Free Business Blog: Working ON your business, not IN your business

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Oct 17
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How to work ON your business and not IN your business

In this blog we are going to explore the reasons why you should be working ON your business and not IN your business. To do this we need to look at WHY you decided to take the plunge to start your own business. 

Did you start your business because:

  • You want to be your own boss?

  • You want financial freedom?

  • You want to be able to take as much holiday as you like, when you like?

  • You want more time with your family?

  • You want to be able to attend every school play, parents evening and sports day?

If you have answered YES to any of the above but are feeling like this isn’t the reality of being a business owner, then you will probably find you are working IN your business and not ON your business.

Do you feel like an employee of your own business? Do you feel stuck doing the rubbish jobs that you really don’t want to be doing, when you know your time could be better spent building up your business?

Let’s look at some examples of business owners working IN their business not ON their business:

A typical example of this is a beauty salon owner. Now this beauty salon owner needs to be spending time building up her business; employing a great team, keeping on top of the numbers, marketing and bringing in new business. What she shouldn’t be doing is painting customers nails and giving massages. She should have an amazing support system behind her in the form of her employees and team.

Another example of this might be a builder. Their phone could be ringing off the hook with new business and potential customers wanting quotes, but if that builder is spending all of his time either micro managing his team, or knocking down walls and laying floors himself he won't be able to work ON his business to get the quotes sent out and get new business coming in. 

It is so easy to fall into the employee mindset when you are a business owner, especially when you see it as a money saving technique and think you need to do everything to avoid paying staff. Which of course does save you money, but you will never push your business forward. You will struggle to bring in new business and you will also run the risk of burning yourself out. 

When you are tied up working IN your business and not ON your business, who is going to be pushing forward for continued growth?

Of course there can be some confusion with what it means to work IN your business and not ON your business. Working ON your business can be defined as you focusing on the High Value Tasks. The tasks that not just anyone can be doing.

By following this system and having a great team behind you you will be focussed on the growth of your business, also whilst still providing an incredible service and/or product.

Here are 5 things you can easily implement in your business to ensure you are working ON your business and not IN your business:

  1. Know your goals and targets (monthly, yearly and 5 yearly) and work out what you need to do and who you need to be to get there
  2. Delegate. You must be confident in your team to hand over tasks to your employees that you don’t need to be doing. With each task ask yourself: can someone else do this just as well as I can? Do I need to be doing this?
  3. Company structure. Ensure your team know who to report to if you aren’t there or aren’t available. Put a structure in place and ensure everyone is clear about what their role consists of, but also make sure you team are flexible if they are needed for other aspects of your business at short notice.
  4. Continue to educate yourself. Usually when you start a business you go into a field that you know pretty well. If you are working IN the business as an employee would, (but as the boss you have no scope to climb the ladder and go any higher) then you aren’t going to be learning anything new. Continue to educate yourself in all aspects of running a business and use this new knowledge when working ON your business. Consider a business mentor, attend networking events, read more business blogs like this one and take online seminars.
  5. Step back. Don’t be the first one in and the last one out every day. Take some time away from your office, store or workshop and work from home or hire a hotdesk for one day a week. That way you take yourself away from the distractions, your team will know not to bother you unless it is an emergency so it will also help them to grow and learn and fend for themselves a bit more.

The dangers of working IN your business and not ON your business.

Working IN your business and not working ON your business can lead to a number of issues. 

  • There is no scope for growth. Your business can become ‘stuck’

  • You will find you are constantly fighting fires rather than preventing issues and bottlenecks before they arise

  • No one will be tracking progress and feedback from customers to know how the business can improve

  • Your team will start to rely on you for picking up the slack if they don’t complete a job or task. 

  • You won’t be aware of what your competition are doing well and more importantly what they are doing badly

  • You can burnout. Trying to act like an employee and keep the business running, as well as keeping up a home and family life and trying to see friends. You can’t do it all. Don’t feel bad for not being able to do it all either, you shouldn’t have to.

When you start working ON your business and not IN your business you will start to feel the results very quickly. You will feel confident delegating to your team and as a result you will have more time to do other things. By providing your team with the opportunity to make decisions, but also make mistakes it can really help mould them into incredible managers. Yes they will do things differently to you, but you might even prefer their way!

Training to be a boss

You will never go through official training to be a boss. You may work your way up through a company and end up taking it over, or go off to start your own similar company. But once you get to the top, there is no one above you within the company to tell you you are doing it correctly, you need to get into your own groove. Yes there are endless learning materials, mentorship, books, ted talks that you can use to help guide you, but it is down to you to put everything you have learnt and are learning into some sort of plan and move forward working ON your business and not IN your business.

Don't think you need to have a team of employees to work ON your business and not IN your business. Think of your team as your extended network, they could include your suppliers, your book keeper, your might run a b&b and your team might be your sub contracted cleaners and your laundry company. Your team can be anyone who helps make your business run more smoothly and who can take tasks off your to do list and complete them just as well as you can or maybe even better!

Working ON your business goes hand in hand with feeling in control of your business. For this to happen you need to know how all elements of your business work, but don't mistake this for needing to be an expert in all elements of your business. Leave being an expert in certain areas to the super talented team you have created.

Let's take an example from this... you may have an accountant and/or book keeper who might pay invoices, raise invoices, keep your accounts in order, sort your VAT returns etc... and that is great that you have delegated or outsourced those tasks. But don't think you can then just forget about the numbers side of your business. There are so many business owners out there who hate talking or even thinking about money or their accounts. Either they don't really understand it, or they just don't want anything to do with it. Whether you are one of those people or not, and whether you have delegated the task of your accounts or not, you still need to be on top of where you business is at any time.

If you were asked today to give a snapshot of where your business was financially and without waiting until your accountant does your end of year accounts could you answer? Would you know roughly how much you are expected to turn over for that quarter or what your outgoings look like for the current tax year?

You need to ensure that when working ON your business you KNOW your business. Don't be an employee in your own business  but also don't shut off to the important factors of your business. You need to balance having an overall view of your business whilst working on those High Value Tasks.

If any of the above sounds like the direction you want to take your business, or perhaps you are feeling run ragged from years of being an "employee" in your own business. Check out this great blog:

Exhaustion and your Cake Business - 5 Warning Signs

And if a podcast is more your thing Suzi explains how to set goals that you can actually achieve in this amazing episode of the Suzi Witt Show: