The Adaptive Agency Blog

Self-employed, An Entrepreneur, or Stuck Somewhere In Between – Which Are You?

by | Dec 12, 2023 | Strategy

If you’re self-employed, you still have a job, but you’re your own boss. You can make more money, have a better quality of life, help people, etc. And you can do it your way.

Amazing. Well done.

But “entrepreneur” implies something more.

As an entrepreneur, you embrace the challenge and adventure of figuring out how far you can scale your business. It’s how you’ll make a small fortune, become financially independent, and serve thousands of people.

Most of the agents I meet are stuck in the middle.

They have big dreams for their agency, but they’re still running it with a self-employed mindset. They’re doing what they’ve always done, with minor changes here and there. Smothered with operational minutia, they watch years go by with only incremental gains.

And they’re exhausted by it. They want out of the hamster wheel.


The Difference Is Leverage

Self-employed people do low-leverage things. Things that don’t elevate the baseline. Things that make next year look a lot like this year.

Things like:

  • Attaching themselves to busy work.
  • Thinking they have to do things themselves.
  • Obsessing the cost side of the cost/benefit ratio.
  • Serving the status quo and its many outdated processes.
  • Holding on to what they know.
  • Becoming satisfied or complacent.

But entrepreneurs, once they’re established, crave leverage. Leverage means finding ways to get more output for your input. And not just a little more. You have to stop thinking 10% more and start thinking 10x more.

That’s what forces you to change the way you make decisions. You’ll start to do things such as:

  • eliminate, automate, or outsource your lowest-value activities
  • start paying for better talent that you can massively leverage
  • embrace technological advantages earlier
  • leverage customer relationships to generate referrals, cross-sales, and social proof
  • invest in growth, even when attribution is difficult

It’s not about skill. That will come. It’s about a mindset. You have to be willing to let go of things and take a few steps into the unknown. To make some mistakes and learn some lessons. To find ways to educate yourself and your people.

That’s the hard part. The rest will come.


How To Start Building Leverage

If you want to make the leap to entrepreneurship and never look back, here are some tips. They’re not flattering, and they might be hard to swallow. Until you do. Then it turns out to be amazing.



First, Peter Drucker once said this: “The bottleneck is almost always at the top of the bottle.”

That means you. I know this to be true because it also means me. If Client Focus is slow or dumb, it’s because I’m making it slow or dumb.

If you want leverage, you’ll have to let go of the short end of the lever, no matter how it hurts your pride.



You’ve got to trust people and empower them. If you can’t, either you’ve hired the wrong people or you’re not leading them.

And it’s important to know the difference between labor and talent. Labor is a cost. Talent is an asset. It’s up to you to turn your labor into talent and to pay what it’s worth.


Letting Go

There are some things you will hate to get rid of. Things that defined your business for years. Processes, philosophies, tactics, tools, etc.

But years from now, when you’ve scaled, those things will all be gone. Better to do it sooner. Kill your own sacred cows. Don’t wait for the industry to do it.



You have to turn your customers into strategic assets. Instead of asking other agents what works, ask customers what doesn’t work or what’s missing. Meet with them. Give them excess value in ways that are easy to give but represent deep care and credibility.

Once you’ve done that, become an expert at obtaining referrals and social proof.



Figure out which of your customers are making your business grow. Your top 10%. The ones with lots of policies and decades of premium. Figure out what they have in common.

That’s your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP).

Then double down on that customer profile. Make it your priority for marketing and prospecting. Niche down until you’re the obvious choice for people who fit your ICP.



If you’re going to transform your business you can’t spend all your time, mental energy, and focus on procedural or administrative work.

Instead, you’ve got to leverage your highest-quality work time figuring out where and how to apply leverage.


It’s A Mindset, Not A Knowledge Set

Building “leverage” is much harder than just working more hours. But the results are manifold better. And not just in dollars and book size.

You’ll also get an amazing challenge and adventure. You’ll learn to offload things that you’re not good at and maximize your best abilities.

Plus, you’ll scale way beyond anything you’ve been able to do with the self-employed mindset.

It’s how to get more of the things you wanted when you started your agency. A lot more.