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What do you do if you want to motivate someone? How do you activate someone’s hustle incentive? What drives them? What makes them want to do something?
Surprisingly, the answer is not money. That is, while money is important, it’s only a baseline factor. People need to be paid such that they are able to live the lives they want to live, do what they want to do, and no longer have to worry about paying their bills.
But beyond that, money is not as much of a motivator as you think. It’s actually one of the least significant. By understanding what truly drives people, you can give your employees the fuel they need to be motivated to do work.
Things like doing work that matters, receiving appreciation, feeling challenged, being given responsibly are all very empowering and are more important that money to many people.
We talk about finding what those incentives are for your employees and how to motivate them.
Highlights, Takeaways, Quick Wins
- Money may get someone in the door, but it’s not going to keep them—it’s not a bandaid fix for a poor working environment or a lack of appreciation.
- For certain people, appreciation is a bigger motivator than money.
- Let your employees know that you will take care of them.
- When you respect your employees, you get respect from them.
- Pay people enough to where they can cover their expenses and they’re not worried about it; then they can focus on the actual work.
- Find out what motivates your employees and combine those incentives.
- Words without pay are meaningless, but pay without appreciation is joyless and unsatisfying.
- Start building a relationship with your employees and they won’t want to let you down.
- Communicate your goals to your employees and communicate them often.
- People like to feel like they’re a part of something.
- Let your employees know your overall company goals, and always let them know what they’re going to get out of it.
- 06:16 Sean: Matt is going to be talking about letting your employees know you care, planning for your employees growth, make a point to motivate them, give random bonuses, and establish overall company goals. I have additional sections on that: learn what drives people, how money is the least significant motivator, why you shouldn’t be underpaying people and what that means and looks like, and combining multiple incentives.
Learn What Drives People
- 07:18 We’re talking about what motivates people and why you do the work that you do, and not just what makes you show up—like having an accountability partner or something—but the reason that you do the work you do. Distilling it into a few words, here are several examples starting with the most impactful. What drives or motivates you? People in the chat room said:
- Doing work that matters
- 08:20 Matt: It’s not everybody’s motivation, but we have to have money to survive, so it has to be on that list.
- 08:26 Sean: It does have to be on the list, although more so on the day job end. If you don’t really like your job and you have it just to pay your bills, money is probably going to be higher on the list for why you’re keeping a job. People do need their expenses covered, but money is often one of the last things people consider.
Everyone says they want money, but money can’t be a bandaid fix for a poor working environment or a lack of appreciation.
- 08:59 Matt: I was just talking to one of my ex-coworkers about how they were always stressing about how nice and comfortable it is at the day job because they know that their bills are covered. I understand that you need your bills covered; I’ve been there. I waited until the very last second I could stay at the day job, to the point where I was running 18 businesses and was still at my day job. That’s ridiculous, but I was so comfortable with the money coming in and acting as my umbrella to pay for everything that I had to stop thinking about the money. I had to start thinking about it as just numbers. We’re still going to get those numbers from our business, so once you get past the word “money” and start thinking about it as a number, as a tool, then it’s a a lot easier to let go of the day job.
- 10:20 Since Sean and I last spoke a month ago, it hit home; every one of my mentors is telling me that I’m balancing so many plates. They say, “I don’t know how you’re doing it, but you’re doing it.” Like Sean has always told me, I should pick one and focus. It has been my philosophy not to start another business until the previous ones have traction. All of my businesses have traction because they feed off of each other, but I’ve been putting in the time with every one of my businesses to make sure that they get to the next level. I’ve made a pact with each of the businesses that I’m not going to start another one until I feel like they’re at that next level.
- 11:05 We’ve established that next level, we have certain goals, and once those goals are accomplished, I will be adding another business. The other day, I really needed to add a security business, but I forced myself not to do it. It’s 100% focus time right now. I want to make sure that all of my businesses are at the highest level they can possibly be right now.
