Work ON Your Business, Not Just In It

As a business owner and leader, working ON your business – not just in it – is imperative if you’re going to keep your company on track, moving in the right direction, and reaching the milestones identified for your success and sustained growth. What does that entail?

Working ON your business can be summarized as investing your time, energy, and efforts into building, managing, and adjusting your business strategy and model, as opposed to focusing on the execution of day-to-day tasks. It includes setting goals and objectives – both short and long-term – and defining the steps necessary to achieve them. It also involves monitoring and measuring the progress of those steps.

For many business owners – especially those of small businesses – the challenge is in freeing up the time to dedicate to this important task. With limited staff and resources, small business owners are often, of necessity, very hands on, focused on what’s happening right now, and involved in the details of each day.

Your business success hinges on your focused attention to charting your course. Here are tips to help you find the time to achieve a balance between working in and working on your business:

  • Schedule a regular time to work on your business and keep that appointment with yourself.
  • Consider your staff and their capabilities and find ways to delegate more of the tasks you’ve been holding on to that don’t really require your involvement to complete.
  • Look for duplication of efforts that may exist as well as ways to consolidate tasks.
  • Check out options for outsourcing some of your responsibilities.
  • Investigate software solutions that may streamline tasks and record keeping.
  • Review your individual and company practices and processes with an eye on improving efficiency, which will benefit your entire team, and that, in turn, benefits you.

What does working ON your business look like? During the time you’ve set aside, isolate yourself from other business activities to avoid distractions and interruptions. Start by reviewing your vision and mission to ground you in why you started your business, what your values are, and the difference you want to make through the products and/or services you offer. Also take time to assess the current state of your business including opportunities and risks. Think about how you need and want to move forward. Then you’re ready to dive in. Here are some ways you can work ON your business.

  • Review your business, marketing, and sales strategy and refine or adjust as needed.
  • Consider product/service development opportunities.
  • Consult your financials for guidance on making major business decisions.
  • Conduct or assign research.
  • Consider innovative ways to manifest your vision.
  • Take a look at yourself and identify your strengths and weaknesses; find ways to focus on what you’re good at and hire to complement your skill set.
  • Do a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) Analysis and act on the results.
  • Develop a contingency plan.
  • Define long-term objectives and the short-term steps to achieving them and identify the team members to whom those should be entrusted.
  • Identify and review Key Performance Indicators.
  • Build your company’s value by identifying and assessing the Value Drivers that affect your business; decide which ones need attention and what that needs to be.
  • Assess the benefits you offer your people, ways to authentically show your appreciation, and more effectively engage them.
  • Create and nurture an environment and culture that reflects your values and aspirations and that inspires team members to be their best.
  • Explore ways to regularly and efficiently measure and report progress.
  • Consider your exit objectives and develop a strategy.
  • Familiarize yourself with industry standards and authorities – such as those established by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). Learn what is applicable and whether/how your company complies.
  • Regularly research and stay updated on industry trends, regulations, and best practices which may include subscriptions to industry publications, attending conferences, leveraging professional associations, or joining industry specific organizations.
  • Stay abreast of economic indicators such as the Consumer Price Index (CPI), Gross Domestic Product (GDP), interest rates, unemployment, and consumer spending trends.
  • Always keep learning.

The benefits of working on your business are many. An investment in working ON your business may help prevent those fires you’ve put out when only working IN your business. It will save you stress, headaches, resources, and money, and position you for greater profitability, scalability, and growth. By solidifying your business plan and strategy you’ll find confidence in the direction your company is headed. And you’ll have more time to do what you do best and to lead more effectively.

I’d welcome the opportunity to help you sort out Key Performance Indicators, Value Drivers, and other details of working ON your business. Contact me for a complimentary consultation.

Bob Zarlengo is a certified exit strategist and CPA. With more than four decades of experience in public accounting, his expertise in financial reporting, income and estate planning, and tax compliance makes him a valued and trusted advisor to his clients. 

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