Doing Work vs. Doing Business

It's a very important distinction that many people need to make, especially those transitioning from being employed to owning their own business.

As an employee, you do work, and you are rewarded for that work. Mostly, this happens in the form of an hourly, or monthly payment. Typically, you are selling your time to your employer, and during that time you are doing work. There is compensation for that work, and the concept of rewarding you for a good job done in the long run is one of the most important things. Motivation, the feeling of equality, and being treated fairly are central aspects of the game.

Doing business is a completely different ball game altogether. There are no "rewards" in the employment sense of the word. When you buy a piece of land at $100 and then sell it to someone at $150 the buyer is not rewarding you for holding on to that land, or for having invested, or for anything. The buyer is merely paying what the market price is at the time, and what they can afford and negotiate with you. You just happened to have bought that land at the "right" time and benefited from the difference the market has created. You might have had to sell it at a loss, and that is still none of the buyer's business, it's not even a factor in the negotiation.

This difference might explain the completely different approaches employees and business people have. The "work" that an employee does will not get them more money. In some cases, like sales, it does. But usually nothing happens when an employee saves her company $568,000 by implementing things in a new way. She might get a bonus or a minor raise, or some sort of psychological reward, but not money in the way the business partner enjoyed. It's about doing a good job, it's about advancing your career, and it's about becoming a star in a certain area of expertise that gets the rush for employees.

Business people get most of their adrenaline from making money, being a force in the market, and moving and shaking things. Nobody is there to pat you on the back if you make a good deal buying a cheap land and selling it at a profit. You don't need it! The money gained is your reward, and vice versa if you lose. The actual outcome is your motivator.

Being in business is a much lonelier place. The number of shareholders of most organization is usually a tiny fraction of the number of workers in it.

An interesting case is when you are a business person and doing work for a living, it's an intriguing juggle that you have to make, and you get in a better position if you can productize your service. This way you can have the final say on how you want to do your work, as long as you sell certain results for your clients. For example, software companies sell software in a box. They don't sell you the number of hours it took them to create that software. Although it is accounted for in the pricing, but you just buy a product at a price you can afford, and you are not concerned about rewarding them for doing a good job at creating that product for you. You are simply doing business with them. This way, they control how they want to do their work behind the scenes, and you don't get to interfere with that.