A number of years ago I attended a business strategy conference in San Diego. It was one of those boondoggles where you show up, hear people give ‘deep thoughts’ presentations, eat great food, drink too much, and spend a couple of days doing next to nothing productive all the while hanging at a fantastic resort in San Diego on someone else's dime.
I heard a story at that conference about what it means to be an “owner” that stuck with me.
When I was about 10 years old, my dad asked me a simple question: “Son, what’s the difference between an owner and an employee?”
As a kid, my dad owned a small manufacturing company with maybe 40 or 50 employees. On the weekends, my dad and I would be heading to or from one of my little-league games, or the movies, or running errands and inevitably we’d swing by the office so dad could check on something or pick something up.
We’d park in the lot in front of the company and walk in. Every time my dad would walk across the lot and if there was a piece of trash like a soda can, or a crumpled piece of paper, dad would pick it up and drop it in the trash can by the entry door. I saw some of the other people that worked at the company come and go, but it was my dad that picked up the trash.
My answer to dad’s question: An owner picks up the trash.