Blurred Vision

What Is Reasonable?

Setting reasonable expectations of employees begins with finding out what motivates them to come to your company every day. Are they with you for money? Work experience? A specific type of project they can't find elsewhere? Do they have a special commitment to your vision? Learning how employees think will clue you in to why they do things the way they do.

Jeary sees the relationship between entrepreneur and employee as a growth process where the entrepreneur has to separate from the business enough to realize that every employees has his or her own unique approach to work. "There's a maturation process entrepreneurs go through, where he or she figures out that employees have their own life goals," he says.

Making the connection that employees aren't entrepreneurs takes time-seven years on average, according to Ragsdale. For Renkis, time has meant coming full circle. He says that he went through a phase where he expected everyone he hired to be just like him. Now things are different. "I've come out the other end and learned to genuinely respect other people," he says. "I can see the big picture now and how my employees fit into it." One of his employees is openly running a small business on the side, something Renkis encouraged.

Gold has this tip for entrepreneurs: Don't worry; it's normal to feel that no one works as hard for your company or cares as much about it as you do. This is where some self-analysis comes in handy. Are you holding a grudge toward your employees over some expectation you've never voiced? Step back and look at the culture you're creating and how you're communicating your needs. "Realize that you've got to work on the business, not just be in the business," Gold says. Talk to employees to determine what they see as reasonable to expect from a day's work. Finding a peer group and creating a board of advisors where you can get advice are valuable, too. Gold says that taking those steps made a big difference for him. "As an entrepreneur, you need to do these things to survive," Gold says. And the sooner you do them, the better.

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Chris Penttila is a Washington, DC-based freelance journalist who covers workplace issues on her blog,

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This article was originally published in the October 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Blurred Vision.

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