When you leave long-term employment to start up your own business, you have to be ready to adjust your mindset and approach. That’s pretty obvious – and most advice on the web focuses in on the financial aspect of adjustment – i.e. going from salary to invoice, cash flow forecasts, client funnel, etc.

Which is all well and good.

But there’s an area of adjustment that sneaks up on you if you’re not ready for it.

Most organizations – while often hopelessly ineffective and inefficient – run to an unspoken set of rules, expectations and unconscious decisions. Said another way, the machine runs, whether it gets the job done or not. We take so much of that programming for granted that it becomes second nature, deeper even than muscle memory:

  • While we may use different agenda templates, we know how meetings work.
  • While we use different accounting systems, we know what it means to charge expenses.
  • While we might use different tactical approaches, we know that the person who takes an action is expected to deliver.

We intuit how the machine works, because we are in the machine.

When we leave long-term employment to form our own business, we suddenly become hyperaware of the totality of the new machine, of all the things that need to happen to get anything done… and that we don’t know how to do all of them!

If we stay in avoidance or denial of this need to adjust, we’ll end up playing the new game by the old rules – a clear recipe for failure and the resultants crisis/stress.

One way in which the machine breaks down is the assumption of accountability. When running your own business, you know that you are on the hook for delivery

[though it’s also likely you might not know what that really means in practice]

so it’s natural to expect the same from others – yet you’ll find yourself wondering

“why the hell doesn’t this person care about their business?!”


“why do I have to keep chasing this person to get them to do something?”

[Yes, I’m looking at you, client organization Accounts Payable]

Fact is, you’re living under an Old Rule:

“It’s OK for me to leave you alone to get on with it”

Under that Old Rule, you are trusting that the other person wants to perform AND that, failing that, they have a boss that will make sure they do.

When you’re working in a free-flowing, informal network of suppliers and customers, you can’t afford to live by such a tacit understanding. Your adjustment is clear:

  • Specify your REQUEST – what you need to happen, by when, and to what standard (including cost)
  • Check for UNDERSTANDING of your request – and clear up any potential confusion
  • Confirm AGREEMENT to deliver your request (and any potential contingencies)
  • Agree MONITORING arrangements – check-ins, interim reports, etc.
  • AUTHORIZE action – make it clear you expect all the above to work

Sound simple? Well it is, but do you do it methodically? Do you operate on the flip-side when delivering work to others? Do you seek to clarify and understand the request, agree to deliver, comply with monitoring arrangements?

Do you hold yourself to standards you judge others as failing?

Drop the judgement – help your suppliers/partners deliver what you need, when you need it, and then make sure you do the same in their direction!

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Vincent Tuckwood is a coach, consultant, and founder of View Beyond LLC. He coaches people, teams and organizations to break free of self-imposed limitations. In his individual coaching practice, he helps people looking to start their own business, with particular focus on those leaving long-term corporate employment to do so.