How to go from employee to employer: 5 key lessons

Welcome back to Leader Talk! In episode 68 we spoke to Dan Cahill, Regional Franchisor for Jim’s Mowing.

Dan, a former McDonald’s manager, dreamt of starting his own business. This led him to Jim’s Group, where he could have the perfect combination of owning a franchise with an established support system and a proven business model. Under the Jim’s Mowing franchise, Dan’s weekly sales reached 17 to 21 thousand dollars. His journey from fast-food management to a successful Regional Franchisor proves that with determination and guidance, entrepreneurial dreams can become a reality.

In this chat we spoke about how to successfully go from someone’s employee to someone’s employer

Want to learn more? You can read or listen to our chat with Dan Cahill on YouTubeSpotifyListen Notes, or Player FM. It’s also available anywhere you listen to your favourite podcasts via Buzzsprout.

Authored by Dan Cahill, Regional Franchisor for Jim’s Mowing.

Five years ago, I went from managing a McDonald’s store to making over $20,000 weekly as a franchisee for Jim’s Mowing. Today, I oversee 163 franchises as the regional franchisor. My journey from employee to employer was challenging, rewarding, and filled with invaluable lessons. Whether you’re stuck in a job you don’t love or dreaming of taking that entrepreneurial leap, I’ve learnt there are five key steps and mindsets to adopt if you want to make a successful transition.

Find your drive

My journey from a McDonald’s manager to a Jim’s Mowing franchise owner was only made possible by my ambition and drive. I spent years climbing the ranks at McDonald’s, eventually becoming Store Manager at Frankston Bayside. I also gained valuable experience at the Head Office restaurant and completed a Diploma in Business Management from the McDonald’s RLP course. My management skills grew, but so did the realisation that my family life was suffering. It’s almost like I had an epiphany. If I looked five years down the line, I only saw more dissatisfaction and financial struggles. ‘How do I make my wife happy?’ became my driving force. I knew my wife was always happy when she was around her family. So, when a house was being sold across from her parents, I secretly bought it. I had good intentions but I also locked myself into paying $1000 a week, which working at McDonald’s would have been extremely difficult to pay off on top of other bills.

This led me to start my own franchise with Jim’s Mowing. Starting a business is hard, but it’s made much easier if you have a strong reason to do it. Mine was my family’s happiness. Reasons like this will give you the energy to keep going. Set the foundation and find what drives you, so you can still keep going in the face of the inevitable challenges.

Prepare for challenges

When you’re moving from being an employee to running your own business or franchise, you’re going to face a lot of tough situations. One big challenge is money. It can be hard to get enough money to start your business. I had to ask my mother-in-law for help to buy my franchise. You need to prepare yourself to proactively look for different ways to get money, like loans or help from family.

Dealing with debt is another big challenge. When people take the leap in owning their own business, it often leaves them in debt and worried about whether they can eventually pay it off. Many service-based businesses don’t get paid straight away for the job, but a week or a month later. When I started, I already had a lot of debt. This meant I had to work seven days a week just to get money coming in instantly to pay off what I owed. While working non-stop isn’t going to work for everyone, if you’re starting with debt, make sure you’re prepared to have money come in slowly and have a detailed plan for how to handle it.

Another major challenge in starting your own business working hard enough for it to grow, but not so hard that it takes a toll on your health. I worked so hard for a year and a half without taking breaks, and it really wore me down. I ended up feeling extremely tired and stressed – which was counterproductive. It’s important to work hard, but you also need to take care of yourself. Before you start your business, set a healthy standard for yourself on how much you’ll work and how much you’ll rest.

Put in the hard work

Putting in hard work is essential when you switch from being an employee to an employer. I remember in my 20s, while my friends spent their time watching TV, playing video games, or hanging out at pubs, I was working nonstop. This dedication is one of the reasons I succeeded at a young age. My wife and I always aimed to improve our lives, and by surrounding ourselves with like-minded people, we never felt like we were missing out on anything. Instead, we felt like we were doing the right thing.

