Tātou in business

By: Samuel Mills

Some of the most important lessons a small to medium business owner can learn do not necessarily come being an employer – time spent as an employee is a fantastic opportunity to fully understand what it is that motivates the team that drives your business.

I had a plethora of jobs growing up but one in particular that always stood out to me was a job at a furniture retailer. Upon accepting the job I was given two options: either I could work on an hourly rate or I could work entirely on commission forgoing the guaranteed safety net of an hourly rate. Being naturally conservative at the time, I chose the hourly rate.

What surprised me over my first few days working for this employer was the proportion of retail staff that were forgoing the hourly rate for full commission. It became very apparent from watching the hard work on the floor that the employer’s interests were very much aligned with their employees in a commission based model. Every one of the commissioned employees were on the floor eagerly converting customers, increasing the revenue generated by the business and in turn increasing their commission payouts.

Conversely, the staff that took the hourly payout were slightly more disinterested in the amount of product moved, there was a distinct disconnection between their lives and that of the corporate entity that employed them.

After seeing the mutual benefit of commissioned roles for both the employer and employee I naturally drifted towards remuneration derived from commission for all roles going forward.

This model reminds me of the Māori word tātou – literally meaning ‘we or us’. To me personally in business, tātou represents the team who give life to a corporate entity. 

As an employer you may be thinking how do I apply this tātou model to my business? My own business provided professional services to those seeking immigration advice, so applying this concept was straightforward and mutually beneficial not only to the employer and the employee, but also to the paying client as the successful outcome of their application was directly financially tied to what was to be paid to the employer and the employee.

The success of the team flows into the success of the individual, so, if possible align your remuneration scheme to encourage a sense of tātou to the benefit of all – we are all in the same waka.


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