Achieving Success in the Corporate World: The First Principal Agent Mindset

Entrepreneurship may sound appealing, but it is not easy. Working for a company can be great if you find the right fit. Act as the first principal agent to climb the corporate ladder. Think independently, take ownership, build a strong reputation and advance together with your employer.

Achieving Success in the Corporate World: The First Principal Agent Mindset
Photo by Adeolu Eletu / Unsplash

Why bother with Corporate Work?

I start this article with a short essay on corporate work vs entrepreneurship.

If you only want to discover how to acquire a quick career climb, feel free to skip forward to the headline "I work by a secret rule that only 1% of workers pay attention to."

As a content writer in the productivity niche and a solopreneur, I should advise you that spending your time on an employer and paid work is a waste. And that it is much preferable to start your own business or, even better, to make passive income with a 4-hour work week and achieve financial independence in this way.

If you follow people on social media who make the content as I do, you'll be bombarded and brainwashed with these mantras daily.

Naturally, such ideas have also captured my attention because they sound alluring. However, I conducted tests to see if the various strategies were that easy. According to influencers, anyone can generate a five-figure monthly income within a few months through content creation, virtual training, savvy social media and email marketing, or drop shipping.

I regret to inform you that this is nonsense.

Conceptually, entrepreneurship is a fantastic strategy for those who can and wish to take entrepreneurial risks. It is because income can increase indefinitely by employing many levers (capital, labour, scaling products, IP).

In contrast, in paid work, you have a salary maximum that you most likely won't be able to surpass unless you work at Google, which generates a net income of >$400k per employee (or so) each year and can pay salaries accordingly.

The only problem is that the media only show short stories about successful entrepreneurs, not those who fail. Unfortunately, one can learn much more from negative examples.

In one instance, someone ordered many metallic ice cubes from China and stored them at Amazon after spotting their demand early on. Even though his calculations at the time of the order were more than accurate, the situation was very different when the goods arrived four weeks later: all of a sudden, there were ten additional competitors on the Amazon Marketplace, and they were all making things difficult for one another by advertising. What follows? Because of the inadequate margin, the retailer was forced to sell his goods at a loss because he could not afford the advertising or price battle.

In the other case of content creation, other influencers will tell you that anyone can be a content creator—all you have to do is find the intersection between your passions and expertise and the specific pain points of your target audience. You'll have a great value proposition. When you look at other influencers in your niche who have tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of followers, you might think that their content isn't that special and that you could make it just as well or better.

You don't see right away that for every successful influencer in a niche, thousands of others have tried the same model and failed. Who knew getting people to notice you and your material was so tough? During the first two months of this blog, I didn't get any comments or interactions on the blog or social media sites like Twitter. Writing without getting any feedback is the  first time you'll have to go through the "valley of tears."

On all platforms, the battle for user attention is tough, and you'll find lots of how-tos and advice on what you should do to stand out. And yet, the chance that you'll succeed is relatively tiny compared to the possibility of failing.

Even if you succeed, the 4-hour work week is probably out of the question. There will never be a time when you're done making your product and it sells itself without any more work. The machine needs to be kept on all the time.

I could be overly pessimistic, though.

I'm attempting to strengthen my income foundation by creating

What I genuinely want to say is:

Working at a company is not as horrible as its reputation suggests.

There are some awful jobs out there, for sure. Still, if you can find an organisation that fits you professionally, interpersonally, and culturally, you can develop a fantastic role there.

Photo by Alesia Kazantceva / Unsplash

My employer makes me feel wanted.

I'm lucky to have found this kind of position with my employer. I sometimes feel jealous when I hear great stories about big tech companies, how great it is to work there, and how much money you can make. An employee of Google, for instance, once joked that each floor has its barista.

Sometimes, I think to myself sarcastically:

"Well, my employer isn't as seductive as Google, but it likes me."

What I'm trying to say is: If working for a firm makes you feel like the smallest gear in the machine, what's the point? Because that's what friends who went this way said happened to them.

In that case, I'd instead work for a less fancy company that gives me a lot of freedom to work on problems and opportunities I find on my own and help me grow.

My employer supports my internal entrepreneurial endeavours (also known as "intrapreneurship") and rewards me for them by steadily raising my pay and giving me more responsibility.

The company makes me feel "wanted."

Of course, there is a reason for that.

And that's precisely how we now approach the actual subject of this post, which is the insider tip for advancing your career in a corporate environment.

I want to give you a glimpse of what this might look like based on my career (nothing happens overnight there, either).

After a 3 to 4 hour off road trek we made it to Hveradalir. A truly breathtaking site as steam came out of the many geysers from the rivers below. The build up of steam created surreal views covering the many slopes behind and had us climbing these few mountains for a special shot.
Photo by Alexander Milo / Unsplash

After receiving a degree in computer science, my journey started when I was 26 years old.

