Choosing Between Being An Employee or an Employer

Natalie asks: I’ve recently completed my Bachelor of Business but I’m facing a problem no textbook prepared me for. I always thought I’d graduate then land a comfy financial analytical assistant position. But after working part time in office admin, I’m not sure I can take any more orders! Plus I’m interested in opening my own consultancy but it seems so risky. What do you think I should do?

After being capped most people happily trot into a company and twindle their thumbs until retirement. This cookie cutter approach works for most people – whether it works well is another story. However for some people, let’s call them budding entrepreneurs, this approach makes no sense.

Traditionalists will tell you to put your money on finding a job. Throughout university you may have found it almost assumed that you will be leaving and looking for employment. So they will teach you about writing CVs, impressing your boss and what positions there are in your field.

They do this quite simply because it is the safest option. Not everyone should start their own business. If universities encouraged every student to innovate and start their own business, there would be an over-saturated market and fierce competition. Small businesses will compete for smaller incomes.

It is also a safer option for the student. Going into employment means you should have a steady income and steady hours. For someone who has just left university, this provides a routine that is easy to fit into.

It also allows for career training and development. Any good employer will train and develop their staff – it makes plain economic sense. They are also more likely to develop their employees careers as opposed to hiring outsiders. This means that hard work and due diligence might lead to a higher income eventually.  Or does it?

Seeking employment is less secure than traditionalists would have you believe. Ultimately you are not in charge. Your boss could squeeze every bit of effort out of you for ten years without promoting you. They could dangle the juiciest carrot in front of you and say that if you just run faster you will get it. But ultimately it is not your choice.

You know what else isn’t your choice? Your employment. They could fire you at any given moment. While there are laws in New Zealand regulating reasoning for firing an employee, a cunning employer could weasel their way out of it. And freshly unemployed you would not be in the best position to fight it.

Also as an employee you have little choice about the work you can do. You might find a task monotonous or unsatisfying and would need to suck it up and carry on. Or worse, you may find an assignment goes against your values and beliefs. There are so many grey areas in employee rights.

Now onto starting your own consultancy. This definitely is the most terrifying route. Especially for someone who has only just graduated. However it has the potential to be incredibly rewarding.

The greatest benefit of starting your own business is it enables you to pursue exactly what you want in life.  It allows you to make a living out of your passion, no matter how specialized or bizarre it may be. And there is little more satisfying than being able to do what you love every day. At the very least, you won’t have boring work stories!

It also allows for greater freedom. If you want to work from home in your sweatpants then that’s okay. If you want to take an hour off to watch your son play soccer then that’s okay too – provided you don’t have client meetings.

You may start your business and find things don’t go according to plan. This is not the end of the world. At least you will not have to wonder what may have been. Plus being able to put the owner/manager title on your CV looks very impressive. Three years of owning and operating your own business could progress your career faster than ten years of taking orders.

It’s easy to see why people decide to start their own business. It is all very exciting until you start thinking of the logistics- their doubts creep in. Maybe I’m not entrepreneurial enough, no one would want this product, what if I fail and everyone finds out? There are many valid excuses. But at the end of the day you either make plans or you make excuses.

The first step is the most daunting. Suddenly you find yourself thinking about things you never had to before, such as owning an office vs working from home or commercial tax. I never said starting a business would be easy. It could very well be the most stressful time of your life.

There are consultants available to help you through the logistics. If you cannot afford to see a consultant, then you might not be able to afford starting a business.But a consultant is not necessary. Your study in business and experience in office admin should have given you some insight into the day-to-day running of a business.

Also keep in mind that you can be both an employee and an employer. Your business could be a small consultancy that you only invest a little time into. Or you might invest all effort into your business but hold a casual job to help support the business.

In short: You either make plans or excuses. So start planning!