Are You Sure You Want To Be Your Own Boss?

I knew from an early age that I’d make a terrible employee. After all, I have all of the 3 worst qualities in the eyes of an employer:

-I have a severe allergy to inefficient meetings and am likely to start foaming at the mouth if required to sit around a conference table while discussing minutia.

-I don’t play well with others. Having grown up in a family of 9 kids where team work was valued (Seriously – we had teams for loading and unloading the dishwasher and even a sock-matching team. Hey, it was the ‘70’s! ). I’d gained all the team work skills I needed by the time I was 13 years old. Team building in the workplace? No thank you.

-I don’t follow the rules. Apparently some people have a mechanism in their brain that helps them to recognize a rule and subsequently follow it. As soon as I hear a rule, my brain goes directly to thinking about how quickly and creatively I can break it.

Fortunately for me, I’ve been able to be my own boss for the past 30 years and avoid the role of  employee . More often than not, when someone hears that I’m self-employed, they say “Oh, I’d love to work for myself!”, While it may sound like a dream come true to say good bye to rush hour, bad bosses and limited vacation days, working for oneself is definitely not for everyone. Like most things in life, there are pros and cons. One way to evaluate it is to consider the differences between the mindset of an employee and that of an entrepreneur. (For the sake of this post, I’ll use self-employed and entrepreneur interchangeably although that is a much longer conversation).

Keep in mind these are continuums, not black and white characteristics – ask yourself the questions and see where you’d place yourself along the spectrum.

STRUCTURE –  Although some days you may hate it (like when the alarm goes off at  6:45 on a Monday morning), some people thrive in a predictable structure and routine. An employee mindset is that work is contained and separate from the rest of life. An entrepreneur may be cycling in the middle of the day and then working late into the evening. There is not as much distinction between work life and play life when you work for yourself. Having to create their own sense of structure is what takes some entrepreneurs down.  It requires discipline and foresight to have complete control over one’s hours and know when to be productive.

Ask yourself: How do I feel when I have no structure? Does it make me feel anxious or bored – or, on the other hand, do I feel energized and focused by the freedom to choose?

PERSONAL ACCOUNTABILITY – As my own boss, I know that every day I am 100% responsible for my results. If I’m not creating the income, freedom, or business that I want, there is only myself to blame. I am forced to assess what am I doing or not doing that is creating my own failure. As an employee, there are a lot of variables. You can choose to point the finger at the company’s poor leadership, insufficient salaries or unhealthy company culture.

Ask yourself: Do I like the idea of being fully responsible for my results or does that sound too stressful and/or too big a burden?

THINKING VS. ACTING – Entrepreneurs and employees experience different ratios in their time frames for thinking vs. acting.  An entrepreneur is often required to take action before they’re fully ready and they tend to believe there is no “perfect’ time. In an employee role, there is more luxury in talking, thinking and planning (and maybe creating a few committees) before taking significant action.

Ask yourself: How comfortable am I in taking action when some elements are unknown? Am I happier and more productive in a routine that is safe and predictable?

LEARNING – In many professions, an employee gets a degree or certification and then proceeds ahead to on- the- job training and mastery. There may be some continuing education requirements or an annual conference for industry updates. Entrepreneurs need to be excited about continual learning and embracing the continual feeling that there is no end to what you could do to improve your business. For most business owners, a significant portion of their revenues are re-invested into learning: whether that’s technology, workshops, coaching or formal classes. As a speaker, I’ve invested in classes on storytelling, humor, business development, coaches and I’m just scratching the surface of all that is available to continue my personal and business growth.

Ask yourself: Do I have a natural curiosity and love for life-long learning or do I prefer to learn something once and stick to doing it the same way?

RELATIONSHIP TO RULES  – Employees are at risk of consequences and at the extreme, at risk of being fired if they don’t carefully follow the company rules. Entrepreneurs can’t be overly focused on rules, because inevitably, to be successful, they need to create their own and ignore some rules that their competitors live by.

Ask yourself:  Do I work well within the guidelines of a company’s rules or am I a free spirit with a bit of rebel who bucks the system?

Hop on over to my Facebook community and add your thoughts and experiences on the topic of work life: employee vs. entrepreneur.

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