to a common goal that is built over years. This type of leader is “all in” to build something that is different for his/her employees and customers.
Changes Aren’t Easy, but They’re Worth It
As I processed the realization that I wanted a company with a different vision, I looked back at my career and asked myself, “Why did I start this [former] company in 2001?” And the answer was quite interesting. The company I worked for previously to 2001 did not have the growth opportunity that I wanted. It was a Lifestyle company that didn’t invest in its employees. The owners were present, but driving little value.
After realizing we needed to make a change, we launched Versique in January of 2013, and decided to take an “Invest & Grow” approach. We wanted to truly invest in our employees.
Going back to the morning I heard the CEO speak about investing in people, it made a real impact on me, and helped me to realize that although I fully agreed with his approach, I was a part of a company that didn’t make such an approach possible.
Now, 18 months later, Versique is built with a collaborative model, empowering our employees to achieve their goals. Our employees are now developing careers, rather than jobs. We invest in the company and employees first, and owners second. The level of accountability is tremendous and the future is bright for those that want it.
Do you have a story of company or personal success due to difficult changes you’ve made?