Machine Design

Are You an Employee or an Entrepreneur?

All engineering professionals who are (or were) employees owe it to themselves — and to their employers — to become entrepreneurs. Why?

Because it’s good for them. Entrepreneurs are self-reliant and responsible. They are survivors who direct their own lives and see opportunity everywhere.

Laid-off entrepreneurs don’t sit around and worry. Rather, they prepare for the next opportunity, whether it be starting a business or seeking other employment. Entrepreneurs know their destiny lies in their own hands.

But that statement is only one side of the picture. Tim Clark, in a post at Get-, says, “Entrepreneurship is not about you, and it’s not about you getting rich. Entrepreneurship is not about you proving something to the world or about you struggling to overcome the odds. Rather, entrepreneurship is about you helping other people reach their goals.”

When you think about it, this statement is obvious. Business is all about satisfying customers, right? Well, to satisfy customers, you need to help them save money, solve annoying problems, experience more pleasure, or earn a better living. Put simply, to succeed as an entrepreneur, you must help other people.

According to Wikipedia, the term entrepreneur, “applies to someone who creates value by offering a product or service, by carving out a niche in the market that may not exist currently. Entrepreneurs tend to identify a market opportunity and exploit it by organizing their resources effectively to accomplish an outcome that changes existing interactions within a given sector. Observers see them as being willing to accept a high level of personal, professional, or financial risk to pursue opportunity.”

It stands to reason, then, that employers would want employees to be entrepreneurs because they create value. They are not mere cogs in the corporate machine. Entrepreneurs know their personal success and that of their organization must be aligned — and they take responsibility to bring about that success.

Some employers will be troubled by the thought of employee entrepreneurs. I spoke to the CEO of a small manufacturing firm recently who says, “If employees are not dependent on the company, how can they be relied upon?”

His fear is unfounded. Codependent relationships between individuals are generally unhealthy, and so are similar ties between people and organizations. And if the company does not acknowledge that it is dependent on the employee, then the tie is even less healthy. However, some management types think this attitude is naïve.

So, what is the best way for employees to proceed? Start by taking responsibility. As Susan M. Heathfield says in “Success in Life and Work” at

“The most important aspect of taking responsibility for your life is to acknowledge that your life is your responsibility. You are in charge.

“If the blame track or the excuse track plays repeatedly in your mind, you are shifting responsibility for your decisions and life to others. Do you hear yourself blame others for things that don’t go exactly as you want? If you can hear your blaming patterns, you can stop them.”

Next, start seeing opportunities in your life situation. Think creatively about your position at work. What ideas and actions can you put forth to help your organization? At the same time, consider what kind of business you might start on your own. You can, for example, start an Internet-based business at very little cost, and build it up in your spare time. Explore the possibility of freelance work in your profession, or even your hobby.

It’s your life. You have the power to make it whatever you want it to be.

— Joel Orr

Stuck for business ideas? Drop me a line: [email protected]

Edited by Leslie Gordon

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