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Mastering the Dual Roles of Small Business Owner and Employee in Small Towns of Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio

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Running a small business in the charming towns of Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio, like Greenville, Sharon, or Warren, often means wearing multiple hats as both the owner and employee. Balancing these roles can be challenging, but it is crucial for the success of your business. In this post, we will explore the distinct responsibilities of each role, share examples to illustrate successes and failures, and provide actionable advice to help you excel in both capacities. Our goal is to help small business owners in areas such as Mercer County and Trumbull County understand and navigate the complexities of running a business, resulting in thriving enterprises that serve their communities.

The Distinct Roles of Small Business Owner and Employee

To effectively manage your small business, it is important to understand the specific responsibilities and goals associated with each role. By clearly differentiating between the tasks of an owner and those of an employee, you can avoid common pitfalls that could hinder the success of your business.

The Owner's Role: Vision, Planning, and Management

As a small business owner in areas like Mercer County or Trumbull County, your primary responsibility is to establish the vision for your business, create long-term strategies, and manage resources. This includes:

  1. Planning: Developing comprehensive business plans, setting both short-term and long-term goals, and identifying growth opportunities. This involves assessing market conditions, analyzing competition, and determining the best approach to reach your target audience.
  2. Research: Staying informed about market trends, competitors, and customer preferences in local communities like Hermitage or Slippery Rock. This includes conducting surveys, attending industry events, and networking with other business owners to gather valuable insights.
  3. Decision-making: Making crucial decisions regarding finances, marketing, staffing, and product or service offerings. As a business owner, you must be able to make informed choices that align with your overall vision and goals, ensuring the long-term success of your business.
  4. Management: Ensuring the smooth operation of your business by setting expectations, monitoring performance, and providing guidance and support to employees. Effective management involves communication, delegation, and problem-solving skills.

Common pitfalls for small business owners include neglecting planning and research, failing to delegate tasks, and not setting clear expectations for themselves and their employees. By addressing these issues and focusing on the owner's role, you can set a strong foundation for your business.

The Employee's Role: Execution, Customer Service, and Consistency

As an employee in your own small business, your focus should be on executing the strategies set forth by the "owner" version of yourself. This involves:

  1. Customer Service: Providing exceptional service by addressing customer needs, resolving issues promptly, and building strong relationships. This includes maintaining a professional demeanor, being responsive and attentive, and going the extra mile to ensure customer satisfaction.
  2. Task Execution: Performing day-to-day tasks efficiently and effectively, managing time wisely, and adhering to established protocols and procedures. This involves being organized, detail-oriented, and disciplined, ensuring that tasks are completed accurately and on time.
  3. Consistency: Ensuring the quality and consistency of products or services, as well as maintaining a clean and organized work environment. This involves following established guidelines, monitoring quality control, and continuously striving for improvement.

Common mistakes made by small business owners when acting as employees include taking long breaks, closing early, rejecting tasks, and displaying a lack of professionalism. By addressing these issues and focusing on the employee's role, you can create a more reliable and consistent customer experience.

Examples: Learning from Successes and Failures

To further illustrate the importance of effectively managing both owner and employee roles, we have created examples that showcase successes and failures. By examining these, you can gain a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities associated with each role and learn valuable lessons to apply to your own small business.

Let us examine the stories of Jack, Tom, Linda, and Susan.

Owner's Role: Failure and Success

  1. Failure: Jack, a bakery owner in Greenville, PA, failed to research market trends and local preferences. He kept offering the same baked goods, even as customer preferences shifted towards healthier options. Business slowed, and Jack's bakery faced financial hardship.

Jack and his miserable, declining sales. Jack was too stubborn to make changes. Don't be like Jack.

In this case, Jack's failure to stay informed about market trends and adapt his business strategy led to a decline in sales. As a small business owner, it's essential to continuously research and assess the market, making adjustments as needed to stay competitive and relevant.

  1. Success: On the other hand, Linda, a boutique owner in Youngstown, OH, regularly researched fashion trends and customer preferences. She adapted her inventory and marketing strategies accordingly, leading to increased sales and a loyal customer base.

Linda and her happy, smiling customers. Linda was diligent and flexible. Be like Linda.

Linda's success can be attributed to her proactive approach to research and her ability to adapt her business strategy based on her findings. By staying informed and making data-driven decisions, Linda was able to grow her business and maintain a strong customer base.

Employee's Role: Failure and Success

  1. Failure: Tom, a coffee shop owner in Sharon, PA, often took long breaks and closed his shop early. His customers found his service inconsistent and unreliable, resulting in lost business and negative reviews.

Tom and his exasperated customers, desperate for their morning coffee, one of whom is undoubtedly writing a bad review on Google RIGHT NOW.. Joe is in the back, taking his 3rd break today. Don't be like Joe.

Tom's lack of discipline and professionalism as an employee negatively impacted his business. Small business owners must remember to uphold the same standards they expect from their employees in order to maintain a consistent and positive customer experience.

  1. Success: In contrast, Susan, a bed and breakfast owner in Slippery Rock, PA, consistently provided exceptional service, managed her time efficiently, and ensured her establishment was clean and welcoming. Her guests left glowing reviews and frequently returned.

Susan and her satisfied, happy guests. Susan is a hard-working employee/owner and her establishment is always ready for guests. Be like Susan.

Susan's dedication to her role as an employee, combined with her attention to detail and commitment to customer service, contributed to her success. By focusing on executing tasks effectively and consistently, Susan was able to create a positive and memorable experience for her guests.


For small business owners in Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio, mastering the dual roles of owner and employee is essential for success. By understanding the distinct responsibilities of each role, avoiding common pitfalls, and learning from both successful and unsuccessful examples, you can build a thriving business in towns like Greenville, Sharon, or Warren.