Some people love their jobs, or at least that’s what they say. For everyone else, the dream of breaking free and forging your own path is a guilty pleasure; a game to play at work while running down the clock. It’s not like you don’t have ideas for a business all your own; it’s just, deep down, you wonder if you’re really the kind of person who’s cut out to run a business. Are you really an entrepreneur, or just someone with a cool dream? Do you have a “business mindset?”
It’s a fair question to ask yourself because if you’ve been at your job for any length of time, it must be: A. bearable (if not entirely fulfilling), and B. paying enough to keep you running in place. And those aren’t necessarily bad things.
In fact, you shouldn’t even consider making the leap to entrepreneurship until you know in your bones that it’s the right move for you. To help you figure out if you have a business mindset, here are 7 questions to ponder, as well as some insight into why your answers are important:
1. What’s the purpose of your business?
The purpose of your business—any business—is to make money. For example, you may love collecting stamps. It may very well be your passion in life, but passion alone doesn’t make a business. It could just be a hobby you really love. To build a business around your interest in collecting stamps, you need to be able and willing to get beyond your passion, so you can take all the steps that are necessary to building and growing a revenue stream.
2. Can you think for yourself?
It may sound like an odd question, but if you’ve been in the workforce, you’ve been conditioned to let other people think for you. Having a business mindset requires you to be independent in your thinking. You can (and should) solicit feedback occasionally from trusted business associates and consultants, but all final decisions need to come from the business owner.
3. Are you a strategic thinker?
When you work for a company, part of you can rest easy knowing that someone else—or a group of people—is strategizing behind the scenes. Eventually, word will trickle down through the organization regarding what needs to be done. You just need to do as you’re told, whether you agree with it or not. However, entrepreneurs know that having a business mindset means being very strategic about your business activity. Every action is prioritized according to where it fits in with the larger agenda—your agenda. And strategic thinking doesn’t just apply to the big picture stuff; it’s more than a way of thinking, it’s a way of being. Whereas an employee can easily commit to attending a networking event (after getting approval), an entrepreneur must be able and willing to factor in the opportunity cost—what will be sacrificed (in terms of other events not attended, or other items not purchased) in order to attend? How will this event contribute to, or take away from, the business’ forward momentum? Will doing X align with the business’ mission, or make it more profitable? Having a business mindset means knowing the outcome before committing to the action at hand.
4. Is your business an extension of yourself?
It’s one thing to love what you do, but having a business mindset means you’re ready, willing and able to connect with your business on a level that’s part of who you are. For starters, that means you’re always in touch with profitability and what it takes to get there. Knowing your profit margin, cash flow, competitive advantages, sales goals, KPIs—as well as any threats to sustaining your operation—are very much a part of entrepreneurship. There’s no getting around staying in constant touch with the state of your business. At some level, you’ll need to want to know these things like the back of your hand in order to be successful.
5. Do you have a head for strategy?
Being able to understand and implement strategy into your business practices goes hand in hand with having a business mindset. Most employees are tactically inclined—they meet deadlines and handle problems as they arise because that’s what they’re expected to do. It’s part of their day to day reality. But strategy applies more to the macro view, the big picture stuff that considers how the daily tactics will support or deny your business’ overarching objectives. It’s about looking ahead to determine if a given tactic puts you on the right track for where your business needs to be three or more years from now, and responding accordingly.
6. Can you juggle multiple streams of income?
When you first start out, you may think your passion will dictate your income. Maybe it will. But you may also discover that your primary focus will lead to other opportunities that you never considered. The avid stamp collector, for example, may generate a consistent stream of revenue from trading stamps. But she may also discover that people love the way she displays her stamps. Maybe a whole new income stream will emerge as she realizes she can sell her displays at a huge markup. The question is: Will she be open to the opportunity of managing multiple streams of income as new opportunities present themselves? Will you?
7. Do you understand how you’re emotionally bound to your business?
You can’t build a business without investing yourself in it emotionally. The feelings you pour into it will form a powerful bond over time. How well you understand these emotions will determine how well you deliver when acting on behalf of your business, as well as how much pleasure you derive from it. Understanding your emotional connection to your business will help you recognize which emotions are promoting growth, and which are holding you back.
Answering these questions honestly will help you figure out if entrepreneurship is the path for you.