The key to success is looking out for the company’s interests, whether working for yourself or someone else
One of my first experiences as an entrepreneur was early in my career, when I was not a business owner, but an employee. I worked for a startup, that now is a global player in the public relations industry, and we were going through some growing pains.
One of our company leaders was a young and brash man who was brilliant but still immature in many respects, and he was having difficulty in his interpersonal relationships at the workplace. While I completely respected him as an articulate and creative contributor to the company, his manner of dealing with fellow employees was driving away talented people from the organization.
Time after time he lost his temper in meetings or when dealing one-on-one with team members, and his screaming matches ended with employees disgruntled, and even sometimes in tears, and ultimately some of the company’s best and brightest left for greener pastures.
As the principles of the company were not involved in the day-to-day operations of our account teams, they were unaware of this problem, and they did not know that this employee’s conduct was a leading cause of our extraordinarily high rate of turnover.
Without realizing I was acting in an entrepreneurial spirit, I felt I must do something, for the good of the company, to make a change, even though I was relatively powerless in my position.
I drafted a memo to the owner of the company, and without naming names I relayed that the abusive treatment by a nameless employee was causing a morale problem and costing us productivity that ultimately impacting our bottom line.
I suggested an employee bill of rights, whereby every employee would sign a document binding them to a standard of behavior, and those who violated the contract would face reprimand, and ultimately dismissal, if they continued to not abide by it. I felt somewhat like Jerry Maguire drafting his manifesto, and honestly, I did not know if I would be greeted the next day with silence, a scowl or a pink slip, but I felt it worth taking the chance to send the email.
The next day, I was called into the office of one of the partners. To my pleasant surprise, he began the conversation by thanking me for sending the memo. He said, that it was rare that an employee at my level would care this much and take it upon herself to exercise this type of entrepreneurial thinking.
My risk-taking was rewarded with a companywide policy that went into effect shortly afterward. From that day forward, every employee was required to sign the Employee Bill of Rights, which I helped to draft, and a copy was posted in every office of the company nationwide.
The partner to whom I had sent the memo asked my permission to read my email to the entire staff on a company-wide conference call, and he gave me credit for the idea, which was received with sighs of relief and countless private “thank yous” and pats on the back from my fellow employees.
The workplace instantly became more kinder and gentler, and most significantly, the particular employee who had inspired my action had the most dramatic transformation of all. He had taken the reaction of his colleagues seriously, and in my estimation, he not only became more careful in his relations to others, he became a happier person on the job. While there were still occasional slip ups, he was quick with apologies and corrections.
My initiative had resulted in a sweeping change across the company, making the workplace more pleasant, productive, and ultimately more prosperous.
That was a proud moment in my salad days as a PR professional, and I have remembered the encouragement I got from that mentor partner to this day, through the years, as I’ve continued to nurture and grow my entrepreneurial self.
Since then, I have owned my own consulting business off and on, for which I was solely responsible for its success. Being my own boss proved an excellent training ground for me to be a better employee, when eventually I went to work for other companies. While as an employee versus a partner, I do not take home a percentage of profit like an owner, I still have been continually rewarded by the CEOs I have worked with promotions and salary increases because they see that I understand that the company’s success is my success, with the currency of my investment being diligent and conscientious work.
I continue to follow models of great entrepreneurship, such as Andrew Charlton, Richard Branson, Elon Musk, and of course, the iconic entrepreneur of our times, Steve Jobs, and whether or not I am working for myself or others, I endeavor to always activate my entrepreneurial spirit, because in the end, success is the bottom line for all of us.