Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Acquiring the Royal We

I had lunch a couple weeks ago with someone I had worked with many, many years ago. It reminded me of the man we both contracted with at the time, Michael.

Michael was trying very hard to position his business to be purchased, merged, or to go public. In other words, he was transitioning from the building stage to the exit strategy.

In the middle of this, Michael practiced the things one would do with a publicly traded company. Among other things, he learned to think beyond the business as himself. I saw this at the time, but I didn't really understand the depths of what it meant.

One day we went to lunch, and Michael told me that he was working on saying "we" instead of "I."

I can tell you, it is very difficult to build a business. And after many years of being the one who created it all, it is difficult to make the transition to thinking of the company as more than "me." After all, after all these years, you get to thinking

- I built this company

- I did it

- I decided when to cut left or right

- I got us here

- It's my company

- and so forth

It takes some effort to begin thinking in terms of "we" instead of me.

In fact, you might start by very consciously trying to remember to use the Royal We. But this becomes easier for several reasons.

First, in the sales cycle, you will find yourself talking about your company as being larger than just one or two folks. "We have eight people. We like to do a complete survey of the architecture first. We always document what we do." And so forth.

Second, you'll consciously draw your staff into the decision making process. "We need to come up with a procedure for this. We need to get this patch on all the workstations."

Third, as other people do more of the work, you beging thinking in terms beyond what you will do. At some point, for example, you won't be scheduling technicians. After you get in trouble by promising someone on a certain day, you remember not to do that again. So you'll say "We can schedule that. I'll make sure the Service Manager know that it's high priority."

Gradually, as your business grows, you realize that a) there are things you no longer do, and b) you're never going to do those things again.

At this magical moment, "we" becomes a lot more natural.

Now you gradually find that you instinctively say "we" instead of "I."

In fact, your thinking is reversed. Now you say thing like "We need to develop a policy . . ." when it's not WE. You're still the boss/owner. Maybe you and a manager need to develop a policy. But "we" the company does not.

When you're small but growing -- particularly in that 1-2 employee range, it is a very good habit to consciously try to say We instead of I. As you grow, this will become much more natural.

Something to think about.

1 comment:

  1. A very valid post as the "we" cannot grow until the "I" gets past their "me".

    Growing the "we" involves a direct validation and recognition of the others in the "we" ... again getting past the "I".

    From the client's perspective, the "we" assures them that they are working with a team player. "We" demonstrates confidence in the team's capabilities to service the client.



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