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Are You An Employee, An Entrepreneur or Both?

We each have personal preferences and passions that translate into the choices we make throughout our lives.  Naturally, that is just as true in our work lives as in our personal lives. 

Will you prefer to work for a company?  Is that in your personality?  Or, do you prefer to take on the challenge and risk of your own firm?  What are the factors that indicate you’ll thrive working for a company?  What are the indicators you'll be successful working for yourself?

The New York Times wrote of a woman about to complete her medical residency.  She followed her father and grandfather into medicine but she did not follow them into their medical practice.  Instead, as a new mom of twin boys, she accepted a salaried job as a hospital physician because her hours will be controlled and the kinds of illnesses she’ll treat will be more interesting.  She made the choice based on her personal preferences and passions.  She made certain her work fits her life as it is today. 

There are many reasons to work for a company just as there are many reasons to work for yourself.  It’s your job to make your choice based on what works best in your life.  Here are a few points to consider when making your choice.

Considerations when deciding to work for a company

The work is your passion.   This is one of the best reasons for accepting a job, because you love the work.  What firms employ people with your skills and passions?  Even with the perfect job, keep an eye on the other firms that need your skills and passion.  If you love teaching, certainly there is the school system but don’t forget all the training programs that employ individuals who teach.  You greatest skills and passion may be a fit at many types of firms.

Hours and work-life balance. This depends entirely on your needs and the kind of job you seek.  If you want to work your way up the ladder, it’s likely you’ll work long hours whatever the business and job type.  On the other hand, managing your hours is possible with many kinds of firms; job sharing is even a possibility.  Understand fully the firm’s expectations before saying yes to a job.

Travel.  Again, it depends on the kind of job you seek and whether travel fits into your life.  There are armies of business travelers whose job keeps them flying or driving, sometimes weekly, sometimes monthly, sometimes less frequently.  Many consultants travel every week to their client.  Sales people with large territories, travel by air or by car to see their current customers and to sell new customers.  If you’ve a yen for travel, there are many types of jobs and companies for which it is an imperative.  On the other hand, travel may conflict with elements of your personal life – a factor you’ll need to consider.

The benefits.  Many employers offer an array of benefits from insurance programs to paid vacations, from tuition reimbursement to a matching 401k.  Every benefit has a tangible value that increases your pay package.  As you make your decision about a job, be sure to consider the relative value and breadth of the benefit package.

Gain experience in your chosen field.   Over your working years, you will gain both knowledge and contacts that add to your value as an employee.  This is especially true when working for a firm where you can expect to learn from your boss and other superiors as well as from fellow workers whose jobs are in other departments in your firm.

You want to work your way up the ladder.  Working in an organization can be a great opportunity for you to show your stuff, to prove the power of your particular skills.  Many have reached great heights with exceptional rewards working for a company.

Job stability or not.  For the past century, employment by a firm was thought to be the most stable form of work.  This is no longer a reliable expectation.  Even the strongest firms have had cutbacks, mostly for economic reasons, whether sending jobs offshore or reorganization for operating efficiencies.  As one considers employment, consider the long-term viability of the product base, the financial soundness of the firm, even the strength of the leadership team. 

Not risking your own money.  This is key.  Most entrepreneurs risk their own capital.  As an employee, you are not investing your own money.  Instead, you are working for the well-being of the entire organization while being paid by that organization.

Camaraderie with fellow workers.  Many of us enjoy the stimulation, the rapport, the team experience found when working for an organization.

There’s a corporate personality.  Many firms have their own established style, their own persona usually aligned with the product base, biggest brands or celebrity owner.  Whether your firm is local firm or you are an IBMer, whether you are a high school algebra teacher or a member of the Best Buy Geek Squad, there is a style, a way that is typical in your firm that differs from other firms. 

Considerations when deciding to work for yourself

It’s your passion.  For all who choose to work for themselves, it’s imperative that you love what you do.  Why?  Aside from the fact that you’ll most likely be risking personal capital and putting in long hours, the real reason that entrepreneurs must love the work they do is because the strongest new businesses are those started by people who love what they do!

You are inventive.  Starting from scratch requires the entrepreneur to create more than the product or service.  Entrepreneurs are responsible for all the necessities of a company – capital, accounting, marketing, sales and operations.

You can’t imagine working for someone else.  For some, there is an awareness of their need to be the leader in their working life. 

You’ve a competitive streak and want to do it for yourself.  While similar, here the entrepreneur has set their sight on producing a personal success.  The gain is within, an internal satisfaction for taking their vision to a successful outcome.

You like wearing many hats.    You’re a multi-tasker, you love getting it all done because you get to control the outcome.  As an entrepreneur, you’ll be called on to be inventor, strategist, accountant, clerk and mail room manager.

You want to put your stamp on a company.  You have a vision.  It may be a vision of the product or services offered by your company or it may be a vision of the way your firm does business.  Whichever, it is your vision for a company with your unique imprint.

You never stop learning.  It’s in your veins, you are stimulated by ever-increasing base of knowledge and take deep satisfaction in using your knowledge base in the shaping and growth of your own firm. 

It's okay that one mistake can spell disaster.  44% of all business start-ups survive four years.  That, of course, means that 56% of all business start-ups fail to survive four years. 

It doesn’t have to be one or the other           

Keep in mind that you can do both.  You can work for a company and for yourself.  In fact, one of the most exciting elements of life is our ability to control our destiny, making sure that the experiences we desire actually happen.

Consecutively.  Many people begin their careers working for a firm, gaining both knowledge and contacts.  While many choose to continue their careers working within an organization, some choose to take their knowledge and contacts and to build a firm of their own.

Simultaneously.  Depending entirely on the type of work you perform at your company-based employment, there are ways to work for yourself while working for another.  From taking your invention to market to turning your hobby into a business to selling cosmetics or insurance in your spare time, you’ll find ideas, tips and tools on this site under Work: Own Your Business.