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Solving unemployment by climbing a ladder

Article written by Trevor Clark (ActionCOACH – Westville, KZN)

Entrepreneurship, and owning your own business is an exciting concept – some people dabble in it, some master it, and some avoid it like the plague.

Not only is owning your own business the fastest route to building real wealth; the added benefit is that you can help so many more people feed their families and achieve their goals along the way.

By understanding the concept we call the Entrepreneurial Ladder – you can be clear on where you are right now, and just how high you want (and are willing) to climb:

Level -1  – Student

Each of us have a different foundation on which our ladder was perched. The level of education achieved, as well as our family, friends and community environments.

Think back – do you know of anyone that was taught the principals of business ownership, business finance, etc. during their student years?

Level 0 – Employee (earning money)

This is the first rung of the Entrepreneurial Ladder and the vast majority of us start here; in a job, working for someone else – someone is paying you a wage and training you with skills you will be needing so be grateful.

Some stay as employees their entire lives and achieve varying degrees of success and happiness, and some take the leap to the next rung of the ladder.

Level 1 – Self Employed (still earning money)

This a point Michael Gerber describes in his book “The E-Myth Revisited” where an employee hands in a resignation letter and starts on their own.

Sadly, the self-employed often reach a ceiling in business – what happens when you want to take a holiday, what happens when (god forbid) you get sick or cannot work?


There is generally only so much one person can do, only so many hours in a day, and only so much the market will pay for our product or service.

Level 2 – Manager (still earning money)

So the self-employed business owner now begins to hire staff. A logical step as this can allow the business to take a quantum leap – but were you ever taught the skill of hiring, managing and retaining good people?

Here the business owner is so busy hiring, firing, training and running after his team, that suddenly he is no longer doing the work he loved in the first place and starts to hate or blame his team for an unhappy situation.

Level 3 – Owner (making money)

This is the point where a lot of business owners come to coaches like myself for help. In climbing any ladder, a key lesson is that you cannot reach for a higher rung without first letting go of one of the lower rungs.

To be an owner in your business, you have to stop thinking like an employee. Finding time to get off the tools and work on the business – planning, putting systems in place, financial forecasting, high-level marketing and networking are all roles the owner must play, but cannot if they are in the trenches.

Successful businesses create jobs – but these businesses need the owner focussed on driving growth.

Level 4 – Investor (making money)

Imagine walking into your business and the receptionist says “Hello. May I help you?” without recognising you and that you are the (sole or part) owner of the business?

Sounds  good right? So duplicate yourself and set targets – think of your business/es as investments that should be bringing you passive income along with your real estate, share portfolios, etc.

Level 5 – Entrepreneur (creating money)

At the top or final rung is the point of ‘true’ entrepreneurship. As you have climbed this ladder, three things have happened:

  • You have learned how to build profitable businesses that can work without you
  • You have built a reputation for doing this successfully, and
  • You have built a network of other investors and business people.

At this level, people come to you with their ideas, money and opportunities, and ask you to be involved in these projects as you now bring significant value to the table.

The higher you climb the bigger impact you can make, and the more jobs get created along the way.

Take a little time to work out where you currently are on this journey, and where you would like to be. Then chat to your coach or mentor to help build a plan to get you there – enjoy the climb.

ActionCOACH is a proud Partner of the NSBC