Being a business owner can be an overwhelming, never-ending job. When an owner first starts out, he or she is the foreman, field worker, estimator, office administrator, salesperson, bill collector, scheduler, production manager — the titles go on and on. As the business grows, we add other employees and managers. As growth continues, the owner’s duties also evolve. Over time, owners must decide where their business efforts offer the highest return on investment balanced by personal fulfillment.

While no two owners are alike, the following guidelines may help you with that decision. 

Owner Value

Where do you bring the most value to the business? If you’re a great salesperson or ingenious craftsperson, it may not make sense for you to spend all your time in the office pushing paper. Office work is a task many owners don’t enjoy and are not very good at. I’ve watched many business owners delegate the tasks they were best at because they were bored or thought they no longer had to do them. Many people whose careers span 10-15 years get bored with their jobs. Don’t think such thoughts are unique to you as business owner. And more importantly, don’t trade a job that you’re good at for one you’re not good at just because of ego and boredom.

Your personal finances can influence this decision. If your profit contribution is greatest outside the office and you’re not financially independent, your efforts must continue to bring maximized profit to your bottom line. If you’re financially independent, you can afford to back off of the day-to-day. If not, you have to make the most impact on profits as you can until you reach financial independence. Make a list of your daily duties and then put a financial value by each duty. Focus on the high reward duties and delegate the less significant tasks.

Likes and Dislikes

As your business becomes more profitable and your personal wealth grows, delegating things you don’t like to do can enhance fulfillment. However, as long as you are the owner, delegation of certain tasks is unrealistic. You’re the owner and it’s your money. While you do not have to tabulate financial and production data, it is your job to review and monitor how the business is doing. It’s also your responsibility to look closely, even to ensure no one is stealing. It’s your responsibility to make sure the business stays profitable and to protect the people who work for you. If you don’t appear to care about your money, why should your employees care? It’s also important that you maintain a position of leadership. Leadership is very difficult, if not impossible, to delegate.


Leadership is defined as influencing others to meet organizational goals. It’s your organization. Leadership is always your responsibility. Your role as day-to-day manager can be delegated but as the owner it is your job to set direction. Management without leadership is like aligning the deck chairs on the Titanic — it seems extremely important at that moment but in the big picture it doesn’t really matter. 

I once asked an owner, “How many employees do you have working?” His reply was, “About half of them.” As frustrating as employees can be, you can’t build or do any work without them. It’s the owner’s job to see the big employee picture and to modernize the business’ recruiting and training efforts. Owners must continue to lead and build a better organization. Owners must make sure their organization is constantly looking for improvement and excellence. I realize for many owners that getting away from the grind of the day-to-day management is appealing. As discussed, the daily managing of people and leadership are two different things. If the business is large enough, you may not have to manage people, but you do have to lead them.

Don’t Be a Seagull Owner

What’s a seagull owner? Someone who does not have day-to-day responsibilities but uses his or her idle time to show up, dump on people and leave. If you have more time available, focus on positive tasks, not being critical of people. Nothing is worse than working your butt off and the big boss shows up wanting to know why you aren’t finished and the boss has no firsthand knowledge of the problem. The role of a less active owner is not to be a nitpicker but rather to be a positive influencer of organizational goals and behavior. 

This is a new job for ownership and will take a while to learn. To suddenly not have such daily responsibility brings on a need to learn new habits and redefine the owner’s job description. In addition, you’re the big boss, and who’s going to tell you that you are not doing a good job? It will take time and may possibly require outside help. Perhaps a local leadership class can help. Our networking groups force owners to set goals and stay engaged at appropriate levels. Consider a consultant. Talk to other local business owners who have made the transition from hands-on management to hands-off leadership. Focus on your new job and leadership and ask for input from key managers regarding your role. Call me, I’d be happy to talk with you about it.