Millions of people dream of quitting their jobs and going into business for themselves. You get to call all the shots, set your schedule, and choose who to work with. Unfortunately, being your own boss comes with endless hurdles that may shatter this fantasy.
Calling the shots isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.
One of the biggest obstacles is shifting your outlook and behavior from employee to employer. After years of working for others, you may struggle to assume the role of the employer.
You’ll need to drop some of your old habits and develop an entrepreneurial state of mind. To help with this transition, we’ve prepared the following guide on how to make the mindset shift from employee to employer.
Why Does an Employee Mindset Limit Your Success?
When you enter the workforce, you quickly learn to conform to a system managed by others. Even in a field that encourages thinking outside of the box, there are limits to your freedom.
The limitations of a traditional 9-to-5 job slowly force you into the company mold. You become one of many employees that work together toward common goals instead of a unique individual.
The typical employee mindset keeps you from taking risks or genuinely thinking for yourself, which are essential parts of becoming an entrepreneur.
Here are steps that you can take today to start shifting toward the right frame of mind:
1. Start Opening Your Mind to New Possibilities
The first habit to break is limiting the scope of your ambitions. As an employee, you’re trained to follow a specific path. You work your way up the corporate ladder without stopping to explore other options.
As an employer, you need to keep your options open. You need to start opening your mind to the endless possibilities in front of you. Basically, you need to start thinking outside of the box.
You’re no longer confined to the limitations of your employer. You have the freedom to realize your vision, no matter how unconventional your idea may be. Some of the most successful entrepreneurs are innovators. The ones that create something new and original are more likely to thrive.
Peter Drucker, the father of modern business management, said, “If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old.”
To think like an entrepreneur, prepare yourself to explore new possibilities.
2. Get Ready to Accept Complete Responsibility
When you become an employer, you need to be ready to take responsibility for the good and the bad.
If a project doesn’t provide satisfactory results, the person in charge tends to take the blame. It’s a sign of good leadership when a manager assumes responsibility for failures.
When you become a business owner, you need to let everything fall on your shoulders. Own every decision that you make and every action that your employees take. It’s okay to pat yourself on the back when you succeed. When you fail, and you will have at least a few failures or setbacks, so take responsibility.
Accepting responsibility requires more than accountability. Along with accepting the outcomes of a project or activity, you’re responsible for showing employees how to achieve the desired outcomes. You also need to give them the resources needed to succeed.
Leaders show responsibility by staying on top of potential problems instead of assuming that someone else will find the answer.
3. Learn to Keep Yourself Motivated
Employees are given schedules and deadlines. Employers set them.
When you transition to your new role as a business owner, procrastination isn’t an option. You need to set deadlines and stick to them or ensure that your employees stick to them.
You’ll no longer have a supervisor to keep you on track. Business owners need to keep themselves motivated.
Without a set schedule, you have the freedom to do what you want with your time. This is a blessing and a curse. It’s easy to allow the day to get away from you without accomplishing anything.
To stay motivated and focused, maintain a set schedule. While you may not need to check-in with a supervisor or punch a clock, you should still start your day at a set time. Sticking to a schedule trains your brain to avoid deviating from the routine. You’ll become less likely to procrastinate and waste your day.
4. Start Setting Short-Term and Long-Term Goals
You’re going to be the one creating the vision for your business.
Having a clear vision may be the most significant aspect of becoming an entrepreneur, especially if you have an unconventional business idea. You need to be able to clearly explain your vision and the direction of your company.
Setting short-term and long-term goals helps others understand the big picture and the steps needed to get there. Long-term business goals cover the overall vision of your business. These are things that you want to achieve in the next decade.
Set long-term goals that align with the values of your brand. This helps you keep your business pointed in the right direction.
Short-term goals are the stepping stones you take to reach your vision, such as the things that you hope to accomplish within the next one to three years.
Short-term goals are typically more actionable compared to long-term goals. You provide specific steps that you and your employees need to complete.
5. Devote More of Your Attention to the Present
The lack of security that comes with being a business owner requires a change in priorities. There is no finish line and no retirement party.
The goal of a business is to stay in business. Sure, you may eventually pass the torch to a successor, but you shouldn’t live for that day.
While you need a clear vision for your business, you need to remain grounded in the present. Keeping your head in the clouds may prevent you from seeing the obstacles in front of you.
The best leaders are focused and present. They listen to their employees and value their suggestions. To become more present-minded, do one thing at a time instead of trying to multitask. Juggling more than one task at a time limits productivity and may even put unneeded strain on your brain.
When you approach one task a time, you give the task the attention that it deserves. This is true no matter if you’re listening to an employee or trying to solve an issue on your own.
