Skip to main content

What does "working on your business" really mean?

working-on2"Are you working on your business, or in your business?" This working "on or in" your business statement has been bandied around for years. For the leader of a business, it just makes sense. If you're spending the majority of your time doing "the work" of the business, who's plotting the course for growth and continued success? Who's making sure the business has the resources, money, talent, systems and a rock-solid culture to ensure continued success? Who's ensuring that everyone is focused and accountable? When all these "who's" have a leader's name attached to them, the result is what I call "the No-Compromise Company."

No matter what your interpretation of "working on your business" is, the big question is, what are you actually working on? Furthermore, does what you're working on really qualify as "high-value stuff?"

To help clarify what working on your business really means, my friend Jack Stack says, "If you're making decisions today that will affect your business in the next 30 days, you're making the wrong decisions." As leader, working on your business means that you are not getting bogged down in the day-to-day running of the business. Your focus must be on the opportunities and potential dangers down the road - not on the immediate activities.

When your systems are well designed and there is company-wide accountability to execute those systems with consistency, you are free to work on your business. You've got a leadership team and other staff that are much closer to the details of the work. Given this, your leadership team and staff should be capable of making the best operational decisions - if you let them.

Here is a hit list of do-it-now strategies you can use to ensure that you truly are working on your business:

  • Redefine your role as leader: If you're the leader of the company and you're spending the bulk of your time servicing customers and stuck in the day-to-day operations, it's the perfect recipe for stagnation. Start with a clean slate and redefine your role with a focus on vision and creating organizational excellence. Plot your company's course on a journey worth taking - and lead it there.

  • Let go of the controls: If it's only done right when you do it, you're stifling the growth of others in your company. Owners that refuse to let go of the controls are forever bound to their companies, as they only function well when the owner is present.

  • Levels of authority: Design a system that clarifies levels of authority. This means that clear guidelines for decision-making exist at all levels of the company. For example, a front desk manager is responsible for all daily operational decisions that involve the front desk. The leader or general manager is not called in to solve the "double-booking error." If the computers blow up, then they're called in.

  • You can't be the main sales engine: If the revenues you personally generate are so vital to the financial integrity of your company, you're stuck. You'll never be able to work on your business. Working on your business means creating the right environment and culture that inspires all team members to contribute and grow.

  • Build value to your company: As leader, your prime responsibility is to build value in your company. That means leading a finely-tuned company that adheres to no-compromise thinking and behavior. You can only build value by working on your business.

Pass this email on to your business colleagues, managers and friends. They'll appreciate it.

Neil Ducoff, Strategies founder & CEO, and author of No-Compromise Leadership


No comments found. Start the conversation!