Money is the Least Significant Motivator
- 11:54 Sean: Certainly, people will bend over backwards for money, but paying people a ton of money while ignoring the most prominent reasons why they do work is just shooting yourself in the foot. You’re working against their natural motivators. Money may get someone in the door, but it’s not going to keep them. There’s a lot of people in golden handcuffs, who are paid a lot but don’t like their job. They’re not wanting to leave because they’re paid a lot, but they actually hate their job.
Someone who hates their job does not do good work.
- 12:36 Matt: I had a friend of mine tell me that he couldn’t be an entrepreneur. He’s tried and tried, but he can’t get the mindset straightened out and it’s too much stress. I said, “That’s fine. We have to have employees.” I brought up seanwes and I said, “Where would we be without our wonderful employees?” I certainly couldn’t have the company that I have right now without them. We just got our biggest check for all of our businesses, a seven figure check. I’m super excited about that, but it couldn’t be possible without delegating that work out.
- 13:13 I told my friend, “Other entrepreneurs are rock stars, and there’s nothing wrong with being under them. Maybe you just need a little time to be under a great entrepreneur, a mentor of some sort, and make sure that you have some sort of passion toward whatever they’re doing. Just talk to them.” One of the points we’ll talk about later is that you want to make sure that the entrepreneur cares about you and your future. Talk with them and say, “I’d love to be part of your company. I would love to be an entrepreneur, but I don’t think it’s for me.” Find a position where you can grow with that entrepreneur beyond what you would have had at a day job.
For certain people, appreciation is a bigger motivator than money.
- 14:07 Sean: If they’re paid well but they’re not told that they’re appreciated in one way or another, it kills their job satisfaction. More employers would do well to understand this.
- 14:21 Matt: I don’t understand how a lot of entrepreneurs are so successful. I was just hearing about a really big company that’s having its employees work just as hard if not harder than my employees, but they talk down to them and say, “We could replace you in a moment. Anybody could do your job.” That’s not something you want to tell your employee, because first off, they’re not going to hustle. Secondly, Why are they going to stay around someone who’s pushing them down?
Let Them Know You Care
- 15:00 I put this section near the beginning because I was thinking about bringing on an employee and how I would make them hustle from there, from them walking into my office and saying, “I want to work for you.” This is something I have to start with: “I want you do know that I care about you.” I don’t say it like that, but I get that point across. I let them know, first off, that this is a job. I have to pay my bills, so I need someone to help me do this work. At the same time, I tell them, “We’re here to work with you, first with your schedule, and then if you need extra help one month with money or extra work for a family member, we might be able to work that in.”
Let your employees know that you will take care of them.
- 15:48 One of the main things, even though it shouldn’t be, is money. They want to know that they’re secure, and we try to stress that to them. At the same time, we let them know that we’re not here to have them as a statistic in our company, as a worker. We’re here to help them excel. One thing I’ve learned is that a good employee is not going to stay under you forever, because they’re going to want to go and do their own thing. For instance, Sean and I are not going to stay under a Fortune 100 company, because we want to use our knowledge for our own thing.
- 16:36 I’ve had many employees that still work for me but are starting their own things because of the knowledge they’ve learned from me, and that’s totally fine. We’re here to help our employees. We can always replace them, though that’s not easy, but our goal is to help them. I stress that in our meeting in the very beginning: “We’re here to help you. We’re going to pay you well, but we’re also going to try to jam knowledge into you as you go.” When you tell them that, they feel like they’re going to learn something. A lot of these people, especially since Sean and I are young, will think, “If they can do this, they’re doing something right. I want to know what that is.” I have a lot of 30 and 40 year olds that work for me.
