I received an email with a “confession.” The subject line read “Working Stiff” and the writer said my articles about what it takes to be an Entrepreneur and how to foster a culture that attracts Intrapreneurs had made him realize he wasn’t cut out to be either one.
Now I know this gentleman, or at least I am familiar enough with his work to say that he isn’t a slacker. His work is excellent, almost intimidatingly so even to me. He’s passionate about his craft. He’s plugged in and astute about the world. But something in the way he shared that realization -- that he’d decided he likes the paycheck, and the benefits, and the identity of the job without the pressure of being that desk where the buck finally comes to rest -- made me wonder if he expected me to judge him for not wanting to join the Entrepreneur Club.
I work almost exclusively with entrepreneurs, or people who want to be entrepreneurs. In fact, I network, hang out, have dinner and connect on social media almost exclusively with entrepreneurs or people who want to be entrepreneurs. My life partner is an entrepreneur. I suspect even my cat has the entrepreneurial spirit.
So I answer a lot of questions from entrepreneurs. Want to take a guess at one of the most frequent questions I answer? “How do I know when I’m ready to hire an employee?”
First step to being ready for your first hire is change your attitude about people who want a j-o-b.
Most of the entrepreneurs I know are genuinely baffled by people who really want to be employees. Many of them have walked away from high status, well paying, moderately secure positions for the siren’s call of being their own boss. They have at least a subconscious attitude that says anyone who isn’t aiming for entrepreneurship isn’t ambitious, is settling, has a dream that is several sizes too small. For many of them, the elitist notion that entrepreneurs are a little more clever, a little more savvy, a little more cool isn’t something you glimpse under the surface, they express it freely and adamantly. It’s a club they believe everyone should want to join.
Yet, the typical entrepreneur couldn’t reach their goals without depending on people who have no desire to be an entrepreneur. Even those of us with no employees hire companies whose services depend on their workforce.
Here are three reasons why the “working stiff” deserves your respect as well as a paycheck.
1. They’re taking a risk too.
We all know that being an entrepreneur requires taking risks. Sometimes big risks. But working for an entrepreneur is risky, too. You have a lot on the line as an entrepreneur, but you have the reins in your hands. Your success depends on the decisions you make. Ultimately, so does the success of your employees. While their performance influences your success, they take the risk that they will turn in a stellar performance and still lose their investment if times get hard or business gets slow and you decide you have to do it without them. Don’t belittle their risk by constantly reminding them of yours.
2. They have big dreams too.
Their career dream might not be to own and run a business. It might be to help someone own and run a business. Or just to work for someone who owns and runs a business that they can be proud to work for. Someone who appreciates them, someone who treats them as an equal, someone who believes their dreams are just as valid as anyone else’s. If they have those kinds of dreams you can make their dreams come true at the same time they help you realize yours. But only if you’re willing to be that kind of employer. Don’t belittle their dreams by treating them as anything less than worthy of pursuing.
3. They’re everything you aren’t.
Every strength you have represents a gap in the strengths of your business. If you’re a natural juggler who is comfortable with having 20 balls in the air at once, then there’s no one in the business who is a natural at following the system A-Z and staying hyper-focused on the task at hand. If you’re a natural risk taker who finds change exciting, then there’s no one in the business who is a natural at holding steady and maintaining status quo.
When you find an employee whose strengths compliment your own it frees you to do what you’re best at doing. But only if you fully appreciate the value of what they’re best at doing. If you’re one of those employers who believes that the entrepreneurial traits and talents are naturally superior you’ll shrivel your employee’s morale faster than a well-placed thumbtack can deflate a balloon. Don’t belittle their talents by treating them as anything less than vital to the success of your own goals.
Now, if you’re filled with awe and appreciation for those folks whose dream of serving the world includes working for a passionate, driven and fair-minded entrepreneur who will support and reward their own pursuit of excellence in their career, there’s good news. You’re already on the path to finding one.