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The myth about ‘Working on your business’

Michael Gerber has a lot to answer for. As the author of The E-Myth: Why Most Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It, he provided great insight and a compelling formula for owner-managers wishing to grow their businesses.

One of the principles, which has become an oft-quoted mantra, is the concept of ‘working on your business’ as opposed to ‘working in your business’. In short, to successfully grow a profitable business, you need to get out of the day-to-day detail and focus your time on planning and more strategic activity.

I have had countless conversations with business owners who have picked up this message and say ‘I know I should spend my time working on my business’ or who proudly say ‘I am now out of the toil and grind and spending time on the business’. The trouble is that, for many business owners, this is a dangerous flip.

Why details matter

Most start-ups and early-stage businesses are based on the passion, knowledge and skill of their owners. It’s their understanding of the detail, the technicalities, the processes, the clients and so on that makes their business a success. It’s the owner’s DNA running through the company that makes it the business it is.

The trouble with taking the ‘working on your business’ message too literally is that you can get detached from the really important stuff. You can lose the essence of why you created the business in the first place. That’s why many great business owners still spend time on the ‘shop floor’, working alongside team members, coaching, pointing out areas for improvement, lending the benefits of their knowledge, and staying close to customers and the experience those customers receive.

No amount of strategising and planning can substitute for really understanding what is happening in your business. That’s why you should never remove yourself completely from the roles your team perform, or put distance between yourself and what it’s really like to be a customer of your company.

Focusing on what you’re good at

So, is working on your business a waste of time? Of course not, but nor should it be your sole aim as a business owner. As in most matters, it’s all about balance. You need to understand what you’re best at, work on your areas of development, but don’t try and turn yourself into a remote, long term-orientated business owner if your passion and energy, and ultimately your enjoyment, come from being involved in the day-to-day activity.

If your passion for your business lies in the little details, if planning and strategising are not your strengths, you can always get help from others to ‘work on the business’. With the right support around you, you can focus on your strong suits, while still moving the business forward. For help working on your business, talk to Henchards.

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