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This week, we got the opportunity to speak with Ron Lovett, the founder and Chief Alignment Officer of Connolly Owens. Ron is an entrepreneur, founder of Entrepreneurs Organization (EO) Atlantic Canada, five time winner of Atlantic Business magazine’s Top 50 CEO award, founder of VIDA Living, the author of Outrageous Empowerment: The Incredible Story of Giving Employees Their Brains Back, just to name a few. In our interview, we spoke to Ron about his unique and powerful approach to empowering employees and why this is crucial for companies to be truly successful.

Prior to being a business owner, you worked as a bouncer at night clubs. What lessons did you gain from your time working there that has helped you in your current ventures?

Dealing with tough conversations, no matter what the situation is. Dealing with customers here I dealt with some of the worst situations you could ever imagine, and it taught me that you have to totally approach these conversations from a place of understanding, empathy, and treating them like they’re your very best friend.

It also taught me how to read body language VERY well. in loud situations, loud music and noise, you really had to learn to read body language. It’s helped me in meetings, allowed me to listen to tone and body language and learn so much more than from just people’s words.

I had to learn how to separate business and friendships at a young age and make sure I didn’t mix both. Having friends working for me, I was able to hold them accountable and treat them well- work is work and off work if off work.

Back then it was so important to have things locked up in a proper contract vs a handshake deal, especially with night clubs being so notorious for not paying.

What sparked your passion for empowering your work force?

Unfortunately I was at rock bottom, and I had no choice but to do something very creative and innovative that hadn’t been done in our industry. Reading and constantly consuming content and being involved in Entrepreneurs Organization allowed me to get inspired and learn from other entrepreneurs. Companies like Starbucks and Southwest stories inspired me.

What changes did you noticed in your own companies’ once you shifted the focus to empowering your employees?

We threw out the rule book completely and everything changed. Not just from our retention and our customer service- my own time became more strategic and proactive vs reactive… everything changed. We threw out all policy and procedures, and shifted to simple, scaleable systems.  Employees were given a simple three-pronged decision-making process (In short: Is it the right thing for the customer? Is it the right thing for the business? Are you willing to be accountable?) and were able to make decisions on their own. 

This resulted in front line employees making their own decisions then telling us what they did and why they did it.  We now had minimum wage employees acting strategically. I can’t TELL you how much that impacted our company. We grew 60% in a 24-month period.

What are the unexpected changes your clients have reported from implementing your strategies?

No decision-making bottlenecks, less bureaucracy, and better relationships with their staff (to name a few). Really getting in front of their human resources problems that had them pulling their hair out. They are now finally taking back control, enjoying it, and turning it into their company’s competitive advantage.

What is the single most important change you recommend companies make to empower their employees?

Get out of their way! I want to sneak 2 in here…One of the #1 things that happens over and over again is people add complexity and bureaucracy as they scale instead of making things simpler. Those things suck the energy out of not just the company, but the founders too.

What’s next for you?

Staying on my path. I am really enjoying what I’m doing with VIDA and Connolly Owens, and I want to focus on growing and scaling these companies

And trying to remind myself to not be in such a rush 🙂

You can find Ron online on his website, Twitter, and LinkedIn. And you can learn more about VIDA Living, which aims to revolutionize affordable housing, here.