Owner vs employee mindset : Which are you?

The business owner vs employee mindset is an ongoing debate. Are they really all that different and why you need to know before you start a business.

Can you think like an employee and still be a success in business or do you need that often-hyped boss mentality?

Does owning a business enable you to have a better work life balance when you are the boss?

There are a lot of articles on this subject. Unfortunately, many of them tend to be a little negative in relation to the “employee mindset”. As if it is a bad thing to think a certain way. 

This episode is about the differences between the two rather than one being right and one being wrong.

You might also like this related post called the Personality and Mindset of an Entrepreneur or Business Owner.

The owner vs employee mindset is not about right or wrong

There are millions upon millions of wonderful employees working across every industry you can imagine. They are perfectly happy, productive and content.

That is great. Chances are their mindset predisposes them towards being a tremendous and highly valued employee.

If it weren’t for this pool of hard-working staff, many of today’s great businesses, both big and small, wouldn’t be successful at all.

Former employees start businesses

Naturally, the vast majority of people who go on to start a business have worked for someone else.

I’m certainly of the opinion that being successful in business does require a different way of thinking.

The fact is, however, those differences aren’t always clear to us when we leave employment to start a business.

So, just what are the differences between a business owner vs employee mindset. Understanding these differences before you quit your job is a good idea.

What is mindset?

So let’s start by defining we mean by a mindset.

We simply like to think of a mindset as being a ‘way of thinking’. It is made up of your thoughts and beliefs that influence the way you think.

positive and negative mindset

Mindsets can be referred to as being either negative or positive.

For instance, we often hear about people who have received some terrible news about their health.

If the recipient has a positive mindset, it seems they almost subconsciously think about ways that they might be able to improve their situation or get a positive outcome.

Whereas, someone with a negative mindset, upon receiving the same news, might think the worst.

Whether your mindset is positive, negative or in the middle, try to understand it before deciding whether to jump into a business of your own.

This understanding will help you to make any adjustments to your mindset that may be necessary to help you succeed in business.

Introducing the Business Owner mindset

Lets have a look at some of the features of the mindset that, if adopted by someone starting a business, would hold them in good stead.

We’ll also look at how having the mindset of an employee may not always work for a business owner.


Continuing the effort when you don’t feel like it. Being consistent in your demeanour towards customers or clients.

Now we all have bad days when we couldn’t be bothered giving our best efforts or, in some cases, even turning up once in a while.

Of course, if that pattern repeats too often as an employee, you might have a problem with the boss.

In your own business, though, consistency of effort, mood and performance is critical as you set the culture within your business. You set the standards.

Your customers, staff and creditors need consistency from you. They need to know what they can expect.

Now we can’t put a too finer point on this – your behaviour determines the culture within your business.

Your people look to you for leadership whether you realise it or not. And both your acts and your omissions will have a huge impact on the performance of those around you.

This is the first element where differences emerge in the business owner vs employee mindset discussion.

If it is to be, it’s up to me

The next mindset that is great to have for someone in business could be called “if it is to be, it’s up to me” .

For example, in the UK, around 14 million people work in the largest 41,000 businesses. For many of them, the success or failure of their employer does not solely depend on their efforts.

In your own business, that is much more likely to be the case.

You are the driver of your business success, and so you need to embrace the IIITBIUTM mindset.

Merging your life with your business

Often employees can switch off when work finishes for the day.

Of course, that it is not true for many employees whom may regularly have to bring work home.

The fact is though, for many of us in business, it’s a 24/7 thing.

In the formative years at least, your business will merge a little with your life, usually more than a job will.

You need to ask yourself the question “am I OK with that?”.

If the answer is no, a lot of planning is required to enable the business to grow successfully without your complete attention and effort.

So, clearly there is an area within the owner vs employee conversation where a different way of thinking would be beneficial for the new business owner.

No fall-back

I’ve heard it said that the average person starting today as an employee will have 17 jobs across five careers throughout their life. As a business owner, that same mentality may not work.

As an employee, regularly changing jobs is a great way to gain more experience, move up in the pay grades and take on extra responsibility, growing your career.

In your own business, though, it may not be possible to have an easy exit. As I said in an earlier episode “it can be very quick and easy to start a business but significantly harder to exit one.

A successful business owner is likely to have a no fall-back mindset that drives them to succeed.

Jack of all trades

If you work in an established business, then you are a part of an organisation.

You are likley to be surrounded by people who can support you.

Small business, however, cannot afford a large number of staff or departments. Therefore, the art of multitasking and covering multiple roles becomes a necessity. There are critical business functions that need to be done for your business to thrive.

A lot of big business thinking is around specialisation. As such, the education system has responded with more specialised courses and degrees to meet the needs of corporations.

In smaller businesses, the generalist is still a necessity as employing a team of specialists is rarely financially viable.

Being a “jack of all trades” is key element of the business owner mindset.

Before choosing a business partner its vital to ensure they are a good fit or things won’t end well.

Risk/reward and the business owner mindset

As a successful business owner, the rewards can be great. However, you also need to understand that the entire risk lives with you as well.

For instance, as an employee, you might work out of a lovely office building or a well-equipped warehouse. It could be one of the reasons you chose to work there.

But for your boss, they may see it as a liability for which they are often personally responsible. That can be a source of a lot of pressure.

Your attitude to money is another key difference when considering the owner vs employee mindset.

Drowning not waving

I was often reluctant, especially in the early days to seek support when I was finding the going a bit tough.

The result of that being a tonne of stress that I really didn’t need to inflict upon myself.

If you are struggling with something in business, I encourage you to reach out to people you trust to help. You may consider a business mentor as someone who you trust to help.

ask for help in business

That person or people might be someone internally if you have staff.

It could be a family member or friends or, in many cases, it might be to one or more external professionals depending on the sort of assistance you need.

I guess the trick is knowing who you can trust in situations where the going might be getting a bit tough.

What’s our verdict on business owner vs employee mindset?

Our view is that for some people they are not suited to owning a business. For others, they adapt and cope really well. After all, many business owners were employees.

We recommend that listen to our episodes about knowing yourself and understanding your motivation as good foundations. We also have a Fundamental Four checklist that points out some things to master.

The fact is, when you leap into business, you create your roadmap to follow your business purpose– there isn’t one to follow.

Avoiding the hidden causes of business failures through personal preparation makes sense.

So, knowing when it’s time to put your hand up and ask for help is a mindset that is important to cultivate, even if you have high personal resilience.

To help guide you we have our Entrepreneur Personality Quiz that has great tips.


The information contained in this podcast is general and does not take into account your situation. The content does not constitute business, legal or financial advice and should not be used as such. You should consider whether the information is appropriate to your needs, and where applicable, seek professional advice from a business adviser, financial adviser or lawyer in your jurisdiction. To find out more, please go to www.ShouldIOwnABusiness.com.


Subscribe for More Great Content!

Never miss a new post, podcast episode and bonus content!