If you’ve read my previous post on professional success, you know that I want you to improve professionally, moving yourself from your current state to a better state in your professional life.

And there’s a specific trend I want to see shake up the traditional workplace environment and root its way into every individual—one that transforms your mindset and empowers you to do better and be better in your career.

The Big Idea You Should Get Behind

For all my full-timers, part-timers, semi-timers, here-and-there-timers, and even no-timers—to everyone currently employed or seeking employment—do me (and yourself) one favor:

Think like a business.

What do I mean by this? I’m not necessarily saying go start a business (unless you’re particularly entrepreneurial). I just mean think of yourself as a business. Act like a business in thought and action.

That’s it. That’s all I want for you: To adjust your thinking.

Now, if the proverbial light bulb just lit over your head—if you just “get it” from that simple statement—and those were just the words you’ve been waiting to hear all year to change your way of thinking for the better, great! Glad I could help you so easily.

For everyone else (99% or so), continue on and find out how you can positively impact your career by simply adjusting your thinking about how you operate at work.

“We’re Not So Different, You and I…”

First, it’s important to understand the similarities between a business and you as an employee. Let’s start by looking at this classic question:

Why do businesses exist?

This classic question has a (not surprisingly) classic answer, non-profits aside. You know that answer. I know that answer. We all know that answer: To make money. If it didn’t make money, the business wouldn’t be in business for long.

Now let’s look at a question about you:

Why are you employed?

Maybe that’s not as classic a question, but the answer is still the same: To make money. (Sure, there may be other reasons, but you know the moment the paychecks stop, so do you.) If you didn’t make money, you wouldn’t be…well, let’s just say the situation wouldn’t be pretty.

And consider also that businesses have costs and tax concerns just like you. They provide products and services (gasp!) just like you. Businesses must also acquire customers—the people and other businesses that pay them—just like you, only less frequently since your customers are probably longer-term employers.

These are all functional similarities, and we’ll pick back up on them shortly.

As you may have gathered, there’s essentially not much difference between a business and you as an employee; that is, other than your mentality.

Adjusting Your Mindset

Now that you’re aware of the similarities—that you as an employee already function like a business—what remains is for you to think like a business.

What exactly does thinking like a business look like? Well, let’s tie your mentality to the functional similarities I mentioned previously.

There are costs to employment. You’ve heard the saying:

“There’s a cost to doing business.”

If you ask anyone who’s ever been self-employed, such as contractors and 1099 workers, you’ll discover there are more monetary costs involved than with employment (like the self-employment tax). And starting and growing a formal business has even more, with costs for marketing, various resources, and (of course) employees.

However, being an employee has its own costs as well.



We all know the horror of the daily commute: It’s a pain in the neck and in the wallet, with as much as 200 hours and $2,600 spent annually. And while mileage is tax deductible for the self-employed, it typically isn’t for the employed.

There’s also non-monetary costs like time and convenience. As an employee, you’re typically required to abide by a set working schedule. The classic “9 to 5” rears its ugly head here, putting a continual strain on doing things (with any ease) outside of “business hours.”

These costs should serve as a reminder that, despite what many think, being an employee isn’t cost free. Like a business, you must account for such costs as part of your operations and “profit” you take home.

In other words, don’t just count yourself “lucky” to have a job; there are costs involved: Money may be coming in, but it’s also going out (along with other things).

You provide needed expertise. Earlier I noted how a business provides services.

You remember that job description you applied to way back when? The one that informed you on what role you would be fulfilling and responsibilities you would handle?



When you accepted the job offer and took on that role, you effectively agreed to provide your services—the knowledge and expertise your employer was looking for.

Understand that your employer needs that expertise from you, otherwise you wouldn’t have been hired. And realize the value in the services you provide to satisfy that need. Don’t let your employer (or yourself) take it for granted; a business wouldn’t.

Your organization is your client. To keep the lights on, a business must find someone to pay them, which is really no different than an employee. Customers or clients—these are the purchasers of the business’ services.



Your employer purchases your services in the form of hourly pay or a salary; therefore, your organization is your client. And in viewing your organization as your client, you can shift your thinking to focus on results—like a business.

Think of it like this:

An employee focuses on tasks. A business focuses on results.

What’s that mean? Let’s look at a simple scenario. An employee might describe his day as follows:

“Today, I just sent out a few emails to coworkers in another department.”

In contrast, if that employee was focused on results, he might describe the same day a bit differently:

“Today, I prevented a costly miscommunication between two departments by ensuring both fully understood the other’s responsibility.”

Notice the difference? The first was focused on the task. The second was focused on results, even though the same action (sending emails) took place. This small shift in mindset can make a tremendous difference in your career and in how you approach your daily work, as well as what you and your client (your employer) get out of it.

Stop performing tasks; instead, focus on getting results. Then you’ll be thinking like a business. Plus, your client will appreciate it too!

Realizing Your Limits

With all my talk about thinking like a business, you may be wondering why I don’t just recommend starting your own. (I touched on this earlier.)

Well, there’s a simple truth:

Everyone isn’t fit to be an entrepreneur.

Starting a business isn’t for the faint of heart nor, contrary to popular belief, the ultimate goal for everyone (nor should it be).

If starting a business was the ultimate goal for everyone, and we followed that through to its logical conclusion, there would be over 7 billion mini-businesses — one for each person on Earth. Clearly there would be no real employees in that scenario.

And that’s not practical.

For the vast majority of people, striking it out on their own is just too much of a risk, too difficult, or just not their cup of tea. And that’s absolutely fine. Staying a career-focused professional is a risky feat in itself in today’s business climate.

Connecting the Pieces

There will always be businesses. And as long as there are businesses, there will be employees. But — and this is a big but (no pun intended) — what I want you to realize is just because you’re an employee doesn’t mean you can’t think like a business.

Consider your costs. Value the services you provide. And treat your organization as your client. Remember these and you’ll be well on your way to boosting your career.

Empower yourself and your career by shifting your mindset: Think like a business.


How will you start thinking like a business? Share in the comments section below.


This post was originally published on my LinkedIn profile on December  20, 2015, and was featured on LinkedIn Pulse in the Best Advice and Big Ideas & Innovation channels.

Cover image courtesy of Flickr: http://bit.ly/1YtKWWU