Are you a business owner or a business manager
Are you a business owner or a business manager
By Alex Dodgshon

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Are you a business owner or a business manager?

TAGS:  Business Exit Strategies, Exit Planning, Maximising a Business Sale Price, Scaleable Business, Sellability

Breaking the managerial mindset is crucial if you are serious about adding value to your business. When you try to be a business owner and a business manager at the same time you end up spreading yourself too thinly, which could be detrimental to what your business is worth.

Being a business owner means taking ownership and responsibility for business planning, performance and future direction. Some business owners are reluctant to let go of other tasks in order to make time for this, they worry it may lead to a lack of control. In reality, taking ownership means having full control at a strategic level and trusting your team to get on with day-to-day tasks and delivery.

Let’s take a look at each mindset in more detail.

Do you have the mindset of a business owner?

A business owner:

  • Is innovative and creative with visionary entrepreneurial instincts
  • Is not involved in directly delivering customer needs, or has a very small number of customers who have direct relationships with them
  • Sees the bigger picture and focuses on the long-term strategy and direction of the business
  • Makes informed decisions and makes them quickly
  • Is comfortable with taking risks
  • Seeks ways to add value, strengthen and improve products and services
  • Views challenges as opportunities to grow and increase revenue
  • Leads by example and empowers their team by delegating responsibility
  • Listens, learns and accepts advice
  • Takes frequent holidays away from the business safe in the knowledge that they’ve set everything up to run perfectly smoothly without them, and that they’ve equipped their team to be capable of solving any problems if any should arise

At the opposite end of the scale, a business manager:

  • Prioritises the day-to-day operations of the business like delivering short-term plans and meeting deadlines
  • Likes being an integral part of the product/service delivery for a large number of customers
  • Focuses on carrying out their responsibilities and overseeing team activity
  • Finds it difficult to take time off from the business, because there is nobody trusted to deliver their work in their absence
  • Is more reactive than planned
  • Is content operating within the bounds of current processes and procedures
  • May not prioritise seeking out new ways of working
  • Maintains good relationships with customers and suppliers
  • Sees challenges as something to fix

Can you see some of your own traits in these categories?

Which mindset do you most identify with?

Business managers in B2B service industries

The traits of a business manager are very common in the service sector. Let’s take the B2B sector as an example. Many HR and Health & Safety companies start out as small businesses developing from the seed of an idea or one person’s long-held ambition. When you start a small business you wear many hats and are involved in every operation and decision. You’re responsible for customer service, marketing, operations, administration, finance, planning. The list goes on.

However, if you want to grow your business and create real value, you have to step away from the day-to-day responsibilities of being a manager. We’ve seen the impacts of not doing this with two very different business owners (or should that be managers?).

  1. The first had made their first employee hire, but later decided to save money by not recruiting for maternity cover, taking on the role themselves (along with the million and one other things they were responsible for!). All that resulted was one exhausted business owner doing the jobs of two people. Any enthusiasm for growth disappeared and customer service levels rapidly declined. They also fell out of love with their business.
  2. The second had traditionally operated in a seasonal market and refused to see the possibilities of growing their team and moving into new sectors in the off-season. They missed (or ignored) the opportunities which meant they didn’t see any growth. In real terms the company shrank and soon was not generating enough profits to sustain the owner.

In both these scenarios, the business owner’s managerial mindset decision-making eroded their own resilience and their joy for the business.

The advantages of a business owner mindset

As your business grows, there comes a time when you have to move away from the mindset of being everything to everyone, and doing everything for everyone. This takes time and can be a difficult shift. We’ve come through a difficult period when survival was the priority, and we’re going through another challenging economic period. It’s natural to want to keep your business afloat and performing well, but when you step back in to day-to-day operations you risk slipping back into the mindset of a business manager. It’s also quite acceptable to ask for help .

When you relinquish that control and start looking at the bigger picture, you will gain a new perspective – and perhaps a new-found joy and motivation too. You might be surprised how much clarity you achieve and headspace you can free up when you’re not involved in daily management. You’ll be able to see opportunities and be in a better position to plan for business growth and realise its full potential.

Business owners are the people who adapted during the pandemic because they had the foresight to identify opportunities for innovation, develop new products and services, and create value in their business.


Don’t get trapped in a business manager mindset

While the skills and qualities of a business manager are vital in the early days, the more time you spend managing, the longer it will take you to reach your end goal. In fact, it can seriously start to restrict business growth.

If you feel your own mindset is holding you and your business back and would like to talk to someone about making the step up to business owner, book a discovery call  with one of us.

Imagine how valuable and successful your business could be if you:

  • Focused on long-term planning over short-term fire-fighting
  • Prioritised satisfying stakeholders over serving customers
  • Saw problems as growth opportunities instead of barriers


Further reading

If you enjoyed this post you might like to read ‘The Rainmaker’s Dilemma: how your greatest strength becomes a debilitating weakness’ which is available for free download on our Resources page.

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