6. Get Used to Dealing with Numbers
When you become a business owner, your life will revolve around numbers. You’ll need to analyze numbers related to gross profits, revenue ratios, accounts payable, and dozens of other areas that impact your bottom line.
If you don’t love numbers, learn to love them.
Employers tend to dread numbers at the beginning, as they don’t always provide good news. In fact, there will be times that the numbers keep you up at night.
When the numbers don’t match your expectations, you may become discouraged. Receiving a little bad news doesn’t mean it’s the end of your journey. Try to see the unfavorable news as a challenge instead of a roadblock. When you accept adversity, you can learn and grow as an entrepreneur.
Look into the reasons behind the numbers without trying to pass the blame to others. Remember that you’re the one that needs to take responsibility. Take control of the situation and move forward.
7. Let Go of the Need for Security and Comfort
If you crave job security, becoming a business owner will create a lot of stress in your life. In your 9-to-5 job, you probably don’t worry too much about the stability of your job, pay, and benefits. Employers don’t have the same luxury.
The biggest risk with entrepreneurial projects is the complete failure of your business. If your business fails, you’re out of a job with no pay or benefits.
You need to embrace being uncomfortable and accept the uncertainty of the situation. Use the fear that this creates to drive you to success. Fear is often a warning sign that you’re taking a big risk. When you become afraid of an outcome, you can use that fear as motivation to review all your options and analyze your approach.
If you’re not afraid of failing, something isn’t right. It means that you’re settling for whatever happens, which breeds complacency.
8. Always Strive for More
As the leading individuals in any field can tell you, complacency is the enemy of success. It keeps you from striving for more than the status quo.
Complacency tends to creep in when things are running smoothly. When you become complacent with your situation, you may fear change. Instead of taking manageable risks to grow your business, you keep things the way they are, causing your business to stagnate and suffer a slow death.
Entrepreneurs also tend to lose focus when they become complacent. You may stop paying attention to the details, relying on your employees to keep the wheels turning. This lack of leadership doesn’t go unnoticed by employees.
By setting a bad example, employees become complacent. Tension starts to grow as leaders stop leading. You then run the risk of creating a hostile, unproductive work environment.
Luckily, it’s easy to avoid these problems. You just need to continue searching for the next idea or area to improve. Continually find ways to challenge yourself and your business, such as entering a new market or reaching a different audience.
9. Never Stop Learning
When you stop learning, you stop moving forward. If your business stops moving forward, it fails.
It’s okay to be confident in your abilities and knowledge of your industry. However, you should never assume that you have all the answers or know everything that you need to know. You should also realize that you don’t need all the answers. Part of becoming a successful business owner involves relying on others.
Learn from those that work for you, as they likely have the skills and knowledge that you lack. That’s probably why you hired them. Along with learning from others, you can learn from your own research. Take the time to read books, learn new skills, and grow as an individual.
You should always ask yourself, “what’s next?” Pay attention to the competition and the newest technologies available for your industry.
As part of your education, it’s also a good idea to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. Decide what you’re best at and develop those skills. Improve your strengths while fostering a diverse team to address your weaknesses.
For example, you don’t need to be a marketing expert to run a successful business, but hiring one can help you reach a wider audience.
10. Accept Your New Role
The last bit of advice we want to share is to accept your role as a leader. To your employees, you will always be the boss. You’re not their co-worker, so don’t feel scorned when they don’t invite you to lunch.
Understanding that there’s an invisible barrier between the employer and the employees is a hard pill to swallow. However, it’s also a necessary step in becoming a successful business owner.
You’re not a friend of your employees, you’re the person responsible for their paychecks. Trying to be part of the gang can backfire. Your employees may start to slack off or assume that you’ll let certain issues slide. You’ll also find it harder to discipline employees or deal with conflict in the workplace.
Stay friendly and actively listen to your employees, but make sure that you maintain a firm line between employer and friend. Another challenge of the employer/employee dynamic is receiving objective feedback. You’re less likely to get honest criticism from an employee, requiring you to become more objective.
In the end, honesty and objectivity are two things that you can retain from an employee mindset. When you’re an employee, you can honestly and objectively assess business outcomes and policies.
You’ll need to take a step back occasionally to examine your business with an honest, objective state of mind. If you can achieve this, you may boost your chances of success.
Stephanie is the Marketing Director at Talkroute and has been featured in Forbes, Inc, and Entrepreneur as a leading authority on business and telecommunications.
Stephanie is also the chief editor and contributing author for the Talkroute blog helping more than 100k entrepreneurs to start, run, and grow their businesses.