If you're a professional who's been through extensive schooling and training, you likely started out by working for someone else. You gained experience in doing your craft, but you may have also found that being an employee means having to meet the demands of an organization. If those demands are so great that you're feeling burned out, you might want to consider taking the bull by the horns.
When we think about becoming entrepreneurs, as in anything in life, there are pros and cons. Let's take a look at what the biggest opportunities and potential losses are so you can make an informed decision about whether to take the plunge.
Motivating Factors to Transition Out of Being an Employee
Lack of autonomy has been cited as one of the main reasons why people burn out. According to Gaziel (1989), if the #control we feel on the job does not match our desire for control, that is when we feel a lack of autonomy. One of the top reasons why professionals are going into business for themselves is to gain control of their destiny. #Autonomy is gained when you call the shots.
If you find yourself reporting to a boss who is a micromanager, you'll likely have a desire for greater autonomy. We all aspire to have accountability and recognition for our efforts rather than someone standing over us and watching our every move. We feel bosses like these don't trust us to get the job done right. It's like a parent who watches his kid like a hawk to make sure she doesn't break anything while she is washing dishes and is at the ready with a critique of how the child needs to be more careful.
What if you have no ability to make important decisions? You might feel like the organization for which you work is undermining you because you are in the position of the expert expected to meet performance markers, but when you see an opportunity for improvement, your hands are tied. This may increase your desire for control on the job.
You are a dedicated worker. In fact, you may even be a Type A Personality, someone who is hyper-driven to produce results. Motivation is not a problem for you usually, but you might find that the #demands placed on you are out of proportion for the time and resources you have to work with.
When demands are high, we need to be very focused. Research has shown that multi-tasking actually costs us time. It follows, then, that if you are constantly interrupted with additional or even conflicting demands, it will be difficult to be #efficient.
If there are immense time pressures put on you to get tasks completed, this can contribute to your stress levels. It may just be that the amount of work that is placed on you is beyond what is possible for one person to accomplish, especially given the deadlines for completing the tasks. You may find the pace of your work to be a poor fit with your ideal working conditions and if you aren't well matched with your place of work and you highly value #accomplishment, when you don't achieve as much as you would like, you will lose #confidence in yourself. If the reason you are being held up is because of someone else's slow pace, this will likely lead to intense #frustration.
You daydream about what it would be like if you were the boss. With the autonomy you would have, you'd be able to make better decisions and manage the demands in a much more effective way.
And it's not just the demands of your work that are eating you up. You have a life outside the office. There are people you care about and to cultivate those relationships, whether they are friends, family members, a spouse, or children, you need time and energy after work. If the demands from your home life match the demands from your work, you just aren't getting a break. You might soon realize this is not sustainable.
In an attempt to stay afloat, maybe you've sacrificed your personal time. You stopped going to the gym. You get home after the kids are already in bed. You have no time to unwind from work because you're getting home with barely enough time to eat, shower, and get to bed. You might even be taking work home. You keep coming back to the notion that there's got to be a better way.
There is a simple equation in the land of #burnout according to the Karasek Demand-Control Model of Job Stress:
Low Autonomy + High Demands = Exhaustion
This is especially true for workers who struggle with time management and who have few resources with which to work. As a result, Karasek states there are four types of job stressors:
1. High Strain Jobs: Do you thrive most when the strain at work is highest? If you are motivated by and delight in taking on challenges and assuming the responsibilities of seeing tasks through on your own, you will likely feel the impact of your work. You would benefit from increased autonomy which might help you make helpful decisions that can reduce some of the strain.
These types of jobs, according to the formula above, are the ones most likely to lead to exhaustion. Let's take a look at three other models of work so you can find what best fits for you:
2. Low Strain Jobs: What happens when you have high autonomy AND few demands? Sounds ideal, doesn't it? This scenario is the product of leadership that empowers workers to participate in decision-making and to take ownership of their tasks. There is a sense of community and a culture of teamwork here that make workers feel supported and significant.
3. Active Jobs: Although you may have high demands in your job, you may not feel very stressed due to your high autonomy. When you get to call the shots, you have less fear of change and are more likely to take risks. However, you'll need to be #flexible in finding solutions to obstacles.
4. Passive Jobs: If you don't find purpose in your work, you will feel dissatisfied. This is usually the case in big bureaucracies that have workers follow a procedure that is antiquated. You don't feel strained by your work necessarily, but the lack of autonomy coupled with the lack of purpose may make work feel like just a way to get your bills paid. Consider how to make work more challenging while attaining more control.
Keep in mind that stress is not the enemy. We need a certain level of stress to be motivated and to feel challenged. Like with anything else in life, we are looking for the ideal balance. In addition, while one type of job might appeal to one person, it may not appeal to another simply because each #personality type finds different job factors attractive.
