Act Like a Business Owner, not an Employee

Let’s say you’ve been a graphic designer for 10 years and you’ve just taken the plunge and put up a shingle for your own graphic design firm. One of the hardest challenges ahead of you is learning to think and act like a business owner instead of (or as well as) a graphic designer.

You are probably a great graphic designer. You choose just the right shapes and colours and can turn a simple flyer into a communication masterpiece. But do you have what it takes to grow a stable, profitable business?

We list here some key habits of a good business owner. As you read through this article, keep asking yourself, “Am I acting like a business owner.”

Make no excuses.

Once you own the company there’s no one left to blame. If you feel that something has gone wrong because an employee screwed up, remind yourself who hired that employee. If the customer is being unreasonable, remember that you ultimately decide whom your business works for. The buck will always stop with you.

A business owner takes responsibility for all aspects of their business.

Ask “Why not?”

Business owners view the world from a “why not?” standpoint. Why can’t I go into that market? Why can’t I earn more and take more time off? Why can’t I have a high approval rating from my clients? Why not have employees as committed to the business as I am?

By asking “why not?” a business owner opens his or her mind to options and starts to turn pipedreams into reality. “It can’t be done” just doesn’t cut it for a business owner.

Get off the tools.

Business owners run a business, first and foremost. If you run a plumbing business and you are spending 110% of your time laying pipes and unblocking drains then your business is never going to prosper. You have to make time to think about your business, make plans for growth, hire new staff and write procedures so others can clear drains as well as you do.

It’s a hard shift to make, because of course you know how to be a plumber but you’re not so sure how to be a business owner. Remember there are plenty of resources out there to help. Talk to your accountant, a business coach or a mentor.


Business owners understand the need for a plan. Without a plan you will find yourself distracted by every “great idea” or firefight that comes along.   With a plan a business owner can remain focused on building their business and achieving their goals.

Have a “we” mindset.

A business owner thinks of the “we” not the “I’. This means thinking in terms of what the business as a whole can achieve, including all your staff and suppliers. Do you find yourself saying, “I would make more money if I got rid of everyone and just did it all myself”? Then you aren’t thinking like a business owner. Instead of thinking, “I could do it better,” ask yourself how the entire team could “do it better”.

Check out our interview with Krystie Boyes from Champ Cleaning, who explains how she learned how to act like a business owner.

At MJ Accountants we’ve had to make this transition ourselves, which is probably why our coaching team is so well equipped to help small business owners think and act like a business owner. If you feel this is an area where you could use some help, please contact us.

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