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Being The Owner vs. The Manager

Written by: Rikka Brandon
Published on: Feb 5, 2018

Person owning business picture  

Is it weird if I tell you that I’m a natural born owner/boss? I realize that’s the sort of thing we’re supposed to pretend we don’t know about ourselves. We’re expected to demure and self-deprecate when people compliment us on our leadership skills but if you ask my three siblings they’ll gladly tell you that I’ve been leading and bossing from the moment I could talk.

But there are different kinds of leading and as someone who’s been both a manager and an owner (who hit a million in sales before my thirtieth birthday!)

I can tell you that they’re very different, with their own specific benefits and drawbacks.

Owner vs. Manager – is there a difference? Learn from someone who’s been both.


What I learned as a manager

* You get results from what you inspect not what you expect.

You can expect great things from your staff all the live long day – more clients, bigger sales, more productivity. But you start to see results when you dig a bit deeper; inspect call logs and client queries, have employees demo their pitches for you. You’ll be better informed about what’s happening in your office and your staff will pay attention to the fact that you’re, well, paying attention.


* People want to be praised and given the opportunity to grow.

You’d be amazed how far a “Great job!” or “I really appreciated your work on that project” can go. Your staff actually wants to be given constructive criticism and sent to professional development workshops – and not just for the buffet breakfasts! Help your staff grow and show them how they can improve through performance reviews and productive feedback.


* Hoping it will go away or get better RARELY works.

I cannot tell you how much time I spent devotedly wishing that Employee A would start showing up to work on time and that Employee B’s attitude was ‘just a phase.’

Spoiler alert: willing their bad behavior away accomplished nothing. Nothing brings about change like actually, you know, doing something.


What I learned as an owner

* It's a lot easier to be a manager – you’re just enforcing someone else's rules!

It’s soooo much easier to say “I know it sucks, but I don’t make the rules.” When you’re the owner, you’ve got the power to change rules and your staff knows it! Enforcing rules and saying the tough, awkward stuff is a lot harder when you can’t hide behind a higher-up.


* If you don't have set expectations for performance you will make excuses (and blame yourself) when your employees don't perform. When you’re working for a large company, they usually have specific, well-researched performance guidelines in place – how many cold calls, how many new clients, how many new sales can be expected each month.

But when it’s just you, you’re probably too busy keeping things afloat to give your staff perfectly outlined expectations and then when they don’t perform as well as you’d quietly hoped, you’re disappointed and you blame yourself. You’re effectively paying under-performing people to make you work harder and make less money.


* It’s better to take a few deep breaths and think about the points I want to make before I fire off an email or call someone into my office.

When I see a typo or a missed deadline, it’s very, very easy to scribble a hotheaded email to the culprit. Shockingly, this doesn’t usually go well and frequently results in hurt feelings and lowered morale. Intentional communication is much more effective than reactive communication.


* People appreciate it when you communicate from a place of caring.

You know what’s a million times more effective than saying “You’re totally phoning it in with these pitches”? Saying “I've noticed that you don't seem to have the same passion for your work you used to. Has something changed?” We’re all human, we all make mistakes, and we all have lives outside of work. It’s important that we remember that when we’re dealing with our employees.


* No matter what, I'd rather be the boss.

Yes, being the owner means asking yourself the tough questions, having awkward conversations about compensation, and dealing with those white lies everyone tells during interviews. But being the owner also means I can spend a year galavanting around Central America with my family, delegate duties that don’t thrill me, and lead my company in a direction that works for me.



Rikka Brandon is the author of the best-selling book Hire Power: Everything Entrepreneurs Need To Know To Hire Awesome People. She’s the creator of the Hire Power Program, an online program designed to help small businesses build a rock-solid recruiting strategy and stop settling when they hire. She’s the Founder of and  Building Gurus. Rikka is the go-to girl for growth-minded entrepreneurs and forward-thinking business leaders and is considered as the USA’s Top Hiring Expert for Small Businesses.