As an investor, founder, CEO and business book author, I write about startups, design, how to build a good business, and I like to muse about culture in any form.

Owner or Employee: Which One Are You?

Kevin Plank on left, being interviewed at the Builders + Innovators event

Kevin Plank on left, being interviewed at the Builders + Innovators event

Speaking at the recent Goldman Sachs Builders + Innovators event Kevin Plank, the founder and CEO of Under Armor, relayed a bit of wisdom that still sticks with me. Plank explained that he likes to hire and promote “owners” not “employees.” He said the difference between the two is vast. An employee will work on a project until it is done.  For an owner, well, it goes something like this:

Under Armor team member speaking to Plank:  “Can you look at the Spring catalog for final approval?

CEO Plank: “Is it done?”

Team member: “Yes, it’s done.”

CEO Plank: “Is it done done?”

Team member: “Yes it is done done.”

Plank: “Is it done, done, done?”

Team member: “Um, let me get back to you.”

The core idea is that if you behave like an owner you will ensure that your work is executed and QC’d to the absolute best of your abilities.  That does not preclude the occasional mistake. But it does preclude depending on the next person in line, or your boss, to polish up your project.

I’m going to introduce this idea to my team.  I like the idea of that shorthand question that sets expectations very, very clearly: “Is it done, done, done?”

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