Small Business owners – Managers or not?

Small Business managerWhen I’m asked to provide consulting services not inside our familiar corporate environment, but to small businesses and start-ups, I frequently find myself in a somewhat awkward position. You see, many business owners do not see themselves as managers.

As many people who start their businesses today have actually left the corporate environment to seek independence, it seems that severing all ties with their previous life is more important to them than the success of their business. Because I sincerely believe that a person who manages his or her own business can benefit from the same methods and concepts that are utilized in a corporate environment, regardless of their size. And the other way around would also be true. For sure, there would be some small differences due to specific context, but in my opinion – every manager is a Manager!

So, in order to share this opinion with others, and potentially – to feel less awkward in the future, I decided to delineate the main similarities between Corporate Managers and Small Business Owners, while showing that even when there are differences in their characteristics – they are not that relevant to the Craft, the Science and the Art  of Management 🙂


Corporate Managers (CM)

Business Owners   (BO)


Level of Commitment


Very High

CM can always look for a   new position, while BO’s fate is connected to that of his business



Financial, Emotional

CM’s are mostly motivated   by career-advancement opportunities, while BO’s are emotionally tied to their   businesses, especially due to the fact that their financial welfare directly   depends on their success

Hierarchical Relations

Variable,   Position-dependent

Always on the top

CM’s relations with   people around are directly dependent on his position inside the   organization’s hierarchy, which changes as he’s promoted or transferred. BO’s   position is constant – he’s always at the top of the pyramid, as small as it   may be.

Responsibility/   Accountability

Shared, Escapable

Absolute, Constant

The responsibility inside   an organization is divided between different departments and among the levels   of each department. This means that when something goes wrong, the specific   CM doesn’t have to accept the whole brunt of accountability. For BO, however,   there is no escape from accountability – everything that happens inside his   company is his personal load

Scope of responsibilities

Medium, Clearly defined

Very high, No clear   boundaries

CM always has a clearly   defined job description and even when he takes additional roles, and the   workload becomes less bearable, there are still boundaries to be drawn. This   is not the case for BO, who has to remain attuned to every aspect of   company’s functioning.



Sometimes friends and   family members

Many small businesses are   staffed with the closest social environment of the owner, which may have   implications both to the positive and to the negative side

The differences seem pretty serious, but may be they are not as absolute as it may seem?

Let’s take a look at some similarities that may potentially prove my point about Business Owners still being Managers:


Corporate Managers

Business Owners





Both roles require a   person who can provide motivation and guidance to his team, even (and may be especially)   in the case of family business




Both players have to   consider proper division of responsibilities    between team members in order to avoid doing everything themselves




Regardless of the number   of people in the team, the head of the team has always to establish a flow of   information top-down, bottom-up and horizontally




The scope of decisions   may vary greatly between BO’s and CM’s, but they both have to make them




In both environments   there could be a person other than the manager to deal with recruitment and   training, but the final decision whom to work with still rests within the   manager’s authority

I think, you can already see what I’m trying to say here. Even though the environments of Corporate Managers and Small Business Owners differ a lot from each other, THEY BOTH DO THE SAME THINGS. They both have to perform the tasks that could be best summed up as Management. And if you’re engaged in Management, there is a high chance that you are a Manager, and learning to perform better is a task that is always on your to-do list.

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