Is Your Business Just a Job?

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A reader emailed the other day asking whether our business could continue to function if my wife and I took an extended vacation away from it all. He then followed up that question with a proclaimation stating that our business was really just a J-O-B disguised as a true business.

“A business is only real when it continues to thrive even with the owners not present. Otherwise, it’s just another job.” he exclaimed!

While there is some element of truth to his statement, it is the completely wrong attitude to have towards your own personal venture. If you consider your business as just a job, then you will never succeed.


Photo by Neajjean

Every business has to start somewhere. Every business owner doesn’t have the luxury of taking time off especially in the early stages. Here are my thoughts on the distinction between a job and a business. It’s all about perception.

What Is A Job?

Looking at the dictionary, the word job has the following definitions

  • a piece of work, esp. a specific task done as part of the routine of one’s occupation or for an agreed price.
  • a post of employment; full-time or part-time position.
  • anything a person is expected or obliged to do; duty; responsibility.

I don’t know about you, but all of the definitions above seem to hint or imply obligation. Let’s look closer at some of the key words in the definition shall we?

“A job is a task done as part of the routine of one’s occupation”

“A job is anything a person is expected or obliged to do”

In a nutshell, a J-O-B is when you have to answer to someone else. A J-O-B is when you feel you have to do something in order to earn a salary. A J-O-B is when you aren’t calling the shots. I find it interesting that the official definition of the word “Job” contains the words “routine” and “obliged”.

What Is A Business?

Looking up the word business in the dictionary yields the following definitions.

  • A business is an occupation, profession, or trade: His business is poultry farming.
  • A business is the purchase and sale of goods in an attempt to make a profit.
  • A business is a person, partnership, or corporation engaged in commerce, manufacturing, or a service; profit-seeking enterprise or concern.

The funny thing is that I don’t see anything in the definition about being able to take a vacation and have the business still run on it’s own. I don’t see anything about a business being a living organism. The reason? It’s because a business is what it is, an entity that is there to make a profit.

The reader does have a point however. Any hugely successful business will eventually become too large to handle for just the owners themselves. But should that define what it means to be a true business?

How Do You Draw The Distinction?

Was Microsoft considered a business when it was just Bill Gates? Where do you draw the line? When is a business just a job and when is a business truly considered a business?

In my book, if you are willing to go out on your own and start your own venture, then it is a business. It doesn’t matter whether you are just a one man team or a well funded startup with many employees. You answer to yourself and you call the shots. You are the entrepreneur.

The only time that a business becomes a job is when you feel “obligated” to maintain it. You feel like it’s a “routine” to run. At this point, it’s better to just call it a day and close up shop. Perception is the key.

Don’t Get Discouraged

The important thing is to not let people bring you down. I’m not sure what the purpose or intent the reader had in calling our business just a job, but it definitely wasn’t meant to be encouraging.

As entrepreneurs, we will encounter people like this all of the time. Don’t let them bring you down. If you are excited about your venture, then it is a business. If you have plans to grow it and expand, then it is a business. No one can define what a business truly is except yourself.

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17 thoughts on “Is Your Business Just a Job?”

  1. Hi Steve,

    You’re right to say that it’s all about perception and no one can define what a business truly is except yourself.

    But have you thought of building your business to a stage where it’ll run on autopilot without relying on the owners to be present?



    1. Hi Mark,

      That has always been our end goal. Get the business up and running, hire employees, make it self-sufficient and then go start something else.

  2. I like your positive and encouraging nature in this piece. There are always people who will try to point out something negative (or that they think is negative), but it is important to just keep believing, improving, and growing. The business model your wife and you have created gives me inspiration for my own business goals and dreams.

    1. @Jules
      Thanks for your kind words. There are many negative people out there that just try to bring you down. What’s ironic is that most of these people are themselves afraid of starting a business. Good luck with your business pursuits!

  3. Well, I think I want a job – if it means that it is not separate to me.

    By this definition no artist would ever have a business – unless they could teach others to produce art like theirs.

    I want my blog to have my voice. So I guess it is a job by that defintion of not being separable from me. I also hope to sell products that I produce – and I’ll be very happy if I make a lot of money from the sales of them. I value the personal nature of my blog and being able to make personal contact with those who read it.

    I find this usually a pleasure. By your definition (the more sensible one I think) it’s a business, by your emailers definition a job. But I’m more interested in enjoying myself and making a good income than changing what I do to fit his/her definition of a business.

    1. @Evan
      Yep. My thoughts exactly. The only definition that matters is the one that you give yourself. I was kind of hoping that this reader would respond to some of the comments here but I guess he has chosen to remain quiet.

      I guess we share the same feelings. Passion is the key.

      Could have said it better myself. One of my last ventures started becoming a chore so I just closed up shop. I dreaded running it so much that it really did feel like a job.

      Good points. A business does have some amount of intrinsic value and in theory can be sold to the right buyer.

  4. If you wake in the morning excited about what you are going to do that day then it is not a job. Not many working Americans feel that way. A lot of it is about the passion you feel for what you are doing.

  5. I think your business can become a job if you don’t love it anymore. Like you said a job is something your routine and obliged to do. But the point of starting a business is not necessarily to walk away and let it run or to make millions of dollars. Its to set up something that you love. It where you make the decisions have the control and simply feel at home.

    Everybody has a different goal in life and a lot of people don’t want to be able to walk away form their business because they love to work everyday! A business is simply something you love, if you stop loving it then it becomes a job.

  6. People can be fired when they’re employees. With your business, it’s unlikely that your revenue will go to zero. Even if you temporarily LOSE money, your business still has intrinsic value. Jobs aren’t really comparable.

  7. Thanks Jon, I hadn’t thought of that. This does make them different.

  8. Steve, that reader must have just finished the “E-myth” by Gerber. He puts the business on a pedistal of J.O.B. unless you make it a franchisable, repeatable business without your being there. In lots of ways I do agree with this, but as you said, there are various stages of any business and so it must start with a higher dependency of the owner. I know my graphics business is not franchised, never will be, but I don’t answer to anyone and pick the work I do in my business very carefully. The choice in this is what makes it a business, not a job to me. Sounds like you feel the same!

    1. @Mike
      Interesting. I figured that he must have read that somewhere. So is the book worth reading?

      The reader’s definition of a business seems way too stringent in that it completely leaves out all of the consultants and solopreneurs out there.

  9. I’ve heard it said, too, that if you can’t step away from your business, you don’t own a business. You own a job.

    I disagree. I love my work, and I decide how much of it I do, when I do it, and from what location (i.e. anywhere I choose to be). Doesn’t sound like any job I’ve ever had!!!

    Great article.


  10. Great timing on this post. Just heard on another blog about the business vs. job. And loved hearing your point of view on the subject – you’re so right. Thanks.

    1. Thanks Jane. I’d like to read the blog post you are talking about if you can still find it

  11. Often for small businesses, the owners are inseparable from the day to day operations. While I don’t own a small business, I get great satisfaction from my career. And small-business owners probably feel the same way about their business. I think the distinction is as subtle as the question of whether a job is a job or a job is a career. It has to do with your satisfaction level for the efforts of trading your time for money and whether you feel like you are building something and going somewhere.

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