- 17:19 They want to learn. They want to know how I got into this position I’m in. They don’t want to have to work for me forever. In the back of my mind, I know that if I teach them everything I know, they might go and do their own thing. I have to be okay with that, and I am, because we’re here to help people. We’re not here to make millions, because what’s the point of having all this money and being alone in a room? We tell them, “We’re here to help you with your future. We’re here to set a growth plan with you, and this is how we’ll do it.” You have no idea how many awesome employees you have. I told everybody they could have Labor Day off paid, but everybody showed up to work.
- 18:25 They showed up to work, and I was working because it’s what I know and love to do. I said, “What the… What are you guys doing here?” They said, “We want to help you get to your goal, because we know that if you get to your goal, we get to our goal.” Help them feel like they’re a part of something big. Let them see you getting to a bigger goal while helping them get to their goal. Their goal may not be as big as yours, but they might be setting goals they never imagined.
Start building a relationship with your employees and they won’t want to let you down.
- 19:13 That’s what I’m saying about Labor Day—they all showed up and knocked out a ton of work. Who in their right mind is going to have a day off and come to work? Why would you do that? These guys did it because they care. They know what we’re working for; we’re working for the Lambo Goal, and even though they’re not going to get a Lamborghini, they’re going to be able to sit in one and drive it. That might sound silly, careless, or selfish, but they feel like they’re part of something big. They can tell their family members, “I helped get that Lambo right there.”
- 19:51 Sean: Matt’s last point is: they’ll respect you as a leader. He helps them and invests in them even though it means that they might leave at some point, but in return, he earns their respect.
- 20:04 Matt: That’s forever. I’ve got guys who don’t work for anymore, and if I call them up, they’re there. If they ever need anything, it’s the same thing; I help them out. It’s a respect thing, and it really helps you. I’ve gotten jobs from guys who have left me because they respect me and feel like they owe me. I tell them, “You don’t owe me anything. I helped you just like somebody else helped me.”
When you respect your employees, you get respect from them.
Don’t Underpay People
- 20:42 Sean: We started off by saying that money is one of the least significant motivators, but you don’t want to underpay people. Charli says, “Being underpaid is the worst. I was in my first job and it just made me feel negative and annoyed. I think now that I’m paid well and don’t have to think about money I’m more satisfied with my job because I can just think about the work.” Sarah says, “The problem with being underpaid is that it makes you focus on this aspect.” That’s exactly right. People need to be paid to where money isn’t a factor. You can only do your best work when you’re not thinking about money. Pay people enough to where they can cover their expenses and they’re not worried about it—then they can focus on the actual work.
- 21:27 Matt: You want them to be focusing on their work. It might cost you a little bit more, but think about it this way: you’ll get more work done, so you can line up more work, eventually making more money. That’s what you have to do.
- 21:45 Sean: Find out what motivates people. Maybe it’s appreciation: “Cory, you did a good job producing the live show today.” I’m serious. Cory, you can feel good right now. Thanks for showing up this morning. That’s a way to incentivize people. I am being genuine with Cory, but we’re also being transparent in that we want to invest in our employees. That could be bonuses, giving them responsibility, or challenging them. Find out what motivates people, and once you find those things out, combine those incentives.
- 22:39 Ryan says, “Spoken words are really powerful for a lot of people, but getting paid well puts weight behind those words.” It’s a combination of pay and affirmation.
Words without pay are meaningless, but pay without appreciation is joyless and unsatisfying.
- 23:02 Matt: You want people to feel happy. My employees joke all the time, “Matt, you have to stop being so happy. It’s too early.” I say, “Guys, this is just one big party for me. I’m having a blast right now. I’m working my butt off.” Turn on some music! I’m having fun, and I want them to have fun. It’s work, but enjoy it while you can. Don’t think about the money and just get the work done, because once it’s done, you can relax and have a good time. That’s what I stress to them. At the same time, I want to be positive, motivated, and happy, because I’m trying to be an example and a leader. If I come in with a bad mood, what do you think their attitude is going to be? It’s going to be ten times worse than mine, because if the leader’s down, all hell breaks loose.
