Working on the Business

One of the hardest aspects of running a business is that you often have to work in the business as well as work on the business.  Finding the right balance, especially when you’ve grown significantly can be extremely difficult.  I’m using by the way, terms found in the E-Myth.

Working In The Business

When you work in the business, you do the work that is needed to keep the business running on a daily basis.  In our case that means shipping out orders, answering customer e-mails, doing marketing and the like.  Quite often, the work that you do ‘in the business’ is the same from day-to-day.  If no one does this, you don’t have a business.

Working On The Business

Working on the business often means developing processes, but can also mean developing the vision and strategy for the business in the future.   It means putting in writing all the things you are doing, and then looking at those things to figure out a better or more efficient way of doing it.  Sometimes, it’s less efficient but more thorough – like our shipping process.  We’ve progressed from a single shipper doing a single check to multiple shippers doing multiple checks at different points in the shipping process.  It’s driven our shipping error rate down from 2 to 3% per shipment to around 1% at worst.

The Issue

The biggest problem though is finding the time.  It’s really, really hard to do this because you are often so busy working on the business that finding the time and mental energy requires creating space.  That space often means a decline in profit (or personal time) because someone still needs to work in the business.

It’s even worst when you realize that often, the people you hired aren’t going to be as good as you.  Or as dedicated.  I can still often do more work, more efficiently than most of my staff – the general numbers are anywhere between a 10 – 20% decline in efficiency.  This can grate.  In fact, it does grate on your nerves as you wonder why you are paying these people your hard earned money to do less.

Except if you keep thinking like that, you end up burnt out, doing everything and wondering why you can never keep up.  Why as you grow larger, things just get harder and harder.  Quality suffers, you burn out and somehow there’s just never enough time.  Learning to build better processes and work on the business is a hard, hard thing to do – but if you don’t, the business and eventually your customers suffer.

The Caveat

As I’ve mentioned before, there is a choice to grow or stay small.  Some companies, some individuals decide to stay small.  And a lot of these concepts of ‘working in the business’ or ‘on the business’ is something that only really matters if you want to grow (or have hit a certain size).  Sometimes, staying small is the right choice.