Manage people like Money?

by Ron Potter

An Harvard Business Review article was titled “What If Companies Managed People as Carefully as They Manage Money?”

I like the idea because most companies focus a lot of their effort on how they manage money, projects, profitability, and skillsets.

I don’t like the idea because I don’t think we should manage people (It puts them in the same category as the money, projects, profitability, etc.)  We should be leading people, not managing them.

IPO Preparation

One of my consulting clients was a high-tech firm that had decided to do an Initial Public Offering (IPO).  This means they were moving from a privately held firm to a publicly held firm with shareholders.

They needed to convince investors to put some of their hard-earned money into the new firm, assuming it would generate a reasonable return.

Investment Bankers

There is a sub-set of the banking industry (Investment Bankers) that is solely focused on IPO’s.  Once the Investment Bankers were chosen, the company put themselves in the banker’s hands in an effort to generate early and adequate investment.

So what did these bankers focus on?

The finances? No!
The quality of the leadership?  No!
The competition?  No!

These Investment Bankers focused on the “story.”  What was the story of the company?  What did the story tell the potential investor about the future?  Was the story compelling enough that people would actually depart with their money and invest with the company?

IPO Preparation

The Investment Bankers sent in a team of presenting coaches to help the CEO and CFO prepare to meet potential investors.

For weeks they concentrated on the story.  Was it complete?  Was it compelling?  Did it explain all the required changes and growth for the company?  Would people be willing to invest in this company?


All of this was to prepare these two top officers for the “roadshow.”  Over the next several weeks they would move from city to city, meet with a small group of investors and hopefully, capture their hearts and minds enough that the Investment Bankers were able to obtain commitments to invest.

Then the Investment Bankers made a statement that made me sit up and take notice.

You have 30 minutes

They told the CEO and CFO that if they didn’t capture the hearts and minds of the potential investors in 30 minutes, they were lost for forever.

30 minutes!  They had 30 minutes to get people to invest their money.  If it wasn’t compelling enough in the first 30 minutes, they didn’t have a second chance.  They would be lost forever.

Invest more than Dollars

Then I began to think about the employees.  What are we asking them to invest?

Money?  In a sense yes.
Time?  Yes.  Be here on a regular basis.  Be willing to cover any shift.  Be willing to work overtime when necessary.
Effort?  Be the best.  Go the extra mile.  Work hard and harder.
Brain?  Be quick.  Be innovative.  Be smarter than the competition.

Invest More

In short, invest more than just dollars.  Much more!

If we were willing to build a complete and compelling story about the future of the company for someone who will invest just their dollars, why are we not willing to generate even a better message for those willing to invest a lot more than just their dollars?

Investor not Asset

We often hear CEO’s and other top executives speak of employees as their most valuable asset.

I have assets.  My computer is an asset.  I’m willing to upgrade it, add more memory or space, install a new operating system.  But at some point I say enough-is-enough and I purchase a new computer.

Do we really want to think of employees as an asset?

But, if you think about them as an investor, then you need to be willing to give them your best.  You must have a compelling explanation of the future and how you’re going the get there.  If you can’t express that clear, well thought out future, why would employees be willing to invest their time, effort, and intellect?

Think of your employees as investors, not assets!

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