- 24:14 Sure enough, on the days when I’m overwhelmed, my guys see me and their demeanor goes down. They’re thinking, “This guy’s down, so something’s wrong.” If I walk in upbeat, they start getting into it. You want to stay motivated. There’s plenty of things that can bring us down. I’ve had employees come in with depression who are working on their own things now; all it takes is a little bit of motivation, but you have to have some mentors to look up to.
- 24:59 Sean: At seanwes, we do this thing called Small Scale Sabbaticals. Every seventh week, everyone on the team takes the whole week off and they’re paid to do it. We had a sabbatical week and everyone was taking it off, except that I was in hustle mode because we were trying to get Learn Lettering out, and Cory decided to show up during the sabbatical week and help me shoot videos. He basically didn’t take the sabbatical, but did extra work just to help. He could have taken it and gotten paid. I want to hear from Cory why he did that and some thoughts on that.
- 25:48 Cory: You see the work that needs to be done. It wasn’t obligatory. I wanted to work, and I knew how big this was going to be. I didn’t know entirely, but I knew that this was a great project for seanwes. It was something I wanted to be a part of, even if I wasn’t being paid. I wanted to say, “You know that thing? I helped with that.” It was a cool thing to be a part of.
- 26:29 Sean: I didn’t ask him, he offered to do this. I did end up giving him a bonus, but that wasn’t the reason he did it. He was already getting paid for the week, so he could have taken that time off and gotten paid, but he showed up. He got paid and he also got a bonus, but that wasn’t why he did it, it was a byproduct. I think the reason he did show up had to do with investments we made prior to that time: taking care of him, giving him challenges, responsibility, appreciation, empowerment, and, as a way of showing more appreciation, we gave him a bonus on top of that to say, “You did good work.”
- 27:13 Matt: That is the secret right there. Everybody needs to listen up and do that. You do that, and every single one of your employees will put out more than you ever thought that person would bring to the table.
People like to feel like they’re part of something.
- 27:30 You’d be surprised. Treat people with respect, motivate them, and tell them that they’re doing a great job even if they mess up. Don’t walk in and start screaming at them, but calmly tell them how they could have done a better job. People will respect you for that. Those are the moments, when people screw up, that you can’t just walk in and yell at them.
- 27:56 Whenever I go to a job site, I tell my employees, “You did a fantastic job today. I love how you took initiative here.” Those little things, when they come from the leader, make you feel on fire inside, like you can do whatever you want to do. Those employees will show up and do things for you for free. That’s not to say that you should give them incentives so they’ll work for you for free, but it’s a byproduct of this positive vibe they’re getting from you.
Discover What Incentivizes Your Employees
- 28:33 Sean: Part of optimizing this is understanding what your employees hustle incentive is. In most cases, it’s not going to be money. Money isn’t the primary thing. Sarah says, “If money was no object, my day job would disappear.” She’s not there for the money. Even in jobs you really enjoy, money is not the primary factor. Money is a factor in as much as it gets us out of scarcity, covers our expenses, and allows us to live the life we want to live (Related: seanwes e156 How to Defeat Scarcity Mindset). For the most part, people aren’t obsessed about a number. If they’re out of scarcity, they have things covered, they’re able to do the things they want to do, go the places they want to go, and they’re free in that, they’re satisfied.
- 29:24 Similarly, if they have a ton of money and wealth but they hate their job, they’re not satisfied. Money is not the factor that makes employees happy or satisfied; it just needs to hit the point where they are freed up to do what they want and live the life they want to live. Money is the baseline—you need to take care of people. You don’t want to put them in bad environments and throw money at it to fix the problem. “Yeah, it’s a terrible environment, we speak to you negatively, but here’s some more money”—that’s not good. Cover the stuff that will allow them to live the life they want to live and cover their expenses, but beyond that, there are these other hustle incentives, these motivators.
Find out what incentives your employee resonates with the most.
