Can an owner mindset inspire an entire culture?

By

Debra von Storch

EY Americas Entrepreneur Of The Year™ Director, Partner, Ernst & Young LLP

Leader devoted to advising and recognizing high-growth companies and entrepreneurs. Growth strategy connoisseur. Mountain climber extraordinaire.

4 minute read 10 May 2019

Show resources

This article explains how an owner mindset can turn ideas into actionable, daily company-wide norms in three distinct ways.

Culture is the foundation upon which every aspect of a company is built. This is particularly true of entrepreneurial private companies, for which culture acts as the embodiment of the founder’s dreams and ambitions. Their vision and passion set the tone for the company and drive every decision in their evolutionary journey.

But can that owner’s vision and passion inspire — and ignite — an entire culture? And if so, how? Based on interviews with several of EY’s Entrepreneur Of The Year® winners, we believe there are three distinct ways an owner mindset can turn ideas into actionable, daily company-wide norms.

1. Make the vision relatable

Building a successful business from the ground up is a journey. But to travel that journey, owners need more than a vision. They need to be able to communicate mission, strategy and purpose, while embodying these things in a way that employees can personally absorb. This way, employees can help achieve the overarching vision.

“You’ve got to provide a vision for your people that they can absolutely relate to and understand, so that everybody that’s engaged on this journey can actually apply it to their day-to-day business and can take actions that take baby steps towards that end result,” says James Nixon, CEO of Nixon Energy.

Teresa Mackintosh, CEO of Trintech, agrees. “It’s very important for all of my employees and the entire team at Trintech to understand our mission. It helps give us purpose in what we do and it helps make sure that we’re aligned in what problems we’re actually trying to solve.”

“I think it’s absolutely critical that a company have a vision,” says Joseph Fluet, CEO of MAG Aerospace. “That vision needs to be clear. It needs to be stupidly simple. You want to drive it to every corner so that anyone you ask in the company — ‘What’s our vision? Why do we get up in the morning? Why do we come to work every day?’— they can answer.”

2. Ignite the passion in others

A founder’s passion is a powerful force that often propels owner-led companies forward. Being able to bottle that passion and encourage it in others can inspire an entire culture and fuel the enterprise.

“As CEO, I ignite power in all of our employees by letting their passion and their personal purpose make the world a better place,” says Jodi Berg, President and CEO of Vitamix Corporation. “I try to find ways to make sure that I can release them and release that power.”

“You want to be unstoppable,” says MAG Aerospace’s Fluet. “It’s your energy and your force of will that are driving the company forward. If you do it right, eventually the company will outgrow your personal ability to drive it forward and at that point you become a real CEO.”

3. Keep your focus on your customer

Vision and passion mean little if owners don’t know their customers, what they want and how they want it. Employees are inspired when customers are inspired. When owners create a customer-centric culture, success tends to follow. In fact, EY’s recent Growth Barometer survey found that US entrepreneurs actually lead the world in focus on the customer.

“If I focus on solving a problem for the customer, then the rest of the things will fall in place,” says Trintech’s Mackintosh. “Profitability comes with that. A great employee culture comes with that. I often think about growth as keeping in balance a three-legged stool, right? You need to balance your customers, your employees and your investors or shareholders, and if you keep those three roughly in balance, then the right things happen.”

Jason McCann, CEO at VARIDESK, knew his company’s product could help individuals. He didn’t realize it could change a culture. “The seed of creating one active workspace for one individual and empowering them to take control of their body all of a sudden starts to have a positive transformation inside the entire organization. And that’s an impact that I didn’t realize we were going to be able to make — that taking care of one person’s back pain was going to have a positive impact on cultures and businesses as they start to think about transforming.”

Successful owners and entrepreneurs are often unstoppable forces of nature. Their passion and never-say-die attitude separate them from people with ideas that never come to fruition. But for entrepreneurs to build a company that can live and thrive beyond themselves, it’s imperative they create a culture that not only embodies their mindset but also inspires their employees, customers and stakeholders to realize the ambition inherent in that mindset. That’s the power of many out of the power of one.

Summary

Culture is the foundation upon which every aspect of a company is built. This is particularly true of entrepreneurial private companies, for which culture acts as the embodiment of the founder’s dreams and ambitions. But can that owner’s vision and passion inspire — and ignite — an entire culture? We believe there are three distinct ways an owner mindset can turn ideas into actionable, daily company-wide norms.

About this article

By

Debra von Storch

EY Americas Entrepreneur Of The Year™ Director, Partner, Ernst & Young LLP

Leader devoted to advising and recognizing high-growth companies and entrepreneurs. Growth strategy connoisseur. Mountain climber extraordinaire.