How much time do you spend “working ON your business”?
By John Hollier
For most business owners the answer is usually “not enough”.
You often hear business owners talk about whether they are spending time “working in their business” or “working on their business”.
“Working in” is used to indicate taking care of all the day-to-day operational tasks; while “working on” encompasses anything that may change the way the business operates. I look at it as ‘keeping the business running’ versus ‘changing the way the business is running’.
‘Changing the way the business is running’ includes all manner of planning activities – strategic, product, marketing, tactical, etc. – and the implementation of changes to the way the business operates (e.g., creating and implementing new processes; changing the organizational structure; etc.).
The problem I see is that too many business owners spend all of their time “working in” the business, until there is some external stimulus to which they react and they realize they need to spend time “working on” their business. This causes a mad scramble to “create a strategic plan”, or “improve our warehouse process”, or some similar activity.
The problem is that the activity is seen as ‘an event’, and therefore separate and apart from what needs to be done to run the business on a day-by-day basis. With this comes a lower priority and the tendency to shelve the output of the ‘event’.
The distinction between “working in” and “working on” is counterproductive. In my opinion, it is responsible for helping to create the environment in which business owners can excuse not “working on” their business, because they are too busy “working in” their business.
What these business owners need is a shift in their mindset.
I believe that in order for a business to achieve efficiency in the way it runs and (maybe more importantly) grows, it is necessary for all of the activities seen as “working on” the business to become just part of the way the business operates on a day-to-day basis – in other words, “working on” and “working in” become “working the business”.
Creating and maintaining strategic plans, marketing plans, operations plans; reviewing and improving business processes; ensuring that roles and responsibilities are appropriate; ensuring the right skill sets are available – these activities need to move from being ‘events’, to being part of the daily business process.
This tighter integration of planning and execution will allow you to respond to changes – versus reacting to them – and will help make sure that all your people, processes and procedures are aligned with the higher-level vision and direction of the business. After all, do you want the six mules in your wagon-team all pulling in different directions, or all pulling in the same direction towards your business goals?
So, are you “working the business”?
- Do you have and review higher level plans on a periodic basis?
- Do you know what needs to happen on a day-to-day basis to meet the goals in those plans?
- Does your team know the part they play in achieving the bigger goal?
- Do you have a mechanism which includes your team in identifying what needs to be responded to?
If not, maybe it’s time to stop spending all your time “working in” your business.