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What does it mean work ON not IN your business?

Lynne Rawlinson


I often hear and read the phrase “work ON not IN your business”.

I use it when I am mentoring business owners. As the sole owner of my business, I often say the phrase to myself when I have those monthly reviews, with myself, plus my company secretary (my 6 year old Golden Retriever). But what does it mean?

We all get heavily involved in the day to day tasks where we strive to deliver our promises, satisfy customer deadlines, some have to pick up the slack from poor service from suppliers/staff.

Warning signs you are working too much IN your business:

  • You take on the mantle of doing everything yourself, “super-person” sales, debts, people, operations, technical, every decision.
  • Even when you do delegate to other people, some you know do have not the capability to do the task, you check it after they have done it, sometimes late at night.
  • You manage by lurching from one thing to the next, any thought of long term plans don’t happen in the day-to-day running of your business. ”Too Busy”.
  • You working long hours, stressed, but you’re still not making the money you expected or should expect.
  • You don’t really know where your business is going, unclear vision of what you want to build or strategy to build it.

Before you know it, the week has gone, next the month disappears then the year finishes. You are happy that you survived another year! But have you progressed?

You have reached either “unconscious competence” OR “unconscious incompetence” This state is called the “owners trap”

Although most business owners understand this, it can take a “light bulb” moment or a period of sustained pain before they realise that working constantly IN their business is actually not constructive.

So there is another way…………………

Before the “light bulb” or “sustained pain” be proactive, take time to step out of your business to establish your vision of what you want to create and the strategy to build it, then spend time each month/week on progressing actions towards its achievement.

And when you do start working on your business:

  • You start to focus on the things that you personally are really good at, what your business is Great at, the areas to Improve, where you are Vulnerable and where your business has the Edge. “GIVE”.
  • You have a vision and a strategy, your stakeholders know the business direction and their part to help you achieve it. (see note 1)
  • You set goals and create plans for the business and know exactly how you’ll follow through on them. Using measures like Key Performance Indicators to track progress and take action where needed.
  • You don’t have to spend every second of your time running the business.
  • You know exactly why you’re doing any one thing that you choose to do in your business because it helps build your vision.
  • You are recognised as the “leader”.

You don’t stop working IN your business, it’s about allocating time, spending regular good quality time each week/month working ON your business.

Then you are in charge of the big picture. When you see areas that need improvement, delegate the work out, so you can be the leader and visionary that you need to be. It may take some practice if you’re used to getting really hands on in your business, but your employees will appreciate the trust and responsibility you give them, and you will quickly learn that you can do the job of leading your business that no one else can do!

Accepting or seeking help is not a sign of failure or weakness, it’s a sign of strength and leadership.

“A 10,000 mile walk starts with the first step”

Thank you for reading.

Tim Cornes.

Note 1:

Read my blog – Why are vision, mission and values (VMV) so important in your business?