Actually Getting Big Things Done is a series of guests posts on how to make things happen from those who know how to… well… actually get big things done. Today’s post comes from Jason Rehmus who has a gift for helping others improve their work. I wish more humans cared half as much about anything as Jason tends to care about everything he does.
It seems that most people today work a full-time job and also have an idea for starting a business of their own. If that’s you, maybe you’ve even begun taking steps toward building your own business. It’s exciting to think of the future and the possibilities. You won’t have to face your idiot coworkers anymore. You won’t answer to anyone. You’ll be your own boss!
Be careful. Your behavior now will impact your future success.
Just Getting By
I’ve worked my fair share of soul-sucking jobs. I spent much of my time at those jobs daydreaming about the future, thinking about how I’m smarter than my boss, and even plotting ways to get even with my coworkers who made my life so miserable. Thinking about these things felt great at the time. It was a good emotional release to be able to get even, if only just in my head.
Most of the time spent on these thoughts was unproductive, though. Even if it didn’t affect the quality of my day-to-day work, I wasn’t developing the traits I needed to run my own business. I was just trying to get by instead of focusing on my future goals.
Daydreaming, thinking, and plotting like this are all reactive activities. We use them to artificially escape our present situation. Starting your own business, however, requires you to be very proactive. Constantly reacting, instead of getting ahead of the situation, trains you to remain out of control. If you want to run your own business, you need to learn to take control of your circumstances.
When your coworkers gripe and complain and pile their work on you, your response is a predictor of your future success. If you gripe in return or whine about being treated unfairly, you’re reinforcing poor work habits that you’ll carry forward into your own business. You’re teaching yourself that operating daily from a reactive posture is how you do business. That’s a difficult lesson to unlearn once you’re on your own.
Promote Yourself to CEO
Instead, you need to model the behavior that will produce the results you’re looking for. Promote yourself to CEO of your own mini company now. Look at all of your current responsibilities and own them, as if you were already the boss. Give your mini company a fun name, even if you just keep it to yourself. From now on, perform your job as if everything that passes across your desk begins and ends with you.
Coworkers who deliver work to you are now your vendors. Learn how to clearly communicate your expectations. Dealing with real vendors can be tricky. Your business depends on the products they provide to you, so if you aren’t clear about your needs, your business will suffer. You’ll only have yourself to blame if this happens.
Coworkers who receive work from you are now your customers. Learn how to serve them. Understand what it means to satisfy your customers. Find ways to gauge whether or not you’re meeting their expectations. Your business will die without happy customers, so learn how to please customers now, when a mistake won’t cost you your livelihood.
If you’re not satisfied by how your boss measures your work, create your own metrics that focus on those things that really matter to you. Get in the habit now of learning what should be measured, measuring it, and making improvements based on those results. Not only will you be preparing yourself for running your own business, but you’ll also enhance your performance at your current job, demonstrating your true value. This may even come in handy at performance review time.
Set goals for yourself above and beyond what your boss expects of you. Look for ways to innovate in your department. Anything that increases output or reduces effort helps the bottom line in your current job and demonstrates real-world consequences for changes you make. Learn how to experiment while you aren’t yet carrying all the risk.
Find someone you can mentor. Help bring inexperienced workers up to speed. You may need to train your own employees in your future business. Take the opportunity now to learn how to teach someone a new skill set. You might even be training your replacement.
Leaving a job to start your own business is, in part, about becoming the person you want to be. You don’t become someone new by putting yourself into a different set of circumstances. You become someone new by choosing to act a certain way, no matter your circumstances. Being the CEO of your mini company while at your current job will prepare you for the challenges of running your own business and give you the skills you need to succeed.