Beyond the Daily Grind: The Shift from Working IN Your Business to Working ON Your Business

W5 Working On vs In Featured Image

John Nieuwenburg

John Nieuwenburg has been a professional business coach since 2004. Prior to becoming a coach, he held executive positions with Tip Top Tailors and BC Liquor Stores. In 2019, MacKay CEO Forums awarded him with Canada’s CEO Trusted Advisor Award in the Small Business category. Since becoming a coach, John has worked with over 350 clients, taking them through a systematic process that helps them feel organized, confident and in control of their businesses.

When you’re a business owner, it’s all too easy to get pulled into the daily whirlwind – especially if you always find yourself in the centre of the action.

If your business has reached a point where it’s too dependent on you, it’s time to stop working IN your business so that you can work ON your business.

What does it mean to work ON your business instead of IN it?

Chances are, you started a business to provide a service that you’re really great at.

Maybe you went to a lot of school and put in a lot of hours to be great at something, and you wanted to do that something on your own terms.

But then you learned that running a successful business takes all kinds of other skills that you’ve never learned.

When that happens, it’s easy to fall back on what you’re great at – which ultimately makes you just another employee of a business that happens to have your name on it.

One of my favourite books is The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber, and it’s at the top of the list of books I recommend that my clients read.

Gerber outlines three roles that you need to play in your business over time.

First is the technician – this is the person who does the technical work. The stuff you’ve been trained to do and are great at. At times, it makes sense for you to play this role, especially if your business is very young.

When you play this role, you’re working IN your business.

Second is the manager – who develops systems, processes and standards for other technicians to follow. The work of the manager ensures that work is completed to a certain standard.

As your business matures, it makes sense for you to function in the manager role, setting and documenting standard operating procedures that can be replicated.

And, finally, there’s the entrepreneur. This is the business visionary who sees where the business should grow and how it should evolve for the future.

As you position your business to scale, it’s essential that you step out of the operator role and spend more time in the manager and entrepreneur roles.

As much as you loved being a technician, you may have to leave that role behind to set strategy and provide an overarching vision that your employees can rally behind. This kind of leadership represents working ON your business.

Why you need to work ON your business instead of just IN it

The benefits of working ON, rather than IN, your business are pretty profound. Here are just a few:

Your mobile phone will stop ringing and pinging. ­When you remove yourself from the center of your business and empower trusted employees, everyone stops coming to you with every little question.

Moving decision-making as close to the work as possible will save you from advising on minutiae, all day, every day.

You might get to take a vacation. I’m guessing your last several vacations have stunk. Because everyone counts on you, you can’t feasibly step away from the business to recharge and relax a little bit.

I’m also guessing this isn’t the life you wanted when you first started your business. When you stop working IN your business, you might actually get to take a break.

Your revenue can grow again. Let’s face it: you only have so much capacity. You’re a mere human. When you take steps to reduce dependence on you as a technician, you increase your business capacity exponentially.

This might mean hiring or training more technicians or salespeople. Or it might mean restructuring your service and product offerings to tighten focus on delivering more value to fewer customers.

 Four ways to work ON your business

There are a few different ways to make sure you’re working ON your business – here’s a sample:

  1. Develop systems and processes for every area of your business – the first thing you have to do is establish standards and consistency. Document the way you want the work done, and then give your employees the documentation and training they need to meet those standards.
  2. Let other people be technicians and customer service reps – you don’t have to know every customer by name. And you don’t have to do all the specialty work. Make sure you have enough technicians, and also give yourself the appropriate staff to take good care of your customers so that they don’t always come to you.
  3. Outsource the marketing and (later) the selling – you shouldn’t have to focus on business development, marketing, and sales. It pays to have a smart team dedicated solely to marketing – especially if you’re wanting to scale your business. Let the experts do that work while you handle the sales and make sure the underlying business infrastructure is ready to handle the surge in business.
  4. Manage overall business performance – this is where you become a true entrepreneur. Instead of getting mired in the day-to-day operations, you’re looking at Key Performance Indicators and working with your team to course-correct where necessary.

Ready for a better business?

When you make the shift from working IN your business to working ON your business, you begin the journey to a business that supports your life – instead of giving your life to support your business.

More than anything else, this takes perspective and a shift in mindset. Business coaching can help you get there faster.

If you’d like to join the 300+ clients I’ve helped to build businesses that run smoothly, profitably, and mostly without them – book a 15-minute call with me today. You can do that here: book time with John

The Ultimate Guide to Becoming a Better Business Owner

become a better owner

If an owner wants a better business, first the business needs a better owner.

This post is part of my Ultimate Guide to Becoming a Better Business Owner. Visit the guide homepage to get my best advice and coaching exercises to help you with:

  • Mindset. Thinking like an owner and seeing the big picture of your business.
  • Planning. Deciding what you want, setting a goal, and making plans to get after it.
  • Habits. Changing your behaviours to help you get what you want.
  • Learning. Getting new information and developing new skills.
  • Growth. Facing your fears, stepping outside your comfort zone, and doing what it necessary to create the business of your dreams.