- 30:19 There are tools you can use like personality tests, understanding their Meyers-Briggs personality type, to know how they work. Understanding those things to get to know the people will help you understand which thing to feed. Some people don’t need words of affirmation at all. They don’t care about that; they just want you to give them bonuses. How have you been able to find out what makes your employees or your managers tick? We have a small team here, just seven of us, so we’re able to do a team call each week. We try and get together. I flew the whole team out for Circles Conference and the meetup we had right after. Matt, how have you been able to get together with people and get to know their personalities?
- 31:25 Matt: When we have our initial meeting to bring employees in, I try to figure them out as a person right there and then. I try to figure out what they really want. If they’re just there for money, I don’t usually hire them, even if they have great skills and they come in over-confident. I want to make sure that they’re there to learn and that money isn’t their 100% goal. If that’s their goal, then they’re a greedy person that’s always going to want money. I understand that they have to have money to survive, but I don’t want that to be their main goal. My main purpose in that meeting is to establish a relationship with them. I want them to know that I’m willing to work with them in any way possible.
Give Random Bonuses
- 32:35 We experiment with random bonuses; if you’ve listened to Lambo Goal long enough, you know that I like massages. I work so much and I have back problems, so I love massages. It makes me happy. I’ll pick five of the employees that did a fantastic job or just finished a job, and just to get them pumped, I’ll get them massages. Some of them really appreciate it, and others don’t. We mark that down.
- 33:19 Then we’ll go to another set of employees, and we’ll give them a gift card to some restaurant. We’ll give all of them the same thing because we’re experimenting, we’re learning about the employees. We’ll go to the next set of guys and give them a random bonus: $100 cash, and if they jump for joy, you just know. Cory has something that makes him tick, so we try and find that. It’s a non-stop experiment; we don’t have some standard bonus.
Find out what bonuses make your employees hustle their faces off.
- 34:16 This is the core right here. Bonuses are something that motivate us. I love movies, so every now and then my wife gives me a free movie night pass, where I get to go watch movies by myself, and that’s great. This is something that makes me jump for joy, so I try and find that for every one of my employees. If you are a solo entrepreneur without employees, give yourself random bonuses. In the beginning, my dad was my accountability partner, so I told him, “Dad, I want you to give me words of affirmation, but at the same time, random bonuses.” He had a debit card to my account, so he could use the card. I said, “Give me random things, I don’t care what it is. I don’t care if it’s a fruit basket. Make me work for it.”
- 35:53 Sean: Don’t let bonuses be boring, like it’s just a part of your salary.
- 36:00 Matt: Viki, my assistant, and I were talking about this. We don’t give bonuses every courter or every month, because we want people to hustle their face off. Everything we’re talking about right now is to help the employee reach their goal and to help you reach your goal. Random bonuses are just one piece of the puzzle.
- 36:33 Sean: You’ve got cash, more responsibility, massages, gift cards, or half a day off.
- 36:48 Matt: This is how being an entrepreneur is different than being a big corporation—you get the flexibility of being creative. You get to come up with random stuff and see if it works. If it works, awesome. One thing I’ve found that has worked with my employees is to say, “Guys, I know this is a three day project, but if you get it done it two days, tomorrow I just need you to come and clean the stuff up, have the rest of the day half off but get paid for the whole day.” Do you know how many people suddenly know how to hammer things quicker than I’ve seen possible? Be creative. Don’t just think of monetary things, but random stuff like that: “We’ve got this deadline, so if you work your butt off, next week you’ve got a full week off paid.”
Be creative with random incentives.
Plan for the Employee’s Growth
- 41:00 This is one of those ongoing conversations that I have with my employees because I want them to always know that there’s room to grow. This is why I love having multiple businesses, because I love having the option to move people around to where they feel more passionate. Money is important; it’s a tool we have to have in our everyday lives, so I want them to know that not only can they follow their passion here, but they can also cover their expenses and some.
