Posted on November 2, 2021 by Kevin Getch Why I’m Giving Ownership in Webfor to Our Team When someone starts a business, they put their blood, sweat, and tears into getting it off the ground and making it successful. They often face enormous obstacles and make huge sacrifices, from working 80 hour weeks, to sacrificing their health and spending less time with friends and family. But I love it! I love entrepreneurs! We’re a crazy bunch of people that chase our dreams knowing the odds are against us. Less than 10% of businesses will make it past the 10-year mark, and not all of those will actually be successful (aka profitable). So, why on earth, after working so hard and sacrificing so much to build an amazingly successful company, would I give up any ownership/profit in my business? Well, I think the answer is simple. There’s an old saying, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” I respect anyone who has a differing opinion and completely understand that it is not necessary to give ownership to have a successful organization. In fact, some employees may not even want or truly understand the benefits of ownership. That took me a bit to comprehend, but it’s important to know so you can provide the necessary information/education. At Webfor, our vision is… “To inspire people and brands to grow while creating positive ripple effects in our communities.” We want to create the best creative and marketing agency in the world. And while we work towards that, we want to have a positive impact, too. We’ve been attracting the very best team members in the industry in pursuit of that vision. We’ve created a culture where each team member feels accepted and encouraged to be themselves, share their ideas, continue growing, and do their best work. And, maybe, play a small part in helping them become their best selves. We believe a business, like an individual, can and should play a part in being a positive impact in this world. Below are some of the personal and business reasons why I’m doing this. First, let’s get personal: I love having a positive impact in the lives of others. I get a lot of personal enjoyment/fulfillment by having a positive impact on other people’s lives. I know what a huge difference this can make for our team and their families. Many people (regardless of their actual income) work for the larger part of their lives and end up not having a lot financially to show for it. This is because their expenses increase to meet their income and they never start investing in something that will continue to grow whether they choose to work or not. This is a key reason why we teach financial literacy at Webfor, and why I’m personally starting a nonprofit to help educate the youth in our communities. In addition, many people work for forty or more years and never discover how to make work enjoyable for themselves. I find this to be the biggest travesty! In the end, when you enjoy your work (giving of yourself to others) and the challenge it brings, you’re not only much better at it, you experience a more fulfilling life. I love what I do and want to continue doing it for a long time to come. I love helping people and businesses grow and become their best. I’ll never stop doing this as long as I’m alive. Once I realized that helping people and businesses grow was something I was extremely passionate about and would do for free, it gave me a different perspective. I was no longer working against a clock where I had to meet a certain financial target by a certain time. I could worry less about my own financial security and focus more on giving to others. In 2018, I changed my focus to be even more about what I can give to others. Almost counterintuitively, an abundance of joy, peace, and happiness started flowing in my life like a nonstop river. What I feel each day is something I’ve never quite experienced in my life. Simply by changing my intention from “getting” to “giving,” my personal relationships blossomed, our business grew, and I was actually less stressed and more fulfilled. Less stress, increased freedom and having an even bigger impact. Having people who are passionate about helping people and businesses grow, that are driven and independent, and that we trust to do the right thing for our team and our clients is paramount. Not only does this lower my stress, but it gives me peace of mind and frees up mental space so that I can focus on strategic elements (and give my best to high-priority items). I also have two books I’m writing and there’s that nonprofit I mentioned. It would be hard to put time towards those things if we didn’t have a team we trusted. I want to play my part in building something amazing. I am very proud of what we’ve built, but I see an opportunity to build something even more amazing in the coming years. I’ve always had a bit of a utopian idea on the type of company that we could build together. For the longest time, I actually didn’t believe it was likely, because it felt so fantastical. Then we accomplished the initial stages of the plan. Now, I not only know it’s possible, I realize we’ve already completed a large part of it. We’re creating a company that is a group of people tied together through passion and a sense of purpose that has alignment in both the short-term and long-term. One in which team members not only share in the responsibility of our vision but also get to take part in ownership. The positive impact of the type of company we’re building has for the team, our clients, and the community at large is almost incalculable. We will eventually teach other companies how to do the same thing. Sure, that’s all great pie in the sky talk, but does it make sense from a business standpoint? Well, I’m glad you asked that. Of course, profit to a business is like oxygen to a person. The business won’t survive without it. There has to be a clear business case for why we would do this, as well. Without it, the team, our clients, and the community would suffer, because we would no longer exist. So, let me share some of my reasoning from a business perspective. We are in an