Are You Working In Versus Working On Your Business?

Updated: Jan 5, 2020

Moving Toward Working In Your Business

Are there times that you feel you are working 24 hours a day on your business, but do not believe that you are getting what needs to get done accomplished?  Do you at times feel overwhelmed?   If this is the case, you are most likely experiencing what most small business owner have experienced at some point  with  their business. This experience is usually a symptom of working too much “in” your business versus “on” your business.

It is not uncommon to have worked to grow your business to a certain size, but become stagnate and have difficulty in jumping to the next level of growth. If you are trying to figure out if this might be you, then here are a few characteristics to determine where the differences are regarding working “in” versus “on” your business. This list is not all inclusive and you can probably add a few lines yourself.

Finance & Accounting

  • Working In

  1. Plan your business spending around what is in your bank account.

  2. Wonder who you will pay each week based on the money in your account . Write cheques to suppliers but do not send them out to make your accounting reports "look balanced".

  3. Take a sale without consideration of whether you are going to make money on the sale.

  • Working On

  1. Develop an annual budget and spend money based on the budget .

  2. Review and handle your finances on a monthly basis: Collecting A/R on time, Manage Expenses, Plan spending based on business need & free cash flow generated by business .

  3. Calculate the return on sales before accepting the order for a sale.

Human Resources

  • Working In

  1. Business relies solely on your being in business and you micro manage employees (in other words you are the business). You do not take vacations as you feel the business will not survive without you.

  2. Employees do not have job descriptions, objectives and do not receive performance reviews. Assign job tasks based on who is available without taking into account the skills of the individual. Hire employees without true hiring process and hope they work out.

  • Working On

  1. Have managers in place to manage the business on a daily basis and you are there to oversee. The business runs smoothly when you are on vacation and there is no need for you to be contacted except in an emergency.

  2. Understand skill sets required to run and grow the business and hire accordingly. Employees understand their job and what is required of them and are reviewed on a quarterly or annual basis and are provided constructive feedback


  • Working In

  1. Are always looking for the elusive "Hail Mary" sale.

  2. Manage sales one at a time .

  3. Feel sales people are not trustable so all sales must be done by yourself or those in the company without sales experience. Hire a sale person without understanding credentials and expect them to know what to do because they are in "sales".

  4. Take any sales and hope you made money .

  • Working On

  1. Manage business based on forecasted sales 

  2. Understand your target market and target prospects and track leads in a CRM accordingly .

  3. Hire professional sales people through HR process, train accordingly on products and business, set achievable KPIs and quotas, and provide proper management.

  4. Have a sales process that is defined and followed. Sell based on customer need  and value versus on price and make sure you set pricing and margins to know when to walk away from a sale.


  • Working In

  1. What is That? That sounds very expensive .

  2. Throw money at marketing and hope it sticks without understanding if that type of marketing is appropriate for your industry or business and have never tracked whether you receive a return on your investment .

  • Working On

  1. Have proper branding and messaging for business and products/services that is clear and customers understand what you offer before they contact you as you spend money on marketing .

  2. Have planned targeted marketing and you measure everything you do in order to determine if you are getting a return on your investment.


  • Working In

  1. Look at your shelf and try to determine if you think you need to reorder .

  2. Keep employees around "just in case" who are not always utilized.

  3. Deal with customer issues only as they happen.

  4. Do not have proper processes and systems in place to manage the business

  • Working On

  1. Track your inventory levels in an accounting or appropriate system and do inventory counts on a regular basis

  2. Have workload and productivity planning to ensure efficiency in your business.

  3. Have high customer retention and satisfaction rates as you monitor customer satisfaction on a regular basis.

  4. Invested in developing processes and applications to track and help manage business.

As a business owner if find you are spending too much time “working in your business” and not enough time “working on your business”, you can turn this around, but understand this won’t happen overnight.  In some cases, it will take letting go of some of the power and delegating which means you need honest and capable employees.  You might have to employ a different mindset which at times is hard, but will be key to your success.  As a business owner you need to focus on the top line revenue, margin and expenses and make sure that you have the right people, processes, and systems in place in order to help you manage this and make the right decisions.

#workingonbusiness #workinginbusiness

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