Want to Work On Your Business, Not In It? Here’s How.

Written by Patrick McCarthy

February 15, 2023

A quote I heard once helped me differentiate working on your business vs. working in your business: “If your business depends on you, you don’t own a business—you have a job. And it’s the worst job in the world, because you’re working for a lunatic!”

The tongue-in-cheek remark begs for self-reflection from any small business owner who has spent the last few years building a business around the idea that “if you want it done right, do it yourself.” You were your most valuable employee, but without anyone focusing on your company’s big-picture strategy and long-term growth, you are also your most significant threat.

Ready to take the plunge? Here are a few action items to propel yourself to the next plateau of success.

If It’s Not Written Down, It Didn’t Happen

At the heart of a growing business is a rock-solid playbook of operations and processes. Have you ever seen a football team play without a playbook? Have you ever heard an orchestra play without sheet music? Have you ever driven on a roadway without any signs or markings? Although a professional can maneuver on instinct alone, onboarding new employees, implementing improvements, and identifying weak links are only possible with standardization.

The hierarchy of steps to success starts with simply documenting every step. Identify people’s responsibilities. Identify your client’s journey. Create swim-lane diagrams to visualize how projects move through your internal pipeline. Once the systems are robust, create an operations management role that reports to you, oversees execution excellence and optimizes workflow.

Additionally, invest in a system of tools such as the Entrepreneurial Operating System to get everyone on the same page. EOS has quickly become the household name for business owners who want to delegate trust within their organization.

If You Want It Done Right, Delegate It Yourself

The goal of delegation is easy, right? Just hand over parts of the business you thought could only be accomplished by your capable hands so you can, well, work on parts of the business that actually need your oversight. The thought can be terrifying until you realize that the band aids you are placing over a nondelegated workforce create more extensive long-term pain than the nearsighted disadvantages.

Put simply, if you are in your business, you are working on the wrong thing. Working on the right thing is extensively more productive than working hard.

So, where do you start? Start small. Wean parts of an operation off until the delegated staff is ready to take over. For example, you are the entire sales team for your company but want to free up that responsibility. Delegate someone to work on lead gen or follow-up. You can never get too small when delegating out your workload; in fact, you may discover a more efficient way to implement that process.

Once you unload work and delegate, you will realize there is more time to create the strategic vision that helped start your company. You may find new opportunities to grow, new technologies to invest in, and new prospects to create profit.

You Bought the Ticket, Take the Ride

My last point is obvious and probably the easiest for anyone in the Nationwide family to understand: Utilize your network.

It is astonishing the number of people that can’t find time to show up to a conference, communicate with industry peers, and take advantage of association resources.

What is the number one excuse for not attending a conference? “I don’t have any time.” My response is, “Then you don’t have time to not be here.”

Remember that tradeshows are full of people thriving on their own terms at every level of success. You can only borrow and implement the ideas you love when you stand shoulder to shoulder with peers in your industry and actively learn from each other.

In my experience, “working on your business, not in your business” is an integral approach for business owners who want to take their company to the next level. By focusing on strategy and long-term growth and staying up-to-date with industry trends, you can improve your company’s efficiency and productivity and seize new opportunities for success. So, take the time to work on your business and watch it grow and thrive.


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