In our last post in this 30 Days to ETA series, we discussed your ETA Mission, Vision, & Values (You can read the previous post by CLICKING HERE). Having clarity in the Entrepreneurship Through Acquisition strategy is paramount, and nothing signals that more than your identification of where you want to go with your future business. In this post, we’re going to explore the backbone of how you will get to that future destination via ETA Culture. ETA Culture is your business’ values and culture that will shape owner-employee relations. The business that has outstanding values and inviting culture can help bring top dollar at the time you want to eventually sell… Enjoy!
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The ETA Culture of Helping
I once met with a small business owner as part of our Mergers & Acquisitions initiative at Tip of the Spear Ventures. From all outward appearances and secured financial information received, this was a very successful organization and I was looking forward to meeting with the owner. They employed several technology advancements (rare for a small business), and these served as their differentiators in the market. On top of the entity/individual credentials, the organization was referred to me by a colleague with whom I’d been looking to do a project together with.
It appeared to be great all the way around! Great company doing great work referred to me by a great person. And then I walked into their office. Actually, let me backup and share that I couldn’t get into their office at 7:45am. I come from one of those “To be early is on time, to be on time is to be late” cultures. Our meeting was at 8:00am and I typically show up fifteen minutes early. However, when I got to their office the doors were locked. Located in an urban-sprawl setting, I initially thought this was a security reason (Yes, it was a sketchy part of town!) But surely the owner knew I was arriving and would either be there himself or have alerted his staff. Surely not!
On top of the owner not being ready for my arrival, my colleague was running late. I called him and found out that there was an employee in the building and that he’d have them come unlock the door so as to let me in. They arrived at the door, unlocked it, and looked totally inconvenienced by the whole process/procedure as I stood there without them so much as addressing me (No “Good morning” – No nothing!) I said thank you and asked where we’d be meeting. Their overall lack of hospitality was unbelievable. On top of this one individual who should never be public-facing I found the office in total disarray – Trash cans overflowing, disorganization everywhere you looked, and dirty. The final straw was an etched pillow on a chair in the entryway that said on it, “I’m not always a Bitch… Just kidding, go f—- yourself!”
I left the office. Meeting over. ETA exploration done. The ETA Culture of helping was not present, and neither would I be! Everyone has been to a store/place of business and been shrugged off by an uncaring employee. We’ve all seen the dark side of business customer service and it stems from ETA Culture.
You can feel the difference between exciting companies and those with discontent, unmotivated cultures in ETA due diligence. Know that the companies with happy, motivated cultures have significant value, both today and in the future.Sam Palazzolo, Managing Director @ Tip of the Spear Ventures
ETA Culture and Leadership
I’ve worked with hundreds of business owners over the years, and most of those owners want to talk about money or the problems they’re having with employees. They’ll talk about how to gain more customers and more market share. Yet, I can count on one hand the conversations brought up by business owners about values and culture. Sure, they want to talk about owner-employee relations, and they love to complain about poor employee work ethic or disrespectful employees, rather than asking me how to add value to their team or improve employee morale.
Owners focus on their own grievances rather than how to rectify employee grievances. Oftentimes, those business owners feel they get a bad rap with employees who mistake their drive for greed. They think that all the proprietors care about is money or the next big sale, and the team members hold an unfounded grudge against the owners. Rather than working hard to change employee misconceptions and rebuild owner-employee relations, owners tend to play the victim.
Additionally, those business owners complain about feeling used. A “friend” will call them up and want “free advice.” He’ll pick their brain and secure their professional knowledge and then never talk to them again (or will outreach when the wheels have fallen off the vehicle and they’re in real trouble). That “friend” will ask for discounts just because they went to the same school, and while none of us likes to feel used or abused, Acquisition Entrepreneurs need to know that they shouldn’t feel taken advantage of, and neither should their team members. I’m convinced after working with over 1,000+ leaders in organizations all across the USA and internationally that bad employee problems stem from culture problems, and those stem from leader problems.
Cultivate the E Culture of Kindness
It goes without saying, your people in the business you secure whether it’s from acquisitions or mergers are people — Not objects. We shouldn’t follow the Instagram-narrative that we’re a self-serving culture. Instead, you as an Entrepreneur Through Acquisition should look to cultivate a culture of kindness in our company. What do I mean by kindness? Words like respect, trust, and fairness should lay the groundwork for owner-employee relations. Employees who feel appreciated, valued, well-compensated, and respected will most likely provide respectful and courteous service to your customers. Therefore, I believe that everything in our business blooms out of our values and those values reflect your culture.
3 Rules for ETA Culture Success
While you’re cultivating this harmonious ETA Culture of owner-employee respect and loyalty, as a business owner you should be on your guard against known dangers. I’ve developed three rules for ETA Culture success, and if you don’t guard against them you’ll exhibit poor culture, poor employee relations, and bad leadership.
Rule #1 – Say What You’ll Do & Do What You Say
If you tell customers that you value open communication and employee loyalty, but you do the opposite by scanning through emails on your phone when your customers or team members voice better ideas on how to operate, what good does that do for you? If you’re no willing to say what you’ll do and do what you say, you’re going to lose good team members and customers.
Rule #2 – Get Greedy
I once say a business owner that could care less about their profits or their employees, and it showed all throughout the organization. If you want to be a great Entrepreneur Through Acquisition, get greedy! Let your customers and employees know that you value them and are willing to do whatever it takes to keep them satisfied.
Rule #3 – Get Help
Entrepreneurs Through Acquisition are great at a lot of things, but building company-wide morale may not be one of your particular strengths. Know your strengths, and your weaknesses. My best advice when it comes to weakness management is to off-load the responsibility. In other words, hire someone that has your weakness as a strength of their own.
The ETA Culture Strategy
ETA Culture for owner-employee relationship success exposes your company’s core values. So how do we cultivate or build good culture habits and values within your company? We take care of our employees. Here are some ways you can build-up their morale:
- Reward the behavior you want to encourage
- Applaud those who portray the values you want to achieve
- Promote positive re-enforcement instead of punishment
- Recognize and increase responsibility
- Be kind
- Keep it real up in the ETA field
You love the idea of being an Entrepreneur Through Acquisition. It’s a complicated landscape to try and navigate. In this post we’ve explored ETA Culture and the rules for success and strategy for making employee-owner relations a success. A company with strong values and a strong culture, one that promotes strong owner-employee relations, will make more money and more reward than a company who has poor values or culture.