Actually, this title is not entirely accurate. Understanding this line and finding a way to balance it as a newbie entrepreneur is a challenge. However, it’s important to keep this balance no matter where you are at in the entrepreneur experience. Basically, whether you are seasoned, experienced, or starting over, it’s a critical concept to understand and be aware of. This concept is simply understanding the difference between “working on your business” and “working in your business”. Switching one little letter in that sentence makes a huge change which impacts on your business and your life. Read on to understand this foundational concept of being an entrepreneur, and how to find a balance.
Working IN your business
Working in your business is what most business owners do at the start. This is the stage of wearing all the hats, juggling all the tasks, and being hands-on with every step of the customer journey. Generally, it means managing social media, marketing, processing sales, delivering what your customers bought, responding to all enquiries and questions, and doing all bookkeeping and administration. Also, what this looks like specifically depends on the sector and nature of your business. It could mean that you are printing labels deep into the night and packaging product to deliver the next morning. It may be opening and closing the store every day, and being there for every hour in between. Or it could be full days doing the plumbing, pruning, grooming or Zooming to keep the revenue flowing in.
This working IN your business is valuable at any stage; when you are newly starting out, it’s everything. If you are spending all your time being hands on in your business and doing all the work, that’s ok. What is important is that you recognize it, and understand the difference between working IN and working ON your business, so that you can have balance as a newbie entrepreneur. Which brings us to…..
Working on your business means stepping back from the daily details of delivering a product or service to see the big picture. It’s the macro to the micro. It’s planning, not execution. Reviewing, not doing. Here are examples of working on your business:
- Reviewing results of marketing activities (ROI, social media statistics)
- Identifying what product or service is most profitable
- Analysing financials and key performance indicators to assess the effectiveness of past strategies and tactics; and using this data to plan for coming quarters and years
- Market research to better understand your competitors (SWOT)
- Reflecting on feedback, comments, and behaviour of customers and staff for opportunities to be more effective and productive
- Evaluating performance metrics and comparing to previous periods to observe trends
- Brainstorming ideas to improve and expand your business or be more competitive
- Education to develop your skills (reading, courses, coaching)
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Balance as an entrepreneur
You may think – wait, I do work on my business! My bookkeeping is up to date, I know my numbers, I plan promotions, build social media campaigns around it, and keep the sales funnel full. Great! But do you also work in your business? Are you in the store, on the ground, working directly with customers and employees? That’s ok also. Certainly, some businesses require more working IN than others. For example, health and wellness professionals (massage therapist, chiropractor, counsellor) tend to work in their business more than someone who, say, opened a retail store and hired staff to run it.
The question is balance. If working on AND working in means no time for family, life, leisure, and fun – this is not sustainable. Or sane! This leads to burnout, which happens frequently to business owners. For the sake of your health and the long term viability of your business, start making small changes to get balance back in your life.
Another key point is neglecting the working ON. As a result, this causes a loss of balance. It’s common to neglect the administrative, analytical, and strategic tasks of running a business. After all, it’s easy to get fully immersed with the daily demands of customers and operations. It’s very risky to lose this balance as a newbie entrepreneur, and there is a true story to explain why:
Losing balance as a newbie entrepreneur: a true story
Manny started up a floor refinishing business with a friend. They bought the equipment, did the training, set up a great website, got business cards printed, and joined a networking group. All great fundamentals. Then they started getting jobs, and their work was so outstanding that referrals flowed. They landed a big contract and started working long days in the business. Mail and email piled up. Administration and marketing was neglected. They didn’t have time! The days were full and the cash was flowing. Eventually, all the floors were done, and the contract finished. No more work. No more cash. Time to get more customers. But wait – where was their website? Why was their email down?
Turns out, while they were busy working on their business, they missed the renewal deadline for their website domain. They had a great domain name, and now it belonged to someone else. A Google search for their business name led to the site of another floor refinishing business, who were swimming in leads from all the networking Manny did months ago. I learned of this because I had a client who wanted floor refinishing, but I didn’t have Manny’s card. I went to the URL and saw it was a different company. Manny’s email bounced back. Without a way to reach him, I had no way to give him business. Manny and his friend had to start from the beginning – building a new site, setting up email, reaching out to old contacts, and establishing new ones. The lesson? Don’t neglect working on your business.
- Understanding the difference between working ON and working IN your business is a fundamental of entrepreneurship. This concept is not new, and it’s not mine. Michael Gerber wrote about this in 1995, and it’s been an inspiration to entrepreneurs ever since. I highly recommend reading the latest edition of The E-Myth Revisited to deepen your understanding of this as you establish your business. Available on Kindle and paperback.
- There is no one recipe for success. Your entrepreneur experience is unique, and yours. Connect your strategies and your tactics to your goals. If your goal is to manage a team of employees, then develop a plan for hiring, training, and performance management. Don’t get stuck by having customers attached to you doing all the work. Do the research for the costs and responsibilities of being an employer. Do the math on the revenue targets required to make your first hire. Do the groundwork to prepare your customers for the transition of you moving into a management role.
- Book time to review your processes, systems, and how you’re spending your days. Take a step back to measure, analyse, and assess the opportunities to make your business more sane, smart, scalable, and sustainable. Take The Entrepreneur 4S Test to get more specific feedback on what areas to focus on.