An entrepreneur asked me a great question last week: “How do you get people to act like owners if you can’t provide equity?” 


People want direction; they want a career path. Great employees might see your business as a stepping stone opportunity to building that path whether that means they join as an intern with aspirations to run your company or a division of your company – OR it might be about learning a new skill and leveraging that to go somewhere else. Trust me – if you give someone a path, and you invest in them, so that they can achieve their goals (whatever those goals are), they will work like owners.

Also, don’t be afraid to hire people who tell you that their future dreams and goals exist outside of your company. You will recruit the best talent and inspire powerful work in an open, transparent, and mutually beneficial environment.


People need incentive, and equity is only one way to provide incentive. Even if you employ hourly employees, contractors, advisors or part-timers, find a way to let them not only benefit from – but also feel a part of and participate in the success of your business. There are a lot of different options: This can be in the form of bonuses, profit sharing, phantom stock, commissions or even prizes.

The key here – make it clear what the goals are and how everyone can “participate” in reaching those goals and feeling that success. Give them big wins for big goals. When they hit that big goal, you’ll be thrilled to write them a check and they’ll double down going forward. There’s great beauty when everyone wins.


Dale Carnegie Training reports that companies with engaged employees outperform those who are not by up to 202%.Passion and purpose win all day, every day. Even if you give people incentives or equity or big titles (all of which can help or be important) there is nothing that will truly get people to contribute more than their deeply-rooted belief that what they are doing here matters.

It’s your responsibility as the person in charge to create, inspire, live, breathe,  shout-from-the-rooftops-every-single-day the vision.. And if the vision inspires people (at a deep, personal level) they will do what it takes to make the vision a reality. It can be anything from changing the world, to curing cancer to just simply building the BEST product or beating the competition, but having a shared vision around that passion is one of your best tools to hire, retain and incentivize the best team possible.  

Do all three and you will have motivated co-pilots helping build your business.

Yours in startups,




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