Are you working IN or ON Your Business?

By 11th November 2016 August 14th, 2019 Archive

Successful businesses are fuelled by passion.  Ask any successful business leader or entrepreneur about the secret to their success, and the vast majority will cite loving what you do as a major factor.  But when it comes to actually developing the project you are passionate about into a sustainable business model, sometimes it’s necessary to take a step back.  This is where the key difference between working on and working in your business comes into play.

Working in your business usually boils down to providing the service that you advertise and sell to consumers.  If you’re a designer, you’re designing.  If you’re a mentor, you’re mentoring.  If you’re a salesperson, you’re selling…and so on.  It can also include the day to day running of the business such as taking telephone calls, dealing with emails and booking appointments.

Working in your business may not always be easy, but it’s usually the part of your job that you enjoy the most.  After all, it’s the reason you got into your particular line of work in the first place.  However, as your company starts to grow and establish itself, you’ll increasingly need to start balancing the demands of working in your business with those of working on your business.

What do we mean by ‘working on your business’?

Working on your business is all about growth and maintenance.  It’s the branding and strategising, the networking, the research, the advertising.  Not all of these things might be as exciting as getting your hands dirty on the front lines, but they’re no less vital, and one role can’t exist for long without the other.

Share the workload

One of the most important elements of balancing these two demands is building an effective team around you.  As a business owner, your primary job is to ensure that every part of your company is working in harmony and moving in the right direction.  That’s not something you can achieve alone.  Successful business owners will recognise their own limitations and cultivate a team of employees that can add strength and experience where it’s most needed.

If you’re running a medium to large-size business, after a certain point you’ll need dedicated employees for every part of your business – from marketing, manufacture and sales to payroll and HR.  But even smaller businesses and startups require investment.  If you’re not yet in a place where you can take on a full team of employees, there are other ways to work on your business without stretching yourself too thin.

Ask experts for their help

Working with third party consultants or service providers can be a key element of working on your business – whether it’s enlisting the support of a marketing agency, a coach or financial advisor, or seeking out freelance creatives, digital analysts and technical support services.

Delegation is key

The faster your company grows, the more responsibilities you’ll have to delegate to others.  This can be a difficult thing to accept at first – after all, this is your business.  But learning to trust others and focus your energies where they’re needed most is what separates the truly successful business leaders from the also-rans.

You should still be ‘working in your business’

That being said, putting your energies into working on your business shouldn’t necessarily mean stepping away from the front lines completely.  If you’ve successfully carved out a presence in your chosen market, it’s likely because you have a nuanced and in-depth knowledge of that market which is far too valuable to your company to be hidden away in a head office. Many of the most successful entrepreneurs and business leaders may not be on the phones making direct sales calls every day, but they still maintain an awareness of what’s happening at every level of their company.

Ultimately, the key to successfully working both on and in your business often boils down to effective time management.  If you’re focusing all your energies on one, it’s likely to be to the detriment of the other.  Take good advice, build and maintain a rock steady support network, and make sure you and everyone around you has the time and resource to do what they do best. Once you’ve achieved that, you should be on the path to a lifetime of success.

Gemma Rolstone

Gemma Rolstone

Helping good managers to become great leaders