After performing some preliminary study on knowledge graphs, I briefly thought about pursuing a PhD, but I decided against it because of economics.

My starting salary was lower than anticipated, about 10k€ p.a. less than my peers who joined more established, larger tech companies. Still, I noticed that my eventual employer was in a state of growth and change, which I associated with many development potential and learning opportunities.

This was proven correct in hindsight.

Looking back, everything happened quickly.

  • First, I worked on software development until the company realised I could also be a project manager and software architect.
  • After a year, the company saw that I was good at talking to customers and giving presentations, so they used me more as a consultant and requirements engineer.
  • Consultancy on software initiatives evolved rapidly into digital transformation consulting.
  • Then, I was to apply what I had learned in the client business to internal strategic initiatives.
  • I was involved in the transition to the cloud and led a transformation initiative to improve our capacity for innovation.
  • Then I was promoted to oversee all aspects of innovation management
  • And in the meanwhile, in the vein of the "Eat Your Own Dogfood" principle, I also founded a corporate startup myself.

All in all, I have been incrementally and successively developed by my employer year after year.

What was the reason?

Business time
Photo by Marten Bjork / Unsplash

I work by a secret rule that only 1% of workers pay attention to.

The key idea is to shift your perspective; consider the business from the owner's perspective and identify (feel!) his pain points.

Julius Caesar famously said:
“If you want it done, then go. And if not, then send.”

The quote expresses that from the owner's point of view, finding someone who acts in his interest is tough.

Many people think that intelligence, creativity and charisma are crucial for the career path of a worker.

I believe it is much more critical to take genuine accountability - to feel and internalize your employer's fault, so to speak - and to act accordingly.

My secret is the concept of the (first) principal agent:

It refers to the idea that an individual's interests and actions align with those of their employer or organization. This means that an employee acts as if they are the company's owner, making decisions that are in the company's best interest rather than just themselves.

Accountability and ownership are, unfortunately, overused terms in companies.

What I mean is proper accountability.

When issues arise, you don't think, "Oh, that's not my job," but rather, if in question, you work through the issue till late at night.

Of course, I'm well aware that by making such a statement, I've just made myself a polarising figure, given that it no longer fits the zeitgeist (Gen Z, work-life balance, etc.).

Another place I've seen this is in discussions of budgets; I manage innovation, so I've had to keep an eye out for it. Early in my career, I funded everything I deemed a "good" notion.

Now acting as a first principal agent, the answer to the question of whether or not I would invest my capital in an idea has often been "no", especially if the concept hasn't yet gained sufficient traction and validation.

To advance in your career, it is necessary to think like the First Principal Agent.

And if you don't care about advancement?

Then there are other good reasons:

  • By taking real accountability, you'll learn the most
  • You will be more satisfied with your life because you will feel the self-determination of an entrepreneur.
  • Increased trust and autonomy from managers and colleagues
  • More opportunities for growth and development within the company
  • The ability to make a real impact within the organisation
Photo by Ian Schneider / Unsplash

Actionable Steps for Introducing the First Principle Agent Mindset

To introduce this mindset, a few actionable steps one can take include:

  1. Take the initiative and be proactive in your work, looking for ways to improve processes and add value to the company.
  2. Communicate openly with your manager and colleagues, informing them of your progress and ideas.
  3. Continuously seek feedback and take it constructively to improve your performance.
  4. Embrace the company's mission and values, aligning your actions with the company's goals and objectives.
  5. Be open to learning and development opportunities, and continually improve your skills and knowledge.

But in the end, it comes down to accountability and empathy for the owner's position.

This is something you'll have to figure out by yourself.


While the idea of entrepreneurship and the 4-hour work week may sound appealing, the reality is that it is not as easy as it seems.

Starting your own business or becoming an influencer can be challenging, and the chances of success are often low.

However, working for a company can also be a great option if you can find an organisation that fits you professionally, interpersonally, and culturally.

The key takeaway is to find a company that supports your internal entrepreneurial endeavours, rewards you for them, and makes you feel "wanted."

It takes time and effort to advance your career in a corporate environment, but it can be worth finding a company that aligns with your goals and values.

A critical tip for advancing your career in a corporate environment is to act as a first principal agent. This means thinking and acting independently and making decisions based on your understanding and analysis rather than relying on the opinions or judgments of others.

It also means taking ownership of your career development and actively seeking opportunities to grow and improve.

By acting as a first principle agent, you'll be able to build a strong reputation as a self-motivated, independent, and capable employee, which can open doors to new opportunities and help you advance in your career.

Feel free to add your tips and thoughts to this page's comment section, Twitter or LinkedIn!

Best regards,
-- Martin from