Skin in the Game


Aug. 1, 2019

It’s an age-old phrase that stands as true as the sky is blue in today’s evolving business landscape: “you want skin in the game.” To me, it’s the only way to truly get ahead.

If you think back to our days as kids, we always had skin in the game; whether you were building a fort with friends, playing sports, or setting up that first lemonade stand, you were a partner and shared in a piece of the action.

Even if it was your friend’s idea to build a fort, or the build took place at their house, the intention was to build a fort together that would belong to both of you. In sports, you played a variety of individual roles on a team while contributing to the team’s collective success; when your team was victorious, you shared in that victory. Any of us would-be entrepreneurs likely set up a lemonade stand or a garage sale and, once again, you were a partner in that business: you made what you sold.

Then one day, you enter the working world and 98 per cent of how it works changes: someone makes all the money, builds all the value and they pay you to do the work.  Imagine if building a fort, winning a tournament or having a successful day at the lemonade stand was all for the benefit of someone else? Crazy, right? So why do we accept this in our careers?

You have heard all the experts in business talk about making your money work for you, or making money while you sleep. This is all nice and good, but what they are really saying is, “get some skin in the game.”

In my first couple of VERY short stints as a corporate soldier, I remember this reality smacking me right in the face; I found I was able to contribute to the companies’ goals quite quickly, but I was conflicted with the lack of upside available and the motivation to overachieve. At first, I was shocked at how laissez faire everyone I was working with was about their role. I felt like there was no way I could spend my career working alongside people who are just going through the motions. “They must not be my type of people”, I thought, and as I learned more about the corporate world, I realized they had been programmed into a comfort zone of little upside and “security” - the golden handcuffs of a pension. The system started to make sense, but it sure wasn’t for me… I never lasted one full year at either of my two corporate roles.

So, why is skin in the game so important?

You will have a sense of ownership:

  • I think we were all born with a desire to earn our share and have a stake/sense of ownership in all our endeavours; it makes a massive difference in how you feel each and every day as you pour effort into your craft. It was very important to me from the beginning that our GetintheLoop team members have a sense of ownership in the company. Our team all earn shares in the company as part of their compensation. Our GetintheLoop local owners who help connect businesses across Canada to our platform are invested in the success of their franchise and the company overall, as well. Lastly, our platform powers the marketing efforts of entrepreneurs across Canada, so you could say our ecosystem is all about having skin in the game! 

While I have always wanted our team to feel great, build wealth together and share in the win, I also knew that I could only work alongside hustlers who cared about what they did every day. I had seen what it was like to have “a job” and knew I never wanted to work with anyone who was just doing their job. It wouldn’t work. 

 You will be motivated to go the extra mile: 

  • It’s a fact that with skin in the game, you will go the extra mile as it’s your brand, your upside and overall your win that is on the line with every step forward, every customer interaction, etc. In today’s competitive business landscape, you need to put in long hours, make sacrifices and do things others won’t to get ahead. I think the only way any individual can justify the effort, time and commitment that is needed to really succeed is by owning shares, having a piece and sharing in the win, no matter how big or small.

 You will work with all-stars:  

  • There is a certain type of person who is willing to take the risk to have skin in the game. This can come in the form of a person writing their own cheque to buy or open their business, earning less salary while earning shares, or converting owed cash into equity as part of a longer-term approach to business success. There are two key factors individuals like this have in my opinion that make them perfect to grow with: 

    > They are open to risk

    > They understand the long game 

Someone who is open to risk is inherently more confident in themselves and this person will succeed more often than those who struggle to believe in themselves. Today, you need to evolve, iterate and constantly adjust, and this takes a certain set of skills and a propensity to risk and take chances at a fast pace. 

You need to learn how to play the long game. Anyone who wants to get paid more today, or cares more about security then upside, is focused on the now and not the future. I encourage every entrepreneur who’s building their business to surround themselves with individuals who are comfortable taking risks and understand playing for the long-term success. 

For anyone thinking about quitting their comfortable job, I hope this helps shed a bit of light on some of the reasons why you may be lacking motivation, or struggle to get excited about Mondays.

For entrepreneurs looking to build their businesses, always look for business partners to have skin in the game, structure your organization so that all team members win as the company grows and even target companies to work with that also share a similar mindset to accelerate your growth. 

As someone who has previously partnered with many of Canada’s largest media companies in the past, I can tell you it’s extremely challenging to work alongside a group of folks who do not have shared values and ultimately shared upside in the outcome of a partnership. You feel like you go 95 per cent of the way and the other side just doesn’t care and when you look at their structure, it makes sense. We now focus heavily on partnerships with groups and individuals who have some skin in the game and want to move and succeed at the same speed!

- Matty