The case of Chobani is a classic entrepreneurial story and also the story of how good leaders work. Hamdi Ulukaya, founder, and CEO is a Turkish immigrant who saw how to make something that no one else was doing well – Greek yogurt – and take it to another level. Just over a year ago he announced that he was giving 10% of the company, valued at $3 billion at the time, to his employees.
He was clear that it was not a gift but, “a mutual promise to work together with a shared purpose and responsibility,” as he stated in a memo to employees. “How we built this company matters to me, but how we grow it matters even more. I want you to be a part of this growth. I want you to be the driving force of it.”
This is why I love entrepreneurs – employees matter. Small to mid-sized entrepreneurial companies employ 73% of the workforce and really do care about them. They understand that if their employees do well, so does the company. Arguably, Chobani is no longer a small or mid-sized entrepreneurial company, but it used to be. And the founder didn’t forget all those people who helped build the company and those who stuck with him when he expanded too rapidly and production and process got out of control. They helped to get it back on track and his goal all along was to share. It’s not an insignificant amount of money either. It will range from $150,000 to $1,000,000 depending upon length of employment. The culture, based on strong values of – INTEGRITY. CRAFTSMANSHIP. INNOVATION. LEADERSHIP. PEOPLE. GIVING BACK – has produced amazing success for all.
As I’ve said before, employees come to work every day and want to do a good job. What happens when they get there is up to us, the entrepreneurs who have the privilege to lead the teams. It’s our job to make sure they have everything they need to be successful, including being in the right positions. Often times we don’t listen to their good ideas or ignore their suggestions for improvement because we “know best.” We don’t. The whole team, (including us), does. And for a job well done, this humble entrepreneur gave back and shared in order to recognize the results the whole team had created together.
How are you recognizing your employees’ role in your success? What have you put in place to let them know that you see and understand their contributions? Maybe you haven’t really thought about this? We are talking about something deeper and more meaningful than an employee of the month parking spot or some kind of paper certificate or gold star award. If your company is on a successful trajectory it’s time to really think through how you want to acknowledge the role your team has played in a meaningful way.