Being the owner is a powerful position. Being an employee is very different.

Sometimes a former business owner goes to work for someone else. Maybe he wants a simpler life with fewer responsibilities. Or she decided to relocate and doesn’t want to start a new business again.

What are the pros and cons of becoming an employee? Let’s examine them.

The Pros

  • Less Responsibility: As an owner, you carry the responsibility for the entire company and all the employees who work there. The ups and downs of the business are a true burden. As an employee, you do simply what responsibilities you were hired to do. You know your place in the organization chart: It’s not at the top anymore.
  • More Time: The owner is on the clock 24/7. They are where the buck stops. When no one else can be reached the owner gets the call, good or bad. On the other hand, being an employee carries expectations regarding hours. The number of hours worked a week is more or less finite. It must be reasonable otherwise you have the freedom to quit.
  • A Life: Many owners live to work. Their life outside of work is constrained by their drive to make the business successful. That compulsion sometimes leads to personal challenges, like divorce or being disconnected from their children. When you are an employee, you probably work to live. Given your more limited responsibilities you are able to focus on developing a rich and an active life outside of work. That life brings you and your family much joy and satisfaction.

The Cons

  • Following Orders: The owner gets to call the shots and make the final decisions. It is one of the most seductive aspects of being an owner. Being in control is a place many people like to be. Meanwhile, as an employee you must follow the directions of your employer. You may get to disagree with the orders sometimes but the owner is the decider. If you are lucky you may work for an owner who considers your opinion. Don’t expect the owner to agree with you all the time.
  • Working with Processes that Aren’t Yours: An existing company has spent years developing systems and processes. Part of that work is choosing which software programs the company uses. Being an employee means you have to work the way the company has worked and with the tools the company has. You may think a different system or software is better. Suck it up. To be an effective employee you must work with what the owner says is “The Way.”
  • Who You Work With: The owner decides who to hire and to fire. That is one of the main reasons someone becomes an owner. As an employee you don’t have that responsibility or power. What that means is who you work with is not your choice. It is up to you to make the best of it. Your only other choice is to work somewhere else.

Deciding to be an employee instead of an owner is a big decision, one not to be taken lightly. Starting a new business involves great risk and takes years of little or no profit. Becoming an employee involves risk, too, but much less.

What do you want to be doing and why? Get clear about that and the choice will become evident.