amazing industry with some of the best people in the world. There are also a lot of companies that are mainly in it to help themselves. Businesses are bombarded with companies trying to sell them digital marketing and web design services, but the majority of these companies don’t care about the businesses and people they serve the way that we do. That makes it our responsibility to help as many businesses (that are a good fit for us) as we can. Improved team engagement, alignment, and retention. We have a long-term vision, and our success depends on having a team of people that are passionate about being their best and helping people. I believe there is a direct correlation between our internal client (our team) retention and our external client retention. We’ve learned so much over the years, which also means we’ve made a lot of mistakes. Painful ones! But you can’t have one without the other. I am personally so passionate about helping our clients succeed, that in the past I let that negatively impact our internal team. In the end, I had to grow as a person and a leader and change my perspective. I made our internal team my No.1 client. How can I help them succeed and be their best? That simple change in perspective led to a much better culture and, ultimately, better performance for our external clients. Better overall culture and performance. Being the best requires us to have the best people performing at their best. People perform at their best when they feel the work they do is purposeful, they feel supported, they have the ability to grow and master their craft, and are empowered to make many of their own decisions about how their work gets done. One of the biggest mistakes most entrepreneurs/managers/leaders make is trying to control everything. When you’re extremely passionate about serving your customers at the highest level it’s natural to feel a need to control everything. Unfortunately, and almost counterintuitively, this has quite the opposite effect. As you look to control and micromanage every outcome, you often stifle and suppress all the benefits that come with having a diverse team with different ideas, strengths, and skill sets. You create a culture where people are afraid to make mistakes, and that creates a dependent culture that is constricted by the abilities and limitations of the “leader.” When you have the right people in the right positions, and you’re going above and beyond to meet their needs, you encourage innovation and creativity. You help them be accountable for doing their best and you empower them to make decisions. You will be blown away by the results, and so will your clients. “Ultimately, your internal culture will be reflected in your external brand.” And when they have ownership in the company, they will be aligned at the macro level and understand that the whole is bigger than the sum of its parts. You could have eight of the best rowers in the world, but you only reach peak performance when they’re all rowing in unison, heading in the same direction. Team Alignment Super Powers Your Results Increased client acquisition, client retention and revenue growth. Imagine for a second that you’re considering hiring a digital marketing or web design agency. You’ve narrowed it down to two great companies that have the track record, skill set, and culture you think can meet your needs. Now imagine one of those companies is employee-owned, their employees have been with them twice as long, and their clients sing their praises. Which company are you going to choose — with all other things being equal? Of course, you’re going to choose the company where the employees have ownership in the company and their clients are super happy. You understand the powerful alignment that creates for you. Everyone on the team is here for you and they’re passionate about helping you succeed! You see, when we do great work for our clients, not only does it have a positive impact for their people and the community, but we also build trust with them. They know that we do what we say we’re going to do, and they trust us to deliver on our promises. By consistently delivering tremendous value to our clients and fulfilling their needs, we’re building that relationship for the long term. “Our goal is to deliver so much value for our clients that we are an invaluable partner to them.” When team member retention and performance increases, client acquisition and retention increases, and of course revenue follows. How we are giving team members the opportunity to benefit from the growth of the company… In addition to a generous profit-sharing program, 401(k) with a 100% match, and a whole slew of great benefits that were based on team member input, we started a Phantom Equity Incentive Program in early 2020. We considered, then rejected an ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Program) because it was very expensive and added a layer of complexity that wasn’t necessary. Issuing stock was an option that would cause a taxable event for team members, turning something positive into a negative where the team member was paying an upfront tax before receiving the income to pay for it. The Phantom Equity program allows team members to get issued phantom units that act in much the same way stock does, but without the negative taxable event when being issued. Creating the best creative and marketing agency in the world. Ultimately, our goal is to create a culture and identity that will stand the test of time. We don’t know exactly what the future holds. But because of our People, Passion, and Processes, we will know how to respond to it. In our efforts to create the best version of ourselves as an organization, we’re going to need to help team members become their best selves. Those passionate, determined, and focused individuals that provide tremendous value for others will get the opportunity to benefit from the ripple effect they’ve created. They will likely be challenged more than they ever thought possible, but they will also be rewarded. Not only financially, but ultimately by the person they become.