The yearning to be your own boss is as American as hating to be bossed around. Americans have always shared the attitude expressed in the classic 1960’s Anacin aspirin commercial, “Please MOTHER, I’d rather do it myself!” How many of us have secretly dreamed of being able to stride into the boss’ office and blurt-out, “Take this job and shove it!” The very reason for the American Revolution was so we could tell our old boss – King George III – to take his colonialism and stick it where the sun doesn’t shine.

Unfortunately, the nature of the modern-day bureaucratic corporation combined with the attitude of many bosses that they have to prove they are the boss by bossing people around, goes against our ingrained craving to be the boss of our future. It is the rule, rather than the exception, for individuals to find themselves trapped in a work environment created by a management that professes respect and promises “empowerment,” but then acts in a way that shows they couldn’t care less about the employee. Too many have worked diligently to prepare for a rewarding career, only to find themselves mired in a corporate culture where the only real objective of management is to maintain their perks and power and take care of themselves. How often are people caught up in the clutches of a boss who keeps all credit and distributes all blame?

As Your Sow, So Shall You Reap?

The greatest frustration of all is when people come to grips with the fact that their future job security and advancement does not depend on their own talent and effort, but rather, on the Peter Principle; where managers rise to the level of their incompetence. In this type of disheartening and dismal work environment, is it any wonder that when many workers drag themselves out of bed each morning and stumble into work the most positive thing they can mumble is, “This day is one day closer to the day I will never have to do this job again.”

Among the legions who are frustrated with a bad boss or a depressing work environment, there is a fantasy – second only to winning the Powerball jackpot – to become one’s own boss. Unfortunately for most, the odds against either coming to fruition are about the same. But that’s okay, despite the risks, the opportunity to “be your own boss” offers some tempting benefits. It’s like Mel Brooks famously said in the 1981 comedy classic History of the World, Part I, “It’s good to be king!” On the other hand, the benefits of being your own boss are sometimes not all they are cracked up to be; especially if you want to be your own boss for the wrong reasons.

It is thrilling to strike out on your own as an entrepreneur and be able to decide what, when, where and how you are going to do things, but if the motivation for this comes from negative experiences, rather than a positive passion to lead and create, the chances for success are minimal. And that’s a real problem: Too many people want to be their own boss, but that they want to be their own boss for the wrong reasons.

The Desire to be Top Dog

When someone is thinking about leaving a job to become their own boss, they should ask two questions: Am I doing this because I have a bad boss and hate where I work? Do I have the desire to be an entrepreneur because of a passion to right wrongs, change the way things are done or meet a need not being met?

For many, if they are honest with themselves, the truth is that the desire to “be their own boss” is driven by a palpable dislike for their boss or a yearning to escape an unhealthy work environment. That is certainly understandable, but if someone jumps into the entrepreneurial world out of desperation, rather than the conviction of their ideas, it can often be no better than jumping from the frying pan into the fire. Being your own boss as an entrepreneur has an alluringly romantic draw, but the truth is that it is not for everyone. Many can be happier and even more successful working in a good corporate environment. If this is the case, the best solution is often to simply change jobs or companies.

It is not unusual for someone who has been outsourced, downsized or simply overlooked by their employer to believe that becoming an entrepreneur is the best way to a more fulfilling future. It may be just the push that was needed to start them on the path to entrepreneurialism, but unless there was already a burning desire, along with well thought out ideas and plans to do so, it could easily result in a bad situation getting worse. You don’t become an entrepreneur because you have to, but because you want to. The potential for success is slim enough, but when someone becomes an entrepreneur out of desperation, then slim is joined by nil when it comes to the chance for of success.

When many contemplate becoming their own boss they tend to think of the benefits like freedom, happiness, success and wealth, rather than the vision, commitment, hard work and assumption of risk that will be required to have any chance to achieve success. The first lesson to learn when starting down the entrepreneurial path is that you are replacing one boss with another who, while not as demeaning, may be even more demanding of your time, effort and commitment. Of course the upside is that you get to be that boss and receive the potential rewards for the effort.

So if you really do want to be your own boss, what is the check-list to run through before you take off?

As incongruous as it may seem, the desire to be the boss should be the least of your priorities. You didn’t like having a boss, so what makes you think that those working for you want to have a boss?

Your first priority should be to determine if your desire to be an entrepreneur is being driven by the passion of a cause and is not just a placebo for your current discomforts.

  • You are more concerned with what you achieve than with what you receive.
  • You have a yearning to have the power to do things as you believe they should be done. You see wrongs and want to right them.
  • You recognize an unfulfilled opportunity and want to grasp it.
  • Your experience and knowledge forms a solid basis for justifying that what you want to do should be done.

Do you have the perspective to recognize the difference between a risk and a gamble? Is there a need that is not being met? Are there changes taking place in your target market that are not being recognized or responded to? You see what is being done and are convinced you have a way to do it better. Your plan is not to do what others are doing, but to do what they can’t or won’t do. You want to be the boss so you can treat others the way you wanted to be treated by your boss, but never were. You have a vision to see the way things should be and have the power to communicate and motivate others to adopt your vision as theirs. You are eager to share the rewards of success with those who help you achieve it.

And most important of all, you have a willingness to do for others what, as a former employee, was not done for you. At the crux of this philosophy is the confidence, respect and trust you have in others that is demonstrated by allowing them to be their own boss when you ask them to do what you want them to do. The best chance at being successful as your own boss is to allow those who work for you to be your boss.

And the Moral of the Story …

The desire to be your own boss is a wonderful aspiration. It promises the joys and benefits of freedom, reward for effort, happiness and most important of all the potential for you to control your own future. However, none of these benefits are going to be available unless the decision to be your own boss is made for the right reasons. The reason to become an entrepreneur is for what you will achieve, not what you will receive. The path to successful entrepreneurialism is inspiration, not the desperation of frustration.

When you have the passion to create and lead you have the critical building blocks to be an entrepreneur. There is no guarantee of success, but when you want to be your own boss for the right reasons, you have opportunity to be the best boss you ever had.