Discover more from Business Conversations That Matter
From Employee To Entrepreneur
Or how to stop working all your life to make someone else rich!
The Covid-19 crisis has had an unforeseeable effect on many businesses. When Covid-19 first burst on the scene, many thought it was just another virus. It was nothing to worry about. Sadly, many have found Covid-19 has affected them in ways they did not expect. Businesses that had been going for generations closed, with some never to re-open again. When those businesses closed, the super safe jobs that people thought they had also disappeared. As an employee, what do you do now? Try for another job in a market and compete with thousands who are also looking? Or use this down time to investigate another option - move from Employee to Entrepreneur?
LISTEN TO YOUR PARENTS – GET A JOB!
Growing up as an Asian female in Malaysia, I was constantly told that I should study hard, get a job, work hard, save my money, get married, have kids and retire and live happily ever after … and of course, have kids who will then repeat the cycle and they will look after me forever and ever. That was the “dream” life that we are all supposed to aim for. In other words - Get a Job! Not just any job – get a “safe” job that will employ me for my whole working life.
Does that REALLY sound like something you can do today and be wildly successful – even if you wanted it? Or will you just manage, get to retirement, then, have to downsize because you can’t afford the mortgage on your state pension (assuming you do get a pension). In the process, watch your boss become rich making money off your efforts. Companies are computerising and downsizing. Some “safe” jobs no longer exist because of the pace and improvement in technology. There is no such thing as a safe job today. Employers are looking to place incoming employees on fixed term rather than permanent contracts so that it is easier to sack you. The old “job for life” no longer exists.
IS THAT WHAT YOU REALLY REALLY WANT?
So, would you rather control your own destiny and write your own life story or subject yourself to the whims and fancies of the boss? The oxymoron in all this is that your employer is looking for employees who have an entrepreneurial mindset. They are looking for those who are drawn to opportunities, innovation and value creation. If you have all those qualities, why not do it for yourself? I say, it’s time to move from Employee to Entrepreneur and enjoy the fruits of your labour!
WHAT I USED TO HATE ABOUT BEING EMPLOYEE
For me, the biggest one is flexibility. I like the flexibility of being able to choose WHAT hours and days I work, the flexibility to choose WHERE I work, the flexibility to choose HOW I work and most of all, the ability to take control of my own life. No more bosses telling me how high I have to jump to meet the unreasonable sales targets or having to work in a toxic work environment where people seem to work just to get to the weekend and “live”.
Remember the movie “9 to 5″ with Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin? It was the second highest grossing movie in 1980; earning $103m. The song “9 to 5″ was a major hit earning Dolly Parton an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song in 1981. Why was it so successful? I believe it was because it resonated with so many people who are caught in this 9 to 5 work-life.
Workin’ 9 to 5, what a way to make a livin’
Barely gettin’ by, it’s all takin’ and no givin’
They just use your mind and you never get the credit
It’s enough to drive you crazy if you let it
9 to 5, yeah they got you where they want you
There’s a better life, and you dream about it, don’t you?
It’s a rich man’s game no matter what they call it
And you spend your life puttin’ money in his wallet
Except today, it’s no longer about 9 to 5, is it? It’s more like 8 to 6 (for the lucky ones). In some countries, you are expected to work 5 and a half days and you are expected to do a 10 hour day. You’re always tired at the end of the day and you just cannot find the energy to go to the gym even though you know you should. But then, maybe you don’t need to go to the gym. You and everyone at work already get enough exercise. The meme below was up on Facebook once. I cannot for the life of me remember where I saw it ... but it fits perfectly with my thinking on this!
Jumping to conclusions
…. Beating around the bush
…….. Running down the boss
………… Going around in circles
…………….Dragging their feet
……………….. Passing the buck
Climbing the ladder
…. Wading through paperwork
…….. Pulling strings
………… Throwing their weight around
…………….Stretching the truth
……………….. Bending the rules, AND
Pushing their luck!
