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Too Busy To Work ‘On’ The Business? You’re Doing It Wrong.

Updated: Nov 8, 2022

It’s the curse that comes from being successful. You take a risk and venture out to start a business, through hustle and hard-work you are able to bring in customers, and you end up being so busy that you barely have time to do anything other than producing your product or service. You make a decent living (hopefully), but you feel too rushed to stop and think about making any improvements. You’ve achieved success, but for some reason it feels a little different than you thought it would. Does this sound familiar? If so, it’s because you are doing it wrong.

This issue is addressed well in the book titled, “The E-Myth Revisited” by Michael Gerber. Arguably the best entrepreneurship book ever written, this text differentiates between working “in” the business versus working “on” the business. While they sound extremely similar, they are anything but that.

When you are working “in” the business, you are handling the daily tasks that it takes to run the company. Generally, this means doing customer-facing tasks such as producing your product or service, but it can include other daily activities such as accounting, routine management, and other administrative duties. Working “on” your business is different in that it’s focused on making your business better. These activities are in areas such as planning or major process improvement, but they definitely don’t involve the daily tasks that the company requires to simply continue to exist. If you ever want to scale your company, or even get the freedom that most entrepreneurs start out wanting, you have to learn to take the time to work “on” the business as well.

“But I don’t have the time.” This is the most common objection small business owners have when the topic of planning comes up. They don’t feel they have the time. In fact, the claim usually comes with an account of all the new business they are bringing in currently (because justification makes us feel better). The unfortunate truth though is that those situations aren’t workable long-term. If as a small business entrepreneur, you never take the time for planning, you end up having a business that owns you... and happens to be a very demanding boss. You don’t get the freedom you desired from the business, and although you feel like you are bringing in extraordinary amounts of income, you generally find yourself slightly disappointed with the actual profitability. Businesses that grow in a less-than-organized direction tend to have expenses that are less-than-organized as well. It’s not a good recipe for success, regardless of how much topline revenue you bring in.

The solution is simple though: you need to designate time to work “on” your business. This is time that you force into your schedule for planning and reflecting on bigger picture items within your organization. It feels odd at first, and may even feel like it’s a waste of time, but when done right it provides much greater results than an equal time “in” the business ever could.

If you find yourself having difficulty with this concept, please reach out. I would be happy to help.

As always, I wish you the best in your business.

Mark Goldman



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