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Working On vs Working In Your Business

Working On vs Working In Your Business
Advice for EmployersArticleLeadershipPersonal Development
Publish Date: September 18th, 2023

​I think we can all agree that the back end of last year had us contemplating what the next one looks like, more so than ever before. Like many small businesses here in Melbourne, we were in the throes of start-up excitement and growth when the Covid-19 pandemic hit: 18-months or so deep, team growing nicely, solidifying relationships and giving amazing service to some fantastic clients. Things were looking extremely positive.

In fact, they still are – if a little different. All this contemplation has left me asking myself one key question: am I working on the business, or just in it?

For any start-up looking to achieve growth, it’s important to know the difference; it’s something I’m slowly learning myself and, as we help so many other start-ups achieve their goals, thought it might be pertinent to share some thoughts. But first off, what’s the difference?

Working IN your business:

It means doing all the things. Speaking to the people. Meeting the clients. Building the relationships. Invoicing the customers. Answering the queries. Working IN your business means to conduct the basic tasks which fundamentally make your business tick – providing the service and/or products and keeping things moving.

Working ON your business:

It means the big stuff. Making strategic decisions. Setting goals and milestones. Improving processes. Analysing data. Understanding marketing. Working ON your business is the tough part. It’s making time to do those things which might not ‘make you money’ immediately but, long term, will.

With all that in mind, here are some pieces of advice which I’m slowly implementing myself to ensure that this year I prioritise working on my business, rather than just in it:

1. Delegate. It can be a painful process, but it’s a healthy practice to implement. As the owner of a small business, your time needs to be spent working ON – so delegate those time-consuming IN tasks to your people. Outsource them even, if need be (until you grow to a point that it makes sense to hire internally). But use delegation as a means to freeing up your time, not to mention headspace, for the more strategic tasks which only