No wonder we’re all tired at the end of a working day - which goes to prove what I always say - If you don’t exercise, you can’t possibly do yourself an injury and you will not have to “push your luck” 🙂
On a more serious note …
Do you feel that you’re working harder than ever but not seeing the rewards? This graph published by the Economic Policy Institute shows that between 1979 to 2021, productivity increased by 64.6% whereas your pay only increased by 17.3%. In other words, productivity has grown 3.7 times more than your pay. So yes, you were right when you thought that you’re working harder to put more money into your employer’s wallet.
WHY MOST OF US STAY AN EMPLOYEE
Why do so many not take that step and move from Employee to Entrepreneur? There are many reasons.
Well Meaning Family
The reality is that most do not become entrepreneurs even if we really want to because of well-meaning non risk-taking family and friends who, at the first sign of a temporary failure, remind you that it “wouldn’t work”. We have all these lovely people in our lives. We tell ourselves that “we are not good enough, we don’t have the right to be a business owner, our parents have all been employees and that’s our lot in life”. Then family chip in and remind us that we "don’t know anything about running a business, etc.” The list goes on. We can choose whether we continue to listen to the negativity, or we take that step and move our position from employee to entrepreneur.
Have you ever looked around and realised that the world you live in has successful people who are NO SMARTER than you?? What is the possibility of making it big for you? How many times have you had an idea and done nothing about it? Then one day you read about that someone who had the same idea you had, she made it into a company. Now she’s really really successful. That could have been you! But it won’t be if you do nothing with your ideas and your dreams.
I had an idea once for a charity organisation to raise money. I suggested that they start a night market selling food just like they do in Asia! At that time, there was nothing like that around. I did the research, gave the information to the charity and they hummed and they ahh’d and they did nothing. Presumably, they considered it too risky. Because I had already passed the idea to them, I couldn’t do anything about it myself. Guess what started springing up not too long after? Night markets. And those night markets did very well indeed.
Fear of Failure
Last but not least is a fear of failure. Some cultures are worse than others. Especially Asians. We are brainwashed into thinking that we must never “lose face”. There is a shame culture and the “kaisu” or “kaisi” mentality still exists for many Asians today. It took me a very long time to get rid of mine. This mentality breeds people who are unwilling to take a chance for fear that something bad or unfavourable will happen and they will “lose face”. Fear keeps them chained to their day job.
I prefer the Silicon Valley mentality – Fail fast, fail forward. It’s the only way you’re going to make that shift from employee to entrepreneur. Admit when you get it wrong. Learn from it and move on. Each time you fail, ask yourself “What can I learn from this?”. If you don’t do that, you will just keep on repeating the same mistake … Like the little mouse running round and round in a circle, working hard and going nowhere!
WHY MOVE FROM EMPLOYEE TO ENTREPRENEUR
It has been 20 years since Robert Kiyosaki’s book Rich Dad, Poor Dad was first published. It explains the difference between working for money and having your money work for you. His second book, Cashflow Quadrant, was written for those who are ready to move beyond job security and enter the world of financial freedom. It’s for those who want to make significant changes in their lives and take control of their financial future. Both books are well worth reading. However, I did find that although both books were great catalysts for igniting my passion for business, it did not give me any detailed how-to. THAT I had to find out the hard way.
In addition, we’re now living in a very different world where the traditional path to success just doesn’t cut it. You can do all the “right” things and still retire poverty stricken relying on the government pension (if it’s still there by the time you retire). In today’s world, the fastest way to building immeasurable wealth is by owning a business. How wealthy can you get working for a fixed salary at a fixed rate while you’re making ends meet by being frugal. Statistics show that people who work for themselves are 4 times more likely to become millionaires than those who work for someone else.
Not only does owning your own business give you a better chance of being wealthy, most tax systems also provide an incentive for people to be self-employed. Expenses that are not tax deductible to a salaried employee will often be tax deductible if you’re self-employed. In my world, this says that I can earn the same amount of income with more money ending up in my pocket if I own my own business! That’s pretty good odds! That means I can work less and earn the same amount of income or work more and have enough money to be able to do all those things I would have had to scrimp and save for! The once a year annual holiday to the local seaside was not for me. Give me the cruise to Alaska, the 5 star hotel in Europe and the first class plane travel any day!
