Owner vs employee mindset : Which are you?

The difference between a business owner versus employee mindset is an ongoing debate. Are they really all that different, and why do you need to know before you start a business?

7 Tips from business mentors on what is expected of a successful business owner mindset. We compare the business owner and employee mindset to help you decide if owning a business is a good choice for you This comparison is about the differences rather than one being right and one being wrong.

Many employees successfully make the transition and become happy business owners. Some fit naturally into business ownership, others take some adjustments, and some people completely fail.

Predicting whether You would be a happy business owner can help you make an informed choice.

If you are not suited to owning a business, being an employee is probably a wise choice.

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 of wonderful employees in every industry. They are perfectly happy, productive, and content, which is great for their employer and society. The 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.

Do many former employees start businesses?

Naturally, the vast majority of people who start a business have worked for someone else. They gain experience, learn skills and branch out on their own.

We are certain that being successful as a business owner does require a different way of thinking.

However, those differences aren’t always clear to us before we leave employment to start a business.

Understanding these differences before you quit your job is a good idea.

This could save you a lot of time, money and stress. It could also help you avoid a business failure.

This article also highlights the first and biggest mistake employees can make when starting a business.

What do we mean by mindset?

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

We simply 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.

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

A positive mindset seems to subconsciously think about ways to improve a situation or get a positive outcome.

positive and negative mindset

Whereas a negative mindset might see things less favourably.

Perhaps a simple question to ask yourself is whether you generally feel “the glass is half full or half-empty”? 

Your mindset can change if you choose.

Considering your mindset will help you make any adjustments to your mindset that may help you succeed in business.

Tip 1: Be Consistent in Your Attitude and Behaviour

Being consistent in your demeanour towards customers and employees can mean continuing the effort when you don’t feel like it.

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 suppliers need consistency from you. They need to know what they can expect.

Your employees 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.

Being moody, erratic or unpredictable is not going to help you in business.

Tip 2: If it is to be, it’s up to me

As an employee, your performance has a less direct impact on the business than a business owner. 

The owner must accept that they carry the responsibility for the business and accept that “if it is to be, it’s up to me”.

As an owner, You are the driver of your business success, and so you need to embrace this challenge. But, more than embrace it, you must enjoy this aspect.

Your mindset must enable you to find solutions to a never-ending procession of challenges. You have to like making lots of decisions and avoid being a procrastinator.

Keeping organised, positive and self-motivated is vital.

No one else will solve your business problems or make things happen.

Tip 3: Merging your life with your business

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

Of course, it is not always true for those employees who 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 early years, at least, your business will merge a little with your life, usually more than a job will. 

So you cannot expect to switch off after work. The urban myth is that business owners have a better work life balance.

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 where a different way of thinking would be beneficial for the new business owner.

Tip 4: No fall-back and 100% commitment

The average employee starting today can expect to have multiple jobs across several careers throughout their life. 

As a business owner, the same may not apply.

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. 

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.

Tip 5: Jack of all trades

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

You are likely surrounded by people who can support you.

In a small business, however, You cannot afford a large number of staff or departments. Therefore, the art of multitasking and covering multiple roles becomes a necessity. In addition, 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 necessary as employing a specialist team is rarely financially viable.

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

Tip 6: 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, you might work out of a lovely office building or a well-equipped warehouse as an employee. 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. Business owners must worry about the risk as well as any rewards. Employees can focus on the rewards and ignore the risks.

Tip 7: Drowning, not waving-ask for help early!

A business owner often does not have peers to ask for help.

Running a business owner can feel very lonely and burdened.

In contrast, an employee may have peers to discuss their issues with. Additionally, employees can pass issues up to their manager, whereas the “buck stops” with the owner every time. Business owners need a high degree of resilience.

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

ask for help in business

The result of that being a tonne of stress that I really didn’t need to inflict upon myself.” Geoff Daniel Co-Host

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

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.

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 people are not suited to owning a business. However, others can adapt and cope really well. After all, many business owners were employees.

Predict which you are before you start a business to avoid being unhappy.

7 Tips for Business Owner Mindset Business Owner Employee
Consistent demeanour Leads by example Less leadership expectation
If it’s to be, its up to me Ultimate responsibility Limited responsibility
Merge business and life 24x7x365 Can switch off
No fall back 100% committed Can resign and change employer
Jack of all trades Be the “expert generalist” More limited responsibility
Risk and Reward Has both the Risk and Reward No risk
Getting support The buck always stops here Can pass problems on

Here are some additional resources that might help you decide.

A complete newbie business owner explains how he unexpectedly took over the family business and overcame many hurdles. Phillip Kuoch’s journey is a great insight into a business owners mindset.

Have a 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.


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