Employment or Entrepreneurship?

The decision of whether to go into formal employment or start your own business is one of the most important choices you will make in life. Traditionally, it was a given that one would graduate college, apply for a job, get one and work until retirement. Things have changed drastically over time. There are some entrepreneurs starting their own businesses directly from college without being formally employed. A few industrious students even launch businesses while still in college and only expand them with graduation. Other people get into formal employment only to realize it’s not for them and leave to start a business. The opposite is also true. Some people have tried and failed at running a business and ended up in employment.  Some simply have a burning passion about something that they can’t keep it hidden anymore, ending with a good business in their hands.

In an ideal world the question one should answer is- which path best fulfills your passion, dreams and goals? Yet things are not always ideal. Some people dream of turning their hobbies or passion into a business but are trapped in a paid job by different circumstances, such as family obligations, loans, etc. In a country like Kenya where education is valued highly as a ‘path to success’ some people who didn’t perform as well in school and dropped out at some level are forced into small scale businesses as a means of earning a livelihood, and not necessarily as a career choice.

How Does Entrepreneurship Compare with Employment?

The most attractive feature of entrepreneurship is the freedom of being your own boss. Many people dream of managing their own time, working whenever and wherever they want and making their own business decisions. Some people might find this quite attractive, compared to the 9-5 grind of an official job where someone checks if you come and leave on time.  

While entrepreneurship certainly looks attractive, it entails much more pressure than a traditional job especially where delivering to clients is concerned. In a 9-5 job the pressure is off after 5pm or over the weekend even if a project is not complete. For an entrepreneur there are no set hours and most will burn the midnight oil to finish a project. Some entrepreneurs start alone, sometimes even working from home and will have to balance other responsibilities alongside work projects, while in a traditional office set up responsibilities are shared. Entrepreneurs know that they must work to ‘eat’, meaning they don’t get paid if they don’t deliver. In employment a salary is guaranteed.

Another attractive point of entrepreneurship is that there are no limits to what you can do. Whatever business you venture into there will always be room and opportunities for expansion, partnerships, investments etc. This is not always possible in a mainstream job. I have heard people say that they are stuck in a ‘dead end job’ meaning that there is nowhere else to go from where they are; no room for promotion or growth. This certainly leads to disillusioned employees and no doubt reflects on their performance.

Risk of Failure– the risk of failing after starting a business is unfortunately quite high. Some people may go into business without a proper plan of how to proceed or how to mitigate arising risks. After starting the business you might realize that you are good on planning but a poor salesman. Some new entrepreneurs get carried away by ego and show of might. I know of a certain entrepreneur who had a good business idea but employed too many people right off the bat without having a clear picture of returns. He ended up paying most of his investment capital in salaries and in no time the business collapsed.

Personal Liability– when you start a business you take personal and even legal responsibility  for it, the product/ service that you are selling, employees, premises etc. If you started a restaurant for example you would have to ensure utmost cleanliness and health standards are met. If people got sick from eating your food, you would not only be personally liable for that, but also might destroy your brand irreversibly. In employment there is a hierarchy, insurance and certainly liability is more shared.

Hopefully the path you chose to take is the one that best satisfies your passions, dreams and goals!


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