Mindset is probably the major determinant of success in pretty much every walk of life. In other words, the thinking patterns you habitually adopt largely govern the results you achieve.
But different circumstances and situations require different mindsets, something that anyone looking to leave paid employment and strike out on their own, must be aware of. Unfortunately, not all would-be entrepreneurs understand the dramatic mindset shifts required, without which business success is unlikely.
So how, as a one-time employee, will you have to think differently to succeed?
1. You’re responsible for all decisions – good and bad. Entrepreneurs have an incredible opportunity to create something from nothing, in a way that’s not possible working for someone else. But this means making big decisions about what must be done, when and how. You can’t wait for things to happen, or for someone to tell you what to do, you must make them happen. Successful entrepreneurs also understand that opportunities may be short-lived, and so develop a sense of urgency that helps them achieve their goals.
2. You need to hold both short and long-term visions simultaneously. Work for others and you are mainly responsible for ensuring that what needs to be done now, is done. As an entrepreneur, you have to project your mind forward, thinking about the potential pitfalls and opportunities that lie around the corner, and making decisions based on uncertainty. This requires you to come to terms with the fact that what you do, or don’t do, today, will have an impact on your business three months, even five years down the line.
3. Feeling uncomfortable is your new ‘comfort zone.’ As an employee, you’re used to thinking ‘inside the box’ rather than outside it. As an entrepreneur, there is no box. You see what others don’t, test new ideas, seize new territory, take risks. This requires courage, a thick skin and the ability to keep going despite rejection and skepticism.
4. Learning is a continuous journey. As an employee, you have a job description, requiring a specific skill-set. Being an entrepreneur involves learning many new skills, unless you have the funds to outsource what you’re not good at or don’t want to do. That could be learning to set up a spreadsheet, getting investors on board, marketing your ideas, crafting your perfect pitch, or using unfamiliar technology. What needs to be done, has to be done – there is no room for excuses.
5. Numbers don’t lie. Where numbers are concerned, it’s enough for most employees to know what’s coming in and what’s going out. As an entrepreneur, you’d better learn to love numbers fast, because your cash flow is what will keep you in – or out of – business. Ultimately, it’s your sales, costs, profit and loss that will either give you sleepless nights or an enviable lifestyle. But without the guiding light of numbers, your business will be continually heading for the rocks.
6. Love your business, but be objective. As an employee, you can go on doing something you dislike just for the salary. As an entrepreneur, you will need to love your business because of the effort and long hours required. But you mustn’t fall into the trap of thinking and acting like an employee in your own company, working ‘in’ rather than ‘on’ the business, a ‘technician’ rather than the person who steers it forward.
7. Enjoy breaking rules. As an employee, breaking the rules could mean dismissal. Entrepreneurs on the other hand, aren’t interested in the status quo – they’re always looking for ways to do things differently. That means acquiring a global perspective, always peering over the horizon, or at least towards it, to where the next big thing is waiting.
8. Time isn’t linear. As an employee, you have a timetable to work to. As an entrepreneur, while you might not be tied to a desk or computer 24/7, you will always be thinking about your business, what it’s doing well and what it could be doing better. There will be no respite – you will live and breathe it.
9. Start now. Most people under-estimate the time it takes to make the transition to entrepreneur, so it’s sensible to start shifting your mindset while you’re still employed, perhaps even setting up a business to run alongside. This could give you the opportunity to develop skills and build experience while still enjoying the safety-net of a salary, something that at some point you will almost certainly need to give up if you want to grow your business.
So, employee or entrepreneur? Is it time to switch? The choice is yours.