In a successful sustainable business, there is no such thing as luck – it’s all hard work. Challenges are inevitable in business, and instead of chalking it up to bad luck, you have to learn how to deal with these challenges effectively. For me, this means I over-prepare for everything. Even then, things often go wrong, but it’s about changing your mindset to see each challenge as a lesson. If something goes wrong, now you know what to look out for next time, and how to prepare for that next thing. So it certainly isn’t a thing of luck. It’s about working hard to fulfil your purpose.

In saying that, it’s important to balance hard work with family time. In hindsight, working 24/7 wasn’t necessary. Working five days a week instead of seven might slow down your progress, but it won’t lead to failure. It’s also crucial to learn how to delegate. This not only helps in managing your workload but also ensures you have time for your family and personal life. Balancing hard work with smart work and personal time is key to a successful transition from employee to employer.

Learn to delegate

Learning to delegate is about understanding that you can’t – and shouldn’t – try to do everything yourself. Effective delegation will not only reduce your workload but also accelerate the growth of your business.

Start by pinpointing tasks that can be delegated. These are typically tasks that are repeatable and can be systematised, or tasks that don’t need your expertise. Then, match the tasks with your employees’ skills and interests. Delegating the right task to the right person not only ensures it’s done well but also boosts job satisfaction. When you delegate a task, make sure you give clear instructions and set clear expectations, deadlines, and desired outcomes.

Make sure to create standardised systems and processes so you have consistency. For example, I have a system for quoting called ‘DROPLETS F’. Each letter stands for a specific step in the process – ‘Don’t delay’, ‘Respond to client’, ‘Organise a quote’, ‘Be punctual’, ‘Listen to the client and ask questions’, ‘Offer advice’, ‘Thank the client’, ‘Send quote’, and ‘Follow up’. Systems like this show how exactly a task should be done, meaning you can trust your team members to get the job done right.

Delegation also means trusting your team to handle tasks and make decisions. And, the final part of delegation is offering constructive feedback and support if needed.

Don’t be afraid to sell yourself

Overcoming the fear or shyness of selling yourself and your products is a crucial step in growing a successful business. Many people feel embarrassed to say that they’re the best choice for potential customers, but it’s a necessary part of business growth.

A successful business needs high demand. When you have high demand in a business, you’re a lot more free. This can be achieved by actively marketing and promoting your services. In my own experience with Jim’s Mowing, I always went out of my way to generate as much demand as possible. With high demand, you gain the freedom to choose your clients and even raise your prices. It’s about being proactive in creating opportunities rather than waiting for them to come to you.

Marketing comes in many forms. One effective strategy is contact marketing – building a network of contacts who can continuously help provide you with work. With a mowing or landscaping business, for example, building a network of real estate agents, property managers or case managers for different insurance companies can feed you continuous referrals and work. The key is to make that initial contact, be persistent in following up, and build a relationship with them. It’s about showing them why you’re the best person for the job and not stopping until they become a regular source of work.

Focusing on the right type of clients is also important. You may want to concentrate on building up regular clients rather than taking on one-off jobs. Regular clients provide a more stable and predictable income. If there were one-off jobs I didn’t want, for example, I would pass them to other franchisees, which also helped build good relationships within my network.

Persistence is crucial in this process. Even if it means doing letterbox drops every month in different suburbs, you need to be relentless in pursuing opportunities. Don’t be afraid to repeatedly reach out to potential contacts or clients. It may feel uncomfortable at first telling people “I’m the best person for the job and here’s why,” but the more you do it, the more confident you become. It’s about understanding that if you want something, you have to go out and get it.

Finally, if you’re looking to own a franchise, using a well-known brand can help. Using a recognised brand like Jim’s Mowing immediately sets a high expectation of quality in the minds of potential clients. It’s your job to live up to that expectation by being punctual and delivering quality work.

Remember that the journey from employee to employer is paved by hard work field by purpose. Do whatever it takes to create high demand for your business, work hard in the present to ease your future, but always keep a healthy work-life balance. Ask yourself: What steps will you take today to shape the business and life you desire tomorrow? Moving from employee to employer is not just about ambition; it’s about the actionable steps to fulfil that ambition, making each day a stride towards your ultimate goal.