KMP Leadership Blog

By: David Applegate, EHS Manager

The Culture of Ownership

I can a sure you that there once was a time when my wife and I did not own our home.  In fact, for many years we rented a home while living in California.  It was not very big, and it was somewhat imperfect, but it was close to one of our favorite pizza restaurants.

I remember the day we moved in and all the inconveniences we discovered.  There was the sticking closet door that we had to force open.  Then there were the issues with the lawn.  Then the garage door did not want to close.  And, yes, each time something needed attention, we called the owner.  We did not need to invest in maintenance and upkeep, nor did we want to.

Everything changed, however, when we became homeowners.  We were now responsible for the home.  So, when the paint began to peal off the front door, we hurried to the local hardware store to buy just the right brand and shade.  When the lawn and landscape needed to be attended to, we invested in the right tools to cut and trim the grass and shrubs.  When the faucet in the kitchen began to drip, we installed a nicer one, hoping it would last longer.  We were all in.  This home was ours, and it was worth our investments of time and money.

It is the tale of two mindsets: owners versus renters.  In our company we have both stories playing out.  The employees with the renter’s mindset come into our company and enjoy the opportunity to work and make money.  Their thought is, this is a means-to-an-end.  Of course, they are important to us.  We have a job to do and they are a vital part of helping us get that job done.  But the big question is, will they continue coming back as renters, or will they eventually become owners?  Will they continue to see this company as someone else’s investment, or will it become theirs?

This past month I was able to watch as a group of workers from our company, both men and women, demonstrate to all of us what ownership is and what it looks like.  The weather that we experienced during last two weeks was not only horrific, but it was also both disastrous and devastating.  As a result, our Service Center was overwhelmed with calls for help and assistance.  In fact, one day we received over 540 calls from people whose homes had frozen water pipes.  The people who called described their situation as hopeless.  One man, out of desperation, drove to our shop, walked in, explained his situation and ask if he could buy some fitting to repair the plumbing and busted pipes in his home.  Each one of these calls were looking to us not just for help, but for security.  They were thankful to know that at our company they mattered.  That at our company their home and family was our true concern.

This sense of security came to each of these home through our Call Screeners and Service Tech’s — employees that understand the culture of ownership.  These employees do not view their job as just a means-to-an-end, but, rather, they understand the purpose, the mission and the vision of KMP.  They are actively contributing to make sure this framework does not crumble but holds up even in disastrous situations.  They not only are involved in the day-to-day life of the company, but they also share with others, firsthand, how great KMP is and how others can become part of the same.

The culture of ownership is demonstrated by employees that understand owners not only fix things and make things better, but they offer security to the homes they service.  They understand that they contribute and give of themselves in order for the company to fulfill its mission.  They understand that employees that work within the culture of ownership are the ones willing to go to the frontlines of service during the freeze.  They understand the company is essential and that their part within the company is key.

One might ask, “Where does the culture of ownership come from?”  And the answer is, it comes from training.  Every employee deserves training.  If you want owners in your company, you must equip them from the start.  Rather than just sending employees out to a job site with the hopes that they will become owners is a plan destined for failure and frustration.  Instead, I suggest you follow the pattern that has allowed such success here at KMP.  We provide our new hires with Employee Orientation to our company and to the world of Commercial Construction.  We then bring each one into our Training Center to help them be successful as a future plumber by providing instructions in classes like:  OSHA 10 safety courses; “Reading, Understanding and Following Blueprints”; “Developing the fundamentals of basic plumbing”; “CPE Classes”; “Learning life skills and leadership development”; and the “Importance of Personal Finance”.

These classes and others are what allow our employees to leave the mindset of being a renter and to enter the culture of ownership.  It is our understanding that ownership culture does not just happen; it is intentionally developed.  It is thoughtful, it is clear, it requires time, it will be costly, and it has expectations.   If you want your employees to be more than renters, invite them to experience the culture of ownership and let them have the opportunity to invest themselves in the company by training them to be successful.  In the mind of this Blogger, training is not just one option that can possibly create a culture of ownership within your company — it is the only option.