What Are You Worth?

 Donald Miller (StoryBrand, etc.) is a very, very smart guy. I listen to him speak whenever possible, and recommend him to clients. He’s doing lots of creative things based on a “Business Made Simple®” framework. Because he owns his company, and he’s smart, he’s worth listening to when he talks about how your boss sees you.

So, how does your boss see you?

As a financial investment. Are you a person? Sure. Do you have feelings, goals, etc.? Sure. Do you show up at work on time? Yep. Are you nice? Yeah.

So what?

Are you a financial investment? You bet! You should be making, or at least contributing to making, or saving, your employer a multiple of what you are being paid.

If I’m paying you $70,000 per year, and you’re making me $200,000 per year, I like you! I don’t much care if you’re late for work sometimes or get grumpy on occasion, you’re a keeper! But if I’m paying you $70,000 per year, and you’re making or saving me $30,000 per year, do you think your head might be on the chopping block when ax-sharpening time comes around? You are an expense!

This is a true story:

Years ago, I was the HR guy for a small government contractor that offered an IT service, and there came a time in our development when we got a mainframe Univac computer. We also hired a systems programmer to care for and feed it.

When my boss asked me to interview the guy and tell him what I thought, I went back to him and said, “We don’t want this guy.” He said, “Yes, we do.” I responded, “Look, this guy’s had seven jobs in five years, he’s been fired from five of them, and according to him not once was it his fault!”

My boss smiled and said, “Let me tell you what’s going to happen. We’re going to hire this guy and pay him $50,000 (>$123,000 today), and he’ll wreak havoc with the other employees. He’ll not show up for work. He’ll show up late. He’ll offend people. He’ll cause trouble. But sooner or later that big elephant (the Univac) will go down, and he will take it as a personal challenge to bring it up again, and he won’t go home until he does.”

My boss was right. Everyone got angry with this guy. He wouldn’t show up, or he’d show up late. He did offend people. But that elephant did go down, he did take it as a personal challenge, he found and fixed a bug in the Univac operating system, and brought it back up.

Now, from my boss’s standpoint, what’s this guy’s value? He creates havoc on a weekly basis, is paid more than just about everybody else on the technical staff, and lives in his own world. That’s in the debit column.

The credit column? He kept a $2 million (nearly $5 million in today’s dollars) company alive, because without that Univac we were completely out of business.

As far as my boss was concerned, this guy was a hero!

So, here’s the takeaway. You always need to know your value as an employer’s financial investment. Always. It will let you keep your job. It will get you promoted. It will help you get another job.

If you’re directly responsible for bringing in revenue, it’s easy to monetize your value. But for many, it will be difficult. That said, you still need to find a way to do it. This will require a bit of creative thinking.

Did you keep a client from leaving and going to your competition? That saved revenue becomes yours. Did you establish a system that made a process more efficient? What did that increased efficiency save? Did you do something that brought your employer into alignment with a regulator? What would it have cost had you not done that?  Did you finish a project under budget? How much under budget? This means that you must determine the results of your work. It never occurs to most people to do that. But everything you do has a result, and it isn’t your boss’s job to keep track (actually it is, but it’s highly unlikely that he or she will do it!).

This is the kind of thing that will make you money and/or get you promoted. It will enable you to tell a present employer, “See what I’ve done.” It will enable you to tell a future employer, “If I can’t make or save you at least twice what you pay me, you shouldn’t hire me,” and mean it!