Work on your business, not in your business.
It’s a phrase that all business owners are taught and most of us are guilty of repeating it all too often.
But what does it even mean and why should you do it?
In its simplest form, the phrase “work on your business, not in your business”, means to remove yourself from the day-to-day running of your business and focus on making it better- better growth, better staff training, and better policies and procedures.
When I quiz other business owners, they seem to think it’s more about “getting out of their comfort zone” and working on things like marketing and social media. But why? We’re not all good at marketing, and few of us have the time to focus on building up a social media presence. Why does working on your business need to mean doing the stuff that you’re not particularly good at?
I’ve had a go at running my own social media platforms and I can honestly say, without a shadow of a doubt, that I fucking hate it. It isn’t for me, I don’t like it, and I don’t want to learn to like it. I haven’t got time for knocking up images and breaking down my articles and blogs into smaller chunks to disseminate across different platforms depending on what that platform’s algorithms are looking for. It isn’t something that I enjoy, so I outsource it to someone who knows what they’re doing (Louise Kissack at Spaghetti Group (in case you’re interested)). I don’t outsource the whole process- I really enjoy writing content, and I want to keep doing it, so Louise looks after the “what, where, and when” of my social media.
I also like writing policies, procedures, and checklists for my business, as well as improving workflows and doing my level best to ensure that everyone in my team has an easy life (myself included). I don’t like implementing my policies, procedures, and checklists, and so the senior members of my team are tasked with implementation.
The above is a great example of working on my business- I’m putting things in place to allow the business to be more effective and efficient without me being involved. But I also enjoy working in my business; working with clients and helping them to understand their own businesses and what they can be doing to improve. The key point to note, is that I don’t have to do either. I choose when I want to work on my business, and I choose when to work in my business. I have team members that are perfectly capable of writing policies and procedures (many of them write their own), and I have team members and external consultants that are able to help my clients to grow their businesses.
To me, working “on” your business is about working in the areas that you have a good understanding of and perform well in. I’ve never been sure why so many online coaches and the like are such big advocates of you learning brand new skills or making you fell as though you’ve got to do something- you don’t. There are lots of people out there who are far more qualified and actually enjoy carrying out the jobs that you don’t really want to do. So long as you understand that there are other areas of the business that need looking after, and you understand why they need looking after, then that’s all you need to know.
However, whilst I don’t believe that you need to do the things that you don’t want to do and that you should find other people to do these tasks for you as soon as possible, I also believe that you shouldn’t always be doing the things that you do want to do.
Sounds counter-intuitive, right?
The problem with always doing the things that you enjoy doing, is that you very rarely pass this knowledge on to anyone else. You create a bottleneck of the things that you enjoy, and you begin to resent them when they start to get on top of you- particularly if you’ve had time off sick, you want a much-needed holiday, or just some time with the family. Training your team on how to do what you already do well should be a fairly simple task. I’m not saying that it isn’t time consuming, and I’m not for a moment saying that all jobs are easy; there are some tasks that require years of training and dedication and further education- these tasks can be delegated eventually.
On a separate note, I also speak with a fair number of business owners that would rather remain working in their business- they have no plans for scaling up, and they enjoy being immersed within their team. There are also plenty of business owners out there that don’t have a team, some of which don’t actually want the hassle that comes along with having one! And that’s ok too. Not everyone is walking the same path, and not everyone wants the same thing.
Today, I’ve spent the first part of my morning sat with a couple of my team and answering questions, and the latter half of the morning has been spent writing this blog. They don’t need me to be sat in the room with them to enable them to complete their work, and in fact, they survived all of last week without speaking with me or needing anything from me whilst I was on Annual Leave with my family (I always have my phone and laptop with me when I go away, but the amount of time I’ve had to spend using either has severely diminished over the past 6 months).
I believe that working both on your business, and in your business should be a matter of choice. I believe that you should be far enough removed from the day to day running of your business that it doesn’t matter if you’re working on it or in it- your team shouldn’t have to rely on you being an integral part of their workflow i.e., when most businesses are short staffed in the kitchen, they’ll jump into the kitchen themselves for a day, or a week, or however long they think is necessary.
Truth be told, you being in the kitchen yourself isn’t necessary, it’s a choice. Training other members of your team to be able to work in the kitchen should the need arise is necessary. Training a chef on how to use the coffee machine is necessary. Cross-training your team is necessary.
The more knowledge you impart on your team, the more power you give them to enact change for the better. The more they change for the better, the easier your life becomes.
Work on your business.
Work in your business.
It doesn’t matter.
What matters is that you have robust enough systems in place so that you can do exactly what you intend to do when you started your own business- work for yourself.