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  • San Chima

Small Business Owners: Work ON your business, not just IN it

Updated: Oct 29, 2023

There are a tonne of clichés when it comes to entrepreneurship and business management. One of those is the ‘many hats’ cliché. Time and time again, start-up entrepreneurs and small business owners are told that they have to wear many hats. The idea is that in a single day you can swing from being marketer to product developer to HR to accounts manager and back again.

And in many ways that is true. Often, especially in the early days, doing the everyday grunt work of running a business falls to you.

But there lies a problem. These multiple tasks and obligations of running a business are immensely time consuming, and often specialised, and quite simply, they put barriers in the way of growth, innovation and strategy. You end up so busy doing that you don’t have time to lead, shape or nurture the business.

In short, you are so busy working IN your business that you don’t have the time or headspace to work ON your business.

Working in your business vs working on your business

But here’s the crux: if you want your business to succeed, thrive and be all that you have envisaged it to be, working on your business has to be your primary endeavour. Your skills, talent, time and drive should be directed towards strategy, strategy, strategy – strategy in marketing, sales, business development, systems and technology, research, financial projections and more.

This is your job. This is your game. And all the while you’re busy doing ‘in’ jobs, you’re missing the point.

It’s hard. I get that. Financial pressures, before any other very good reasons, often mean that it’s very tempting and sometimes necessary to get on with it yourself. But that’s not how your business will be what you want it to be. It makes scaling it up downright impossible.

It takes courage and determination to shift yourself into the strategic position, passing the knowledge and the reins to others, so that you develop the business.

How to work ON your business 1 - Devote time First, you need to accept that working on your business is of paramount importance and carve out time to do just that. Be specific – make time for individual strategic elements from marketing strategy to financial strategy. Ring fence the time but also consider how you will give yourself the space. Perhaps you need to remove yourself from the business premises entirely to do it so you won’t be interrupted by daily tasks.

2 - Evaluate your time A great way for you to determine where your time is well spent is to consider yourself in terms of an hourly rate. Is it worth an hour of your time doing a particular task versus another? Should you be the one inputting and running the email marketing campaign, or the one strategizing how to do it?

If necessary, do the task once, write it into a procedure, and then hand it over.

3 - Get the right people onside This isn’t going to work if you just try to add it on top of your already full plate. Whether you need to employ staff to carry out the day-to-day functions, or lean on some freelancers, make sure you’ve got others taking care of the tasks that have stopped you doing this to date.Also, be aware of your limitations and knowledge. Do you need a management accountant or a particular consultant?

4 - Automate what you can

Many businesses are still doing things ‘by hand’ because that’s what they’ve always done. The tasks grew in size but their systems didn’t adapt. For example, are you still doing daily inputting on social media when you should have switched to scheduling tools?

5 - Set goals and targets

Fundamentally, goals and targets require strategic thinking. Taking time to set goals ensures you look at the bigger picture and to the future, as well as how to establish the road map to get there.

6 - Get your own business champion to keep you on track

Lastly, if all of the motivation and drive to do the above is coming from you whilst you’re being bombarded by daily pressures, it can be immensely tricky to do in practice.

A business coach ensures that you have a regular opportunity to step away from the day-to-day and reflect on the high-level plan. It puts someone in your corner when being an entrepreneur is both lonely and bewildering. It ensures you stay within the strategic tracks of business leadership without falling into the daily grind.

Getting stuck working in the business and not on it is an issue I see every day with my coaching clients. It’s very normal to find yourself in this position. Getting out of it and on with the real job of being a business leader takes effort and intent. I’m here to support you as an entrepreneur coach in London, getting your mind back on fire with entrepreneurship, growth and success. Get in touch by calling +44 7973 220464 or by emailing to discuss how I can help.

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