A Tale of Two Managers

make a choice, good or evil

How Small Business Leaders Lead Can Make or Break a Business

Business Owners and Managers are always being perceived and judged. Their actions and words can be the difference between success and failure in small business.

In our media centered universe we have access to the spoken word, the written word, and any kind of video you can imagine, resulting in our ability to perceive a situation, conversation, or event. In each instance those words and events all come down to individuals. Sometimes it’s hard to see the small picture in the big picture but the fact is we all face scrutiny or bounty through perception.

Managers fall into this ideal head first. All business owners are managers, and thus, perceived and responded to by their spoken word, written word and actions.


I have a little story to tell about two managers I know. One, the manager of a small but successful business, who I will refer to as Manager, and the other the CEO of a small start up company, who I will refer to as CEO. With both individuals, I was able to watch them, hear them, and then come to my own conclusions as to the type of person and manager they are.

I knew Manager through friends and had always met up with him on a social level. Nice enough person enjoyed his company. Then one day, when a group of us were socializing, politics came into the conversation. I took a step back and watched as people expressed their opinions for and against Mr. Obama and the upcoming election.

Just to clarify, this article has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with business. Manager expressed very openly that he was adamantly opposed to Mr. Obama becoming President.  No biggie, half the people there were Democrats and the other half Republicans.

Then things took an interesting and sad turn. Manager declared quite loudly and boldly that if Obama was elected he would fire a bunch of employees. In his onslaught of opposition to the election at hand, and what was at stake for him,

he also vowed to not lose a dime out of his own pocket (apparently a direct and immediate result of the election) and therefore would fire employees the first of the year.

I honestly don’t remember anything else about that day. I know it was a fun social event with friends and family. What I do remember quite clearly was Manager’s words, his planned course of action, and what I thought about it. Once we were home, my husband and I discussed what we had witnessed. Neither of us was impressed.

Our perception of Manager had changed. We were both shocked by his comments and the course of action he would take to preemptively not lose a dime out of his pocket because of the election. It was obvious he had no respect for his employees and did not value them as an important part of his business. The way he spoke about them, one would think he was talking about throwing away some office furniture.

A CEO’s Story 

CEO I’ve known for many years. His previous company had been bought out and his next business venture was taking off. The start up was small but status quo in the world of start-ups. The company was moving along as projected until the big bubble burst and the economy crashed. Companies around the country felt the squeeze and CEO’s company was no different.

The hope was that things would improve but as we all remember the straps got tighter and tighter until eventually people needed to be laid off. What happened next, happened quietly with no one making announcements or declaring their place in the world. CEO, in an attempt to save as many employees as he could, dropped his salary and went to minimum wage (he had to stay on the books to keep his health insurance).

He stayed at minimum wage until some of the employees were eventually hired back and the company was again moving forward. CEO had employees who had been with him for many years. No surprise. When I researched this information a little more, I came to find out CEO and the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of the company went to minimum wage. On top of that, some employees who were financially able to helped out as well.

Fast forward to the present. Manager’s company no longer exists. It is my understanding that he was let go and the company was sold. A larger company purchased the CEO’s company. From a monetary standpoint, he did well, as did his employees during the buy out. Almost all of his core employees are still with him to this day.

I don’t know what it’s like to work for either of these two individuals. I can only report on their words and actions, as I perceived them in my life. There are differences, one was handed a company to manage, and the other started it himself. Perhaps those circumstances give rise to different behavior but in the end does it matter? Both left lasting impressions on me and I’m sure I am not the only one.

What Kind of Leader are You?

When I owned my small business, I knew the value of treating people with respect. I showed respect and gratitude to everyone, from employees, to interns, to customers. My motivation whether professionally or personally is always to lead by example. This doesn’t mean be taken advantage of, it means know what words to use and when. Know that you are always in the company of future employees, clients and customers and that you are being perceived.

I recently spoke at a local college. I informed all the students in the room that one-day they will work for a jerk (yes, I used the word jerk) and one day they will work for someone pretty awesome. That’s just the way it goes.  I told them to learn from both bosses. Learn how you want to be perceived and how you don’t want to be perceived because one day you will be the boss.

Some Recommendations Going Forward
We are all managers and CEOs. Whether we’re a mom, a business owner, or a coach, we are always being perceived and judged. Take a step back from the big picture and look at the small picture… you. Understand that employees are valuable and that replacing them costs money. Understand that your business will reflect your persona and that employees can stand with you or leave the second they get the chance. Ask yourself, What kind of boss am I? and What kind of impact does that have on my company?

Related articles:

Successful Leadership Through Perspective

Many Leadership Styles, What’s Yours?

10 Examples of Conscious Leadership for the 22nd Century


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