Feeling #exhausted is subjective and only you can know when you reach this state. Having awareness of your energy can help you protect it and consider the kinds of changes that might be appropriate moving forward to ensure you prevent burnout.
Pros to Becoming A Business Owner
One of the biggest driving factors to starting your own business is the desire for an increase in control. As a business owner, you not only get to set your own calendar and deadlines, you also set other people's deadlines. For some, this translates into not working as hard. You get to decide how many days a week to work and what your hours of operation will be. You can work from home and you can have lunch meetings to network with others during your breaks.
If you go into business as a partner, you may find that you have more coverage and as a result, you can reduce your on-call duties. For example, if you're one of 7 doctors at a private clinic, rather than being on-call nearly every weekend, you are only on call every 7th weekend. This enables you to "be off" when you're off work.
In addition to controlling your calendar, as a business owner you get to control who you work with. You can recruit employees that fit in with the #culture you want to build, people whom have the expertise to help your business be a success and with whom you can forge strong #relationships. You get to decide how to run your business and train your staff accordingly.
As the boss, you decide the business' branding and marketing. This is your baby and you get to be creative and put your vision into the world. There is great #satisfaction from being able to control your destiny in this way.
So clearly, this is a game changer. You get to make all the decisions, but the key to having your business thrive is finding the right help and letting go of some of that control. Who are the colleagues you can rely on? What administrative help is available to you? Who can you identify as #mentors that can provide advice or coaching to help you in this new realm? Be mindful of not becoming an island, but rather of finding the right mix so you can work smarter, not harder. In essence, you need to find the right balance between doing too much, which can lead to burnout, and not doing enough and risking that your business will be mismanaged.
When you boil it all down, one of the greatest assets you have as a business owner is the ability to connect to your passion, utilize your strengths, and create an impact on others.
Cons to Becoming a Business Owner
Although you have more control over your schedule, all the responsibility lies with you. As such, you may find yourself working 24/7. It's important to be strategic when starting your business to ensure its success. When your business succeeds in the right way, you can have more autonomy, the level of challenge that fits your personality, and you get to focus on creating the #lifestyle that you want. It's important to be clear about the sacrifices you make so you don't get out of balance or stress yourself out too much. Create the blueprint for the life you want and figure out how to create your business around that blueprint.
One of the limiting beliefs that can get business owners into trouble is the belief that they have to do everything themselves. There is a sense of pride and a deep desire to succeed that drive us and that can run us into the ground if we're not careful. While this approach may work, it can take a lot longer than when we hire the help we need. As someone who is just starting out, this is often the biggest dilemma: do I spend money when I'm not yet making money to help me make money sooner, or do I do everything myself which is more cost effective but can take me a lot longer to succeed (if ever)? Whatever you decide, recognize that you don't have to do everything just because it is your business. And if you hire help, this is not a sign of weakness.
You are always responsible for yourself. This is the case whether you are an employee or an entrepreneur. But as a business owner, you are also responsible for your staff. You want to find the right balance between ensuring your employees are providing enough value to justify their salaries and not overworking them to the point where they burn out. If the reason for starting your own business is to gain autonomy after working a job where you felt burned out, you can understand what it's like and can utilize your #empathy to connect with your workers and establish healthy relationships that will benefit both sides.
When you work for someone else, you don't have control over your paycheck. Maybe you want to start a business because you were underpaid or because the company you worked for was mismanaged which led to pay cuts for you and others.
As a business owner, you do have more control over the financial factors, but you must have great clarity about the cost of doing business. If you have staff working for you, recognize that you don't get paid until they do. This can create a different version of financial stress.
If you operate out of a brick and mortar store, you have real estate to worry about. You have additional liabilities you wouldn't otherwise think of when you're an employee. This is all in addition to not getting health or other financial benefits you would get from working for someone else.
Lack of Training
Whatever your area of expertise, when you went to school you probably didn't learn much about how to manage and grow a business. That is precisely why so many business run into problems like mismanagement and theft. These are issues that detract from you being able to do your work as an expert. You need to learn to juggle your work with the work of running a business.
Translating Your Employed Experience Into Your Business
If your job was a High Strain position and you were motivated to increase your autonomy by starting your own business, consider how to implement the following tips:
Create a culture of empowerment with your employees. Train them on how to do their best work and then let go of the control. Let them be key decision makers in your business. When they feel autonomous, they will more effectively manage their job stress.
You are the boss, the one in charge, but you need to remain flexible in your approach to solutions.
Get support from more experienced professionals who can mentor, guide, or coach you in your business. Don't just shoot from the hip and hope for the best.
Reconnect to your sense of purpose. Why are you in this line of work and how can you get the most satisfaction from your business? Similarly, ensure that the team you build has similar values and visions to your own so there is synergy amongst you.