Work On Your Business, Not In It

Years ago, I learned a business principle that seemed, well, stupid. Oh, how times have changed, and how much I’ve grown. I was presented with an adage, “Work on the business, not in the business.” To me, this seemed counter-intuitive: Wasn’t one in business to make money by – well – running it?

The answer is far more complex than you might imagine. Further, it can – and does – pertain not only to small, medium, and large businesses, but cottage businesses as well. So what does this mean? In a nutshell we, as business owners, spend a ton of time making our business go. We make the product or perform the service that is at the core of the business model. In smaller businesses, we are often compelled to act as bookkeeper, salesperson, vendor, buyer, manager, and a number of other positions simultaneously because, without these tasks being performed by an unpaid individual (i.e. – you) the business just isn’t strong enough to function in this infant state.

As the business grows, one needs to learn when to do something oneself, or when to delegate a task, thereby freeing up time to perform higher functions within the business, or functions that one is more capable of performing than a delegate would be. For most, delegation will be one of the toughest decisions that you will ever make as a business owner. Not making the decision to do so, however, can be a one-way ticket to stunting your business growth. Over time, delegation becomes more and more important. For the most part, you are not an accountant (unless you actually are, then – please – pretend I said something else business-y that you are, in fact, not, okay?), nor are you likely a salesperson, a techie, a manager, an HR genius, and on and on. Over time, it makes more sense to delegate these tasks to paid professionals or hires who have the capabilities so that you can work on growing the business. Also, prepare for disappointment. The reality is that almost no one will do the job 100% as you would and, quite possibly, no one will be 100% as efficient as you. This is, in fact, normal – don’t freak out! I have been advised that you may expect a 70-90% efficiency when delegating, versus doing it yourself. While I think 70% is a bit on the lackluster side, I have come to comprehend this ‘loss of core competency’ phenomena and, over time, have become comfortable with dealing with it.

As the business grows – and you get older (and you will get older), there comes a time where the business will stagnate. This is fine, if this is in the plan. If not, then one of the hats on your head needs to come off, and be put upon someone else’s noggin. It’s the only sane way to free up time and, in the end, if you’ve grown the business to its fullest, you will be doing nothing but reviewing content provided by the delegates, and making steering decisions for the future of the venture. Not ready for that? That’s all right too! Grow your business as much or as little as you like. It’s a good idea to have some semblance of an idea in place as to how large you are willing to get. Bear in mind, however, that with larger size, comes larger rewards. It sounds like it might suck the life out of you, on the surface, but it can, in fact, be a very rewarding time in the life cycle of the enterprise. A time when you get to do all the ‘fun’ things that you love, while benefiting financially and with additional ‘you’ time from all the hard work and effort that has brought you as far as you’ve come. The delegates are paid to handle the physical work, you’re just there to make sure it’s done to your standards and expectations – and those that your customers have come to expect.

So work on the business – not in it; enjoy the sliding scale of reward that comes with a job well done, and a life well lived. After all: you can’t take it with you, and you never know when your time card will get that final punch.


~ by digitalninjasmedia on March 16, 2012.

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