It is said that the richest place in this world is the graveyard because most people take their gifts, talents, goals and aspirations with them. What are you doing right now? And what is it that you really really want to do? Are they the same? If not, why not? And when are you going to work towards it? If going into business enabled you to fulfil your dreams, would it be worth it?
The fact is that most people don’t lead their life, they accept what life has handed them.
THE COST TO MOVE FROM EMPLOYEE TO ENTREPRENEUR
Today we’re in the digital age. The industrial age is over and is now being replaced by the information age. This is leading to some major opportunities for everyone to start their business. Even the pandemic did not stop many would be entrepreneurs from business.
Unlike the Industrial Age when starting a business cost an arm and a leg, the technology today means the barriers to starting a business has lowered considerably. Now, I didn’t say it was going to be cheap or easy. It’s certainly very much cheaper and a heck of a lot easier than in the old days before internet. However, where it was impossible before, it is now possible. The only question is will you take the opportunity? Moving from Employee to Entrepreneur has never been this reachable.
There IS a cost though. The biggest real cost to you will be your TIME. As an entrepreneur, you’re probably working far longer hours than you ever did as a salaried employee (at least, in the early days of starting your business). Think of it as an investment in yourself. Think of it as the sacrifice you need to make to end the 9 to 5 life. As John Maxwell says, “Everything worthwhile is uphill.”
WHY IT’S EASY TO MOVE FROM EMPLOYEE TO ENTREPRENEUR
It has never been this easy to move from Employee to Entrepreneur! Today, with the advent of the internet:
Much of the research that you need to do to validate your business idea can be done from your desk.
The ability to self-publish and self-broadcast means you no longer have to rely on paying publishing houses and advertising agents huge sums of money to promote your material.
There is little or no barrier to anyone wanting to start a web-based business. All it takes is time, a bit of capital and access to a computer.
Online tools for performing virtually every task can be purchased for next to almost nothing.
MOVING FROM EMPLOYEE TO ENTREPRENEUR THE RIGHT WAY
Having done this several times now, I know there are some steps you can take that will ensure that you have a greater probability of success. You see, anybody can start a business. But not everybody will do it right. Statistics show that 8 out of 10 businesses fail in the first 5 years and only 1% of business owners are millionaires. As I’ve stressed - there is a right way to start a business. So, whatever you do, do not just quit your job and rush headlong into following your passion. Patience is a virtue! Take it step by step.
Build Strong Foundations
Whatever you do, make sure you prepare the foundations well. Be prepared to put in the hard work AND the time it takes to learn the skills you need to be successful in business.
In my early days as a practising Chartered Accountant, I had clients who come to me for advice AFTER they have completely messed up the way they started their business. Then they wonder why starting a business was so stressful and complicated. It need not be! On top of that, I’ve also done more than enough business start-ups and made more than enough mistakes to last me a lifetime. Learn from this old timer. Don’t make the same mistakes I did. One day, I’ll write a whole article on all the mistakes I’ve made … It could be a really long article!
The most successful entrepreneurs and business owners were not all born with the natural talents, resources, skills or luck to make their businesses fly. Neither were they the ones who graduated from College with the highest marks. They just learnt the rules and they stuck to it.
Get the right advice. I’ve seen people asking for advice on public forums – that is definitely not the best place to get your advice – unless, of course, those forums are run by properly qualified people. Advice on those platforms is generally by other business people who are not qualified to advise on such matters. At best they can only advise you from their own experience. For example, a very successful businessman I know advised a group that they should incorporate and form a company for a new project because that was what his accountant did for him. Knowing what the intended project was going to be, I disagreed. The fact is he gave the best advice based on his experience and he was trying to be helpful. But if the project had gone ahead based on his advice, then it would have been expensive later to re-structure.
When it comes to seeking tax advice, there’s only one place you should go to – your qualified tax accountant. The right accountant (not necessarily the cheapest) will save you lots of heartaches and pains. He or she is the one you go to for tax advice – not your business coach/mentor (unless they also happen to be a qualified tax accountant), not your family who has never ever been in business and definitely not a public forum.
