After 30 years of being an employee who worked for attorneys as a legal secretary/assistant, the firm decided they needed fewer employees. That gave me the “opportunity” to go home to my computer, with all the current technology and online resources for learning, and start my own business as a virtual assistant. My initial vision was that all I had to do is set up shop online and in extra bedroom, get jobs, and start collecting checks. Sounds very logical, common-sense and practical — not!
The way an employee “works for a living” is completely different than being an entrepreneur “creating value” and getting paid for it. As stressful as a job may become as the employee is given assignments to complete in a certain time frame, that’s nothing to compare with the “dis-ease” called information overload that is waiting for the start-up Internet entrepreneur. Here are some examples of the painful symptoms:
- tasks that appear to be “must-do” activities are overwhelming in quantity and complexity;
- the need to take another online class or buy another “how to” digital program seems essential;
- the fact becomes clear that I don’t know how to identify and schedule short-term/long-term projects;
- my attention is constantly diverted by tasks that seemed A-1 in importance, but now appear as decoys;
- my feelings of being duped are mounting in inverse proportion to being drained of time and money resources;
- as I watch time and money flow out the door, in comes insecurity and lots of low self-worth;
- I never seem to have enough time, never finished, and that means 24/7 – is this a business or an addiction?
Why is it so much harder to produce results from the freedom of my own home? Why all this pain and paralysis, digging holes that never dig deep enough to strike pay-dirt? I knew the answer had to do with a difference in mindset between the employee and entrepreneur, so I decided to explore it with this article.
The Good News – The Problem is Solved by Tweaking The Mindset
It was easy to analyze – what I did as an employee was essentially a three-step process consisting of:
- Receiving an assignment (a task to do) from a employer (boss) which included a deadline for completion;
- Completion of the project (within or outside of deadline) by whatever means it took (nobody went home until it was done or rescheduled);
- Payment made on a time or task basis (putting in the time or finishing the task essentially guaranteed getting paid). There was some performance review, but basically, if you showed up and did the work, and the company had money in the budget to pay employees, you had a job.
What is means is that an employee really is a cog in the wheel of production, not determining the very beginning (a call for the product or service) or the very end (marketing or collecting by way of invoice/charges). Compare this with the mindset of an entrepreneur who must do these activities:
- rule owner’s enterprise by taking leadership role(s), control decision-making and, ultimately, is responsible for the outcome in terms of satisfied customers and payment;
- takes risks, experiments with various methods and systems of production, marketing, collecting money, keeps track of outcomes (like a science project), keeps records (notes, journals, spreadsheets) in order to maintain an accurate history of actions taken, to be able to learn from both successes and mistakes. And, yes, to be able to make mistakes as the best/fastest way to learn sometimes, and since you are the boss, you cannot be fired for your mistakes — you can only quit!
- learn to plan for and rationally expect a return on your investment (ROI), and look for ways to increase income flow (getting compensated for time and money invested in business), the whole purpose of which is to provide value to others. And, logically, as you provide actual value to others, you will get paid, but it may not be predictable as to exactly when and how much. Also, look for payment in terms of knowledge and connections, not just money.
The Bad News – The Problem is Better Solved by Combining The Mindset(s)
In the Old Days, the days before the economy actually demanded we create a business online as soon as possible, in those old days, we’d do a self-evaluation (whether on-the-job or as a potential entrepreneur) to determine whether we have what it takes to be an entrepreneur, or if we should shape up even more, and be the exemplary employee with an annual raise. Now, I suggest that the bad news is that there is no longer a choice — it’s essential to be both an employee and an entrepreneur, both at the same time.
What I’m suggesting is that we need to create a new mindset that incorporates the best aspects of the employee mindset (which is to ‘just get it done, no matter what, because that’s what I’m hired to do), and the entrepreneurial attitude that wonders “what will happen if I do it this new way, in answer to what appears to be a need to create value for our society?”
We become both roles, the boss and the employee; we’re here to “just do it” and get the product or services out the door and delivered. We need to judge only our own self, but not spend too long lingering over the hard lessons called “mistakes” or gloating over a success that really is temporary anyway. We need to think about the customer/client as our employer and allow these people to dictate what we need to do, how to value it, and how to give them more than what they bargained for.
Yes, I believe we need to stop thinking about our expectation of a paycheck and think more about the quality of the results we are producing.
Once we combine both mindsets and step into the dual roles of employee/entrepreneur, we’ll be living in a healthy and practical world of expectations where hard work pays off as long as we produce results and not get bogged down by excess information, self-analysis and procrastination — inaction.
And this productive behavior will keep us busy, solving problems, moving forward to test our theories in action. And certainly we’ll have no time for information overload, any more than Alice in Wonderland had when she faced the Queen yelling “off with her head”! Alice simply faced the noise and commotion and said rightly: “You’re nothing but a pack of cards.”