Celebrating the new year by working on some new habits, promises and intentions business owner? Let's start with your mindset. Before you can craft the practical decisions, relationships, policies and procedures to build your successful business, your mind needs to shift to your role as a leader and not be guided by your past success as an employee.

Think what got you success as an employee will get you off the launching pad as an owner? Not true. Sometimes, your past success as an employee may be a predictor of failure as a business owner. Here are several examples.

  1. When you're an owner, success and productivity are assessed from different perspectives. For example, as an employee, you typically have a shorter term view of a project than you need to have as a leader or owner. When you're an employee, your typical project may last days or months. And you're commonly implementing what others have forecast. the owner, it's up to you to stay aware of coming changes and innovations. It's likely someone else will implement your crafted, appropriate response before anyone else even sees that shift coming. That's why you're the leader: your event horizon is probably well beyond the foreseeable future. Your success as a leader depends on your ability to predict what's going to happen in your business environment rather than respond to a change that has already occurred; that's what you typically did as an employee.
  2. Here's another shift: as an employee, you typically wanted to 'look busy' and equated that with 'being productive'. So, how did you interpret that? Talking, writing, moving, scrolling, gesturing, dialing, even mumbling; all these physical things have the appearance that you were engaged in some worthwhile activity. And that last word – 'activity' – is a problem once you shift to owner status. You see, as a biz owner, your most important function includes no physical activity at all. What you need to do more than anything else is sit still and think, envision, dream, strategize, imagine, plan. This is the work of a capable, forward-thinking, big picture-creating leader. Yet your past training as an employee – that desire to look busy – may have left you uncomfortable with sitting still and sometimes giving the appearance of doing nothing at all. Yet that's the most critical function you, as a leader, have now: designing your business for all its tomorrows. And that starts with zero observable activity.
  3. The next mental shift starts as a riddle: How can social training to excel in one arena prevent your leadership skills from taking hold? Well, just as I rarely see a new business owner who's comfortable sitting still, I frequently see owners who have a strong need to have a hand in every element of their business and maintain control. It's not a stretch to see why: often your business represents the intense risk of having left a predictable job and income, a commitment of personal funds and your family's future. As a result, you, the owner, feel compelled to oversee every process or slip of paper. Or, you may feel a need to help those who are not as quick as you are. For women, the Superwoman complex often comes into play here. Too often in the business world, women have thought that they need to be twice as good to be perceived as equal; this may be more prudent with a woman owner over 45 than a younger woman. However, regardless of who it strikes, it's a real danger. The Superwoman wants to handle everything herself; she wants to show the world she can handle anything and, as a result, handles no one thing expertly. Man or woman, the need to control prevents a business owner from properly hiring, training and delegating, whether with employees or an outsourced team. That's a shame because that's a strong path to build a business that's a true asset rather than an ego trip. Once you can let go and remove yourself from the daily routine, you have an enhanced opportunity to focus on building your one true product: the totalality of your enterprise. The real leader knows when to let go and trust others instead of control or feel compelled to help everyone solve their problems.
  4. Conversely, the owner knows how to ask for help when s / he needs it and can focus on where s / he makes her most important contribution to her business (see #s 1 and 2, above). Action may speak louder than words yet directed action that results in a desirable result takes time, support and resources. Without the owner knows when to reach out for expert assistance with a necessary function, something important is going to lack expert implementation.
  5. 'Cover your behind' may be a time-honored employee's credo yet willingness to take an educated risk has a higher pay-off for an owner. Again, focusing on the future's potential before anyone sees it coming is what positions you for greatness and protects you from disaster. If only the buggy whip industry had seen automobiles coming …

Making these fundamental mind shifts can distinguish an entrepreneur's path from that of an employee.