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When I wanted to start a business, I was asked this question on the purpose of starting a business. Before I know any better, I said that because I wanted to be financially free, you know, like what I read in Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki. I think most people in the Generation Y era can relate to this as they’ve most likely heard of this infamous book that probably spark entrepreneurship in the early 2000s among ordinary people like you and I.

I’m not going to talk about Rich Dad, Poor Dad here but basically if you have read the book, you’ll be familiar with the quadrant; Employees, Self-Employed, Business Owners and Investors. Basically the whole book talked about how you should transition from one quadrant to another with Business Owners and Investors being the desirable quadrants.

Back in 2009, I had a mentor, Cheanu (pronounced Keanu), who left the employment in his mid-20s to venture into entrepreneurship. He’s a huge fan of Anthony Robbins and the likes of Robert Kiyosaki, Robin Sharma as well as John C. Maxwell. One of the most important lessons I learned from him was the difference between employment and entrepreneur mindset.

“Why do you want to start a business?” is a question you need to ask yourself from the very beginning. It’s not a straightforward answer that I gave back then by stating that I wanted to be financially free. Cheanu would dwell deeper and asked me again, “What does it mean to you to be financially free?”

As one question leads to another, you’ll realize that you’ve started to realize the type of mindset you’re having. If you’re currently an employee, it doesn’t mean you need to transition yourself if you’re already operating at an entrepreneurial mindset and vice versa. I’ve come across many people who call themselves entrepreneurs or business owners but they’re operating at an employment mindset. It’s not what you do, it’s who you are. It’s all boils down to mindset.

So, now to find out if the type of mindset you have or to help you identify the potential business partners or team members in your business, let’s take a look into these questions:

1. Are you working to improve your weaknesses or your existing strengths?

You’ve probably answered this question during a job interview about your weaknesses. You’re most likely going to talk about improving your weaknesses because you think that those are something you need to get rid of. Employees’ capability to grow is stunted because they spend too much time and effort trying to master different skills.

Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, do not focus their energy on weaknesses. They build on their strengths and work with others who complement them.

2. Are you waiting for the “perfect moments” to launch your “masterpieces” or risk failures by showcasing your work?

Employees, whether or not they’re perfectionist by nature, need to be on their feet all the time to avoid mistakes. If they make errors, it’ll upset their superiors and can potentially affect their performance review.

Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, strive to be productive. They may not know it all but they would rather risk failing than to have never done it at all. By starting or making something happen, even if it ends in failure, entrepreneurs learn from it. Sometimes, it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission.

3. Are you saying “yes” or “no” to opportunities?

You may think that entrepreneurs are the ones who grab every opportunities they could get. You’re quite mistaken. Employees, who are operating on fear of missing out, tend to say “yes” to every opportunities that come their way.

Entrepreneurs are aware of what they should focus on and will not shy away from saying “no” to any potential distractions.

4. Are you delegating or doing everything on your own?

Employees tend to do everything they’re told to do either because they have to or they want to. If they don’t, they might be concerned with appearing to be weak and not being able to cope with their workload.

As mentioned earlier, entrepreneurs work on their strengths and get someone else to handle the tasks they lack the capability to manage. They constantly delegate the mundane tasks because they value their time.

5. Are you multitasking or staying focus on one thing?

Employees are meant to be multi-tasking despite the fact that they’re supposedly assign to a role. You can’t exactly say “no” to your bosses. So they tend to equates multi-tasking to productivity.

Entrepreneurs understand the risk involved in being a multi-tasker. Not only that you can’t concentrate on the task at hand, the quality of your work tend to suffer. Therefore, entrepreneurs tend to avoid multi-tasking whenever possible.

6. Are you avoiding or embracing risks?

No capital. No time. Too much effort. Too much commitment. Too hard.

Those are the excuses you can hear someone with employee mindset said when asked why they won’t start a business. But the real reason is really their tremendous need for security. It’s too much of a risk for them to take to not have a steady paycheck every month.

For entrepreneurs, doing something unfulfilling day in and day out just for a fixed amount of paycheck isn’t worth it. Entrepreneurs embrace the risk and thrive on the control they have over what they can do with their business. Having the freedom to make something happen in their own terms is more important than just a paycheck.

On a personal note, I would add that a steady paycheck doesn’t mean one is secured. Employees can be fired or retrenched at anytime while entrepreneurs know how to take calculated risks in their businesses.

7. Is money or time more important to you?

The notion “time is money” holds true for both employees and entrepreneurs but they operate in different ways.

Employees’ needs of security drive them to focus only on “secured income” which is their monthly paycheck. Money is more important to them than time. While employees are trading time for money, entrepreneurs are investing time for money.

Entrepreneurs are willing and ready to work for no pay or no profits because they know the business growth is more important than their personal paycheck. They believe that wealth generation sometimes mean delaying gratification.

8. Do you believe in work life balance or priorities?

Most employees sought after having work/life balance.

Entrepreneurs understand that this work/ life balance is a myth. There’s always be a time when you have to prioritize one thing over another. Why does work and life have to be separated? Couldn’t someone love what they do so much that their work is part of their life?

Rather than thinking about balancing work and life, entrepreneurs believe that areas and phases of their lives are more like seasonal journeys. Quality of time is more important than balance and they dedicate 100% of their focus and time to what matters at that moment.

9. Are you intimidated by smarter people or are you excited being around them?

Employees are intimidated by hard-working, productive and smarter people. They feel threatened because they’re under the pressure to outperform these people so that they look good in the eyes of others and hopefully the promotion will come their way. It’s truly a battle out there in the corporate world. There’s only one position for CEO or VP and if you don’t have what it takes to beat the others, you’re never going to climb up the ladder. Employees want to compete with smarter people.

Entrepreneurs are fascinated by smart people. They want those people in their team. When entrepreneurs spotted a bunch of intelligent beings, they would want to hire them or work with them. Entrepreneurs want to cooperate with smarter people.

10. Do you shift responsibilities to others or take initiatives to make amends?

Finger-pointing is common among employees. When a job requires ten people to handle, it’s easier for one to blame the others when a job fails. Everyone wants to avoid looking bad and having to take the blame.

Being responsible for one’s decision and the courage to face the consequences of one’s action are important traits every entrepreneurs should have. It’s in them to admit to mistakes and find ways to solve problems instead of wasting time and energy on justifying and complaining about it.

After answering all 10 questions, you should be able to tell the type of mindset that you have. If you’re operating with an employee mindset, perhaps starting a business may not be right for you…at least for now. There’s nothing wrong with having an employee mindset but running a business with that mindset may not be as helpful. On the other hand, it’s perfectly fine if you choose to work for others even if you lean towards entrepreneurship. One thing to consider is your job role. You may want to take up the type of jobs that utilize your talent rather than routine job where the tasks go around in a loop.

So, do you have any thoughts on what kind of questions we can ask ourselves to further distinguish an employee mindset and entrepreneur mindset? Feel free to share it.