Business Strategy

The Mindset You Need to be Successful as an Entrepreneur


It’s been over 8 years since I received my last pay cheque as an employee.

Ever since that time, 100% of my income has been business income derived from various entrepreneurial ventures. There was a real mental shift that happened when I became an entrepreneur, and I had to change several mindsets in order to become successful. Some of these were difficult to change because of very deeply routed conditioning.

Here are five ‘mindset shifts’ I had to make to become successful as an entrepreneur.

  1. I had to stop thinking about myself as a wage earner, and instead become a ‘long term investor.’

It can be pretty discouraging if you think of yourself solely as a wage earner when you are an entrepreneur, at least in the start-up phase. Until you get your business up and running your hourly wage is usually much lower than what you were making in your previous employment. That is why you can’t think that way. I had to shift my focus to that of a long-term investor: patient, willing to build a strong foundation, add value, and not cut corners. If an employee’s wage gets impacted in the short term then they often look for new employment. You can’t do that as an entrepreneur. That is why very few wage earners ever generate real wealth. Wealth comes to the long-term investor.

  1. Instead of executing instructions I had to make decisions and create systems.

There are a lot of advantages in being employed. One of them is that you generally have a set of job duties that you have to perform. You don’t have to guess or experiment with what to do. All you have to do is show up and execute properly and you get to keep your employment. As an entrepreneur I had to learn to shift my thinking and embrace the fact that I had no boss, no set of instructions to execute, but rather I had to make decisions. I had to create systems. No one would do it but me. This, at first, for many entrepreneurs is a little unsettling, but over time it becomes a source of great pride and freedom.

  1. There was no one up the line that I could pass responsibility to. I had to become the backstop.

In every other employment situation I had been in there was always someone up the line. I was never the ultimate boss, and so as long as I executed the instructions that I was given I would be ok. If I was given bad instructions I could pass the responsibility up the line. It wasn’t my fault. I was doing my job.

[tweet bird=yes]When I became an entrepreneur I had to embrace the fact that everything was my fault.[/tweet] I had 100% responsibility for everything that happened, good and bad. I had no one to pass the blame to – no one to send it up the line. I had to become the backstop. The more emotionally self-reliant I became in my business the more emotionally self-reliant I seemed to become in my personal life as well – and the less I wanted to criticize others or play the victim card.

  1. Instead of job security for myself, I had to shift my focus to creating value for others.

My focus when I was an employee was on myself – how much I was getting paid, how many vacation days I got, how the job would help my career path, how my job was impacted by the economic slowdown. As an entrepreneur I had to shift my thinking away from ‘my’ and ‘I’, and turn it outward to others. I had to learn to create value for others. If I couldn’t find a way to show others my value proposition then I wouldn’t be in business for long.

  1. Instead of avoiding criticism and failure, I had to seek out data and feedback.

When I was employed, criticism and failure were things to be avoided at all costs. Severe criticism or catastrophic failure could be the end of my employment as I knew it. With this mindset I would not experiment or take risks. I rarely innovated, because attempts at innovation, if they didn’t work, could cost me my job. As an entrepreneur failure is feedback. It is really valuable. You need it. It is the only way that you can improve. You want to get as much feedback as possible and correct it as quickly as possible (before you run out of money). Often you don’t know the strength (or weakness) of your value proposition until you test it. You need data from the marketplace. This takes experimentation and risk, and sometimes, short term failure.

About the Author

Ryan Clements is a business consultant, sales trainer, speaker and writer. He consults to companies and entrepreneurs on marketing and sales strategy, and is a frequent speaker and trainer in the areas of sales, marketing, entrepreneurship, productivity, leadership and motivation.  He also writes widely on these subjects and has published a book and given a TEDx talk on career fulfillment, a topic which he speaks often to schools and students about.  For speaking, consulting or training requests please visit his website at