- 41:33 That’s huge for these people. Ultimately, it’s a plan they can put together for their future. We’re starting to do retirement plans for our employees, and I didn’t realize how huge that was going to be for them.
Establish Overall Company Goals
- 42:38 Why are we doing this? As an employee, why do I want to work for Matt? Why do I want to work for seanwes? Why can’t I go work somewhere else where I could make more money or find my passion? One of the reasons why my employees stay with me is because not only am I having an ongoing conversation with them on how they can grow within us, but also on how they’re going to be a part of something huge. You don’t get that opportunity everywhere. Not only that, but this is a small business and a young entrepreneur that you’re going to work with. He’s young, but he’s more than willing to share what he’s learned with you.
- 43:27 Sean: I read something recently that was really good and really resonated with me: communicate your goals to your employees and communicate them often. Really make sure that you’re on the same page as far as where we’re going, what are goals are, and why we’re doing this. Don’t be afraid to communicate that multiple times. You can’t say, “I told you I loved you when we got married and I’ll let you know if anything changes,” and it’s the same with employees.
- 44:02 Matt: I give my employees real numbers as much as I can, to the point where my accountant gets pissed at me. My guys usually know what I charge for stuff, and they know that it’s three or four times what they make, if not more. It doesn’t make them frustrated, except sometimes with the new guys, but the veterans always come in and save me. They come tell the rookies, “We’re here to help the company grow, because if the company grows, you and I grow. Our goals can grow.”
- 44:43 Sean: You can’t just go out on your own and make that same money. Where are the jobs coming from? You’ve been working at this for years, you’re bringing in the jobs, and you’re making it rain for people. There’s all these expenses they don’t see, like that truck you’re driving around. Someone had to pay for that. Someone has to put gas in it, maintain it, pay the accountant, and all this stuff.
- 45:11 Matt: Right now I have an account that we’re hoping to get that’s worth $2 million for the lawn guys. It’s real. My lawn guys are getting paid $12 to $14 an hour, so how do you think they’ll feel when they see that Matt’s going to get $2 million when, at the end of the day, they’re going to get $100 or $200? They know this. I tell them: “Guys, we almost have a $2 million contract for our goal.” See how I said “our” goal? I didn’t say “my” goal.
- 45:56 Sean: How do you make that real for them, tangible for their goals?
- 46:12 Matt: We’ve got an illustration of a Lambo that Sean made and that image is in every single one of our trucks, it’s in my office, and it’s in every place that the employee will go. It’s a stupid thing, but I learned this—I can’t remember if it’s Ty Lopez or Gary Vee that does this—but they have images of their big goals, so their employees can see how they’re a part of something huge. My employees know that we are working toward a $40 million company and Matt is getting a $4 million payout for his $400,000 Lambo Goal. They know this. It makes some of them skeptical, but that’s the rookies. My veterans say, “Let’s do this. I want to be a part of this huge goal.”
- 47:18 It might sound kind of selfish for the entrepreneur leading this, but it really isn’t. My employees know that if we make our quota by October, they’re going to get the whole months of November and December off fully paid with time and a half for the weeks that we would usually get time and a half for. Do you know how much money I’m going to be paying out? Do you know how hard they’re hustling right now? They’re hustling their faces off.
- 48:09 It is raining in San Antonio Texas right now, and usually when it rains I give them time off; I don’t want them working because of the power equipment, but they’re working right now even though they know I’d prefer them not to because of their safety. They know that if we reach our quota, everything we need to get done and the amount of money we need to make, by the end of October, they’re going to get two months off and a bonus that they don’t know about.
Let your employees know your overall company goals, and always let them know what they’re going to get out of it.
- 48:48 Don’t tell them, “This is my goal,” tell them, “This is the overall company goal.” Let them know they might reach their goal when you reach yours. You want to help them. As you work toward the big company goal, keep establishing goals for them.