What's Your Passion
In the old days – before the world wide web or before women were even permitted to vote, it would have been very difficult (but not impossible) for a person to pursue their passion and spend the necessary time and effort to turn it into a profitable business. Men were expected to “do the right thing” and be the provider. Women were expected to stay home and be the dutiful wife. Today, pursuing your passion is possible … If you but dare to dream!
There are some real-life classic examples that we can all look up to. Bill Gates dropped out of school and pursued his passion for computers. Disney’s passion for animation gave us Mickey Mouse and Disney World. I knew Steve Fraser, one of the most amazing landscape photographers when he was just “ordinary” – before he turned his passion into a business that enabled him to live his dream life. My sister is the author of numerous books on how to knit cute Collectible Dolls. She knew she would never make any money trying to sell the knitted dolls she loves to knit. She applied her thinking to it and now sells books on how to knit those dolls.
So, what are you passionate about? What’s selling well is often not what you would expect. If you love writing, you can look at becoming a professional blogger. If you love cooking, you can open a restaurant, start a catering business or operate a mobile food business. The list is endless. So many options and possibilities – There’s nothing to stop you apart from your own fears.
Apart from the skills that you required for your hobby, you will need to have the right mindset and attitude. You need to have an abundance mindset. Don’t think that something cannot be done just because you haven’t got the resources to do it with. Just think … in 10 short years we’ve gone from a phone that barely sent a text message to have the equivalent of a supercomputer with 24/7 internet access that’s more powerful than the huge mainframe computers years ago. Processes that once cost millions are now available for cents. Anything is possible. Remember, if the Wright Brothers didn’t have that attitude, international travel would be very different today.
Technology Is Your Best Friend
Get comfortable with it. My first foray into business 40 years ago happened pre-internet. I didn’t even have Mr Google to help me. I had to learn the hard way. Today everything we need to know are all at our fingertips and even if we had to pay for it, it costs very little to buy. Yet, I have met many would-be "entrepreneurs" who tell me that they have "never touched a computer and don't intend to start now". That is not a good attitude to have. We need to learn to move with the times.
Ask for Help
Don’t let pride or fear stand in your way. There’s no shame is admitting when you don’t know. In my younger days, I used to think that asking for help was a sign of weakness. THAT was stupid. When I reflect on my past, I know that I would have been so much further ahead if I had asked for help earlier. I would have to say that it was my pride that stopped me asking for help then.
You also cannot always expect to get free advice. I understand that you might not have a lot of spare cash to pay for proper advice. However, do remember that everyone has commitments. Everyone has bills to pay. You can only expect to get so much for free – after that, expect to pay. If it’s always totally free, I would have to ask what value is that “free” advice. I once saw this posted by a colleauge on my Facebook feed that summed this up really nicely.
Need I say any more?
HOW DID I START?
When I started my first business at just 20 years of age, I did ask myself “How hard can it be?”. Then I jumped straight in – I was young, naive, foolish and I was invincible. Fear never entered my mind then. That doubt only entered much later when I started my second business – experience is a great teacher! But I still jumped in. I think that was my very high “D” personality that kicked in to overcome the doubts. And since then, I have also helped a lot of clients start their own business. I have lived and breathed business all my life. It really is not that hard.
It’s simply about following a process.
Currently, there is no single place where you can go to access all the information you need without paying an arm and a leg for it. Most accountants’ websites are not aimed at providing you information. Accountants websites are aimed at enticing you to become their client by telling you how good they are. The information I provide on my public platforms are general in nature. However, be aware that general information will get you only so far.
There are affordable solutions to those needing help with starting and running their business. You can sign up for inexpensive online courses or coaching. Helping you move from employee to entrepreneur is not just about tax advice or management accounting. That’s just a very small part of running a successful business. You must also work on marketing, systems and your leadership - check out some of my earlier articles, particularly on the biggest problems that businesses face today - but don't let it frighten you. Be prepared as you head into this brave new world of entrepreneurs.