"The surest way to have others value you is to know your own value"
I was the first hire for the company where I’ve been working for the last seven years, and it’s grown tremendously. Even my boss admits that I’m the one running the entire business. At this point, I feel like I deserve more than just a raise. I’d like to request partial ownership. How do I make a request like that?
—More than just an employee
Bold questions deserve bold answers.
Your question is a reflection of what some are calling “the death of the corporation” and what I’d in turn call “the birth of the individual as a business.” The changing nature of industries today has brought about a paradigm shift in what constitutes a valuable employee. When products were being produced manually in factories, assembly-line style, then all employees had to work totally in sync. Independent thinking out of the box wasn’t only discouraged; it could cost you your job.
Nowadays, though, with so much of the assembly-line-style work automated or outsourced, the role individuals play in business is potentially much more significant. Employees need to think of themselves as mini businesses with value to offer. Whether a company contracts with an individual or a business shouldn’t matter much. The point is that you’re offering a specialized skill or service that’s worthwhile for them to pay for, by paycheck or invoice.
It’s exactly this new mode of thinking that creates questions like yours. You’ve recognized that you’re not just a cog in the machine, but you may very well be the engine that makes it go. As such, you feel you deserve to be paid accordingly.
You say you were the first hire and your boss is aware that you’re the one running the entire business. I’m guessing that includes areas like sales, marketing, operations, finance, etc. I also assume that you’re being paid a decent salary, but are still left with the feeling of “I’m the one doing all the work around here, making the owner all this money — shouldn’t I be rewarded a bit more?”
What I’ve seen in cases like these is that if you make your request strategically, you won’t be turned down completely. Your boss may not give you everything you want, but if he’s aware of the value you bring to the company, basic business sense dictates he’ll find a way to reach an agreement with you.
What I like to do with clients is to take the time to figure out a few important points:
Your official role (what you were hired to do)
Your unofficial role (all the extra things you actually do)
Big wins (all the large extra-credit one-time projects or deals you get credit for)
Next, think about what it is that you really want. What would make you feel amazing? What number or percentage would make you feel valued? For a large business, 1% can be more than enough to make it all worth it for you. Find your number.
Lastly, consider your boss’s personality, and make sure your request is something he’ll find reasonable. Try to anticipate what his concerns may be and how you can address them.
Will he be afraid of you earning too much? Suggest a maximum amount you can earn within your new earning structure.
Will he be concerned you will leave him? Offer to sign a noncompete agreement in exchange for a percentage.
Is he worried he won’t be able to fire you? Outline specific guidelines that you’ll follow or risk being fired.
Once you’ve considered all this, schedule a time for a meeting with your boss. (Most likely he’ll understand why you want to meet, and you don’t need to tell him.) Open the meeting by respectfully sharing how much you appreciate the opportunity for growth this job has given you. Explain that now you’ve taken such ownership of your role, you’d like your compensation to be tied to company success. Share your accomplishments, and what you’d like.
Make sure you aren’t coming across as resentful — no one will reward you for making them feel like they’ve acted like a slave driver until now.
And don’t forget — acknowledge your worth . The surest way to have others value you is to know your own value.
Good luck !
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 897)
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