If you are a new entrepreneur or if you are thinking about taking the leap, you probably have a “Starting My Business” or “Growing My Biz” to-do list that looks something like this:

  • Website
  • Logo
  • Tagline
  • Business Cards
  • Social Media Account
  • Catchy Hashtags

And, yes, eventually, you do need to check all those boxes.

Besides getting to create cool marketing tools, one of the most awesome aspects of entrepreneurship is the non-stop necessity and opportunity to learn new lessons, acquire advanced skills, and adopt different ways of thinking.

My journey has taught me a lot since I accepted/decided that the traditional world of work does not serve my purpose or my physical well-being as I navigate the world with food allergies.

As a business owner, one of my most powerful realizations (to date) is that there are several not-so-obvious but super-important things that are critical to transitioning into the role of entrepreneur.  These are things that I did not learn in business school or in the many online courses and webinars that I have consumed over the last few years.  Today, let’s talk about the number one item on the list: mindset.

Question for you. If you have already hung your shingle or are putting together your business plan or minimum viable product (MVP), have you developed the mindset of an entrepreneur?  Do you think like a boss who is creating an organization or are you acting like a manager who has created your very own j-o-b?

The employee mindset is tricky and sticky.  It does not automatically disappear when you leave corporate or whatever type of institution you’re leaving.  Also, the more I talk to other entrepreneurs, the more I realize that once we consciously set aside our employee programming, we can unconsciously pick it up again (and again).

Here are five ways to tell if you’re an employee masquerading as an entrepreneur:

1.  You are more concerned with the number of hours you work each day/week than in the number of high-priority, revenue-generating activities you complete within that same period.

At some point in your career, you may have punched the proverbial (or literal) clock.  Whether that magical number of hours that constituted a week well-worked was 30 or 50+, you may have been trained to measure your contributions to your employer in the number of hours you spent “working.”

Let’s be real.  Some of our most productive, impactful work days are about 4 hours in length, and the mental energy that it takes to exert that high-level of bottom line impacting effort renders us pretty much useless for the rest of the day.  If we work in a traditional office setting, we spend the rest of day chatting with our co-workers and taking super-long hot beverage breaks.  And this is not because we are slackers.  It’s because we are human.  We only have so much to give, and the ability to hyper-focus and be super-productive and efficient can only last for so many hours within any given day.  The expectations of some work environments do not acknowledge this reality.

Now that you’re an entrepreneur, instead of working a set number of hours, what do you think about setting goals to accomplish a healthy mix of revenue-impacting and administrative/organizational tasks each week?  The number of hours required to do this will vary.

All tasks are not created equal.  If putting the finishing touches on a deliverable for a client takes you 3 to 5 hours, the mental exertion could be the equivalent of 6 to 10 hours of administrative tasks, such as checking and responding to emails or contributing to online groups or forums.

2.  You are hesitant to lead.

You may be accustomed to other people making the big decisions.  Perhaps, you have had professional roles where you made recommendations and someone else always had the final say.  Now, you are responsible for the decisions that can move your company forward or detrimentally stifle your growth.  Your hesitations can lead to missed opportunities for you and your business.

Now that you are at the helm of your company, you have the final say.  This does not mean, however, that you have to make those important decisions all by yourself.  All leaders need at least one coach, a master mind group, or trusted advisors who can help you to examine opportunities and strategies from multiple perspectives.  The final decision is yours, though.

You have to keep in mind that you don’t hire coaches and join master minds so that other people can run your business for you.  These resources are designed to give you access to a level of support and collaboration that will allow you to lead your own business more successfully.

Recognize if you are hesitating on making moves.  If so, get some clarity around the type of people you need to add to your circle and then occupy your leadership position in a way that keeps you and your business moving forward.

3.  You refuse to delegate.

According to author Gay Hendricks, you have a zone of genius.  Spend as much time within this zone as possible.  If you are consulting, billing, managing social media accounts, building online courses, and doing all the other things, YOU ARE DOING TOO MUCH.  Please stop.  Everything does not require your personal touch.  Focus on what is core to your business and allow someone else to help with the tasks that are secondary.

When you clearly articulate and document essential guiding information such as your vision, mission, core values, business rules, and processes, you can hire competent people to execute the tasks that would keep you away from the critical/core activities of your business.  A virtual assistant or freelancer may be just the resource you need so that you can spend more time leading and growing your company.

4.  You delegate and then deconstruct and criticize other people’s contributions when it’s not exactly how you would do it.

Are you constantly saying or thinking: “I might as well have done this myself!”?

Please stop.  No, you should not have done it yourself.  Before you go and further convince yourself that you have to do everything, have you done all these things?

  • Hire competent people.
  • Give them clear instructions.
  • Make sure they understand the desired outcome of what you are asking them to do.
  • Let them do their job.
  • Provide constructive feedback if you would like for them to do something different the next time.
  • Let them do their job. (Repeated on purpose).

5.  You spend all your time in the business and little to no time on the business.

Yes, the business needs a lot of attention.  True, you have a lot to do.  It seems logical that the more time you spend in your business (doing whatever it is that your business does) the better.  This is not the case.  You have to step away from the laptop at some point.  As a leader, it is more important than ever that you spend time out and about, learning from other leaders (both peers and those who are several steps ahead of you).

It might make you a little (or very) anxious to think about jumping on a plane and going to that conference or retreat, but you need it.  Your business needs it.

Fresh perspectives, feedback from other entrepreneurs, and meeting new people (some of whom will become strategic partners, clients, or sponsors) are invaluable.  Also, if you must work, you can find a few hours before and after the event to keep tabs on the business.  If you can, unplug for a few days and allow yourself to pause and absorb new information while being present for the event experience.

When you allow yourself the time and space to recharge and think, you will return to your business with renewed energy and excitement about trying some of the ideas that you learned at the event.  (Side note: If you know of an exceptional event for entrepreneurs, please share in the comments.)  Also, the threat of burnout is real.  Don’t hurt yourself and your business by refusing to step away every now and then.

All of these recommendations are easier typed than done.  I know.  I am still learning.  What I do know is that paradigms are powerful and some of our employee programming is the result of many years dedicated to building a successful career.

It takes a different mindset to build a successful business, and it takes time to replace all that employee programming with an entrepreneur’s mindset.  It’s difficult, but not impossible.  It just takes time and an awareness of how you are approaching your business.

Have you mastered your entrepreneur’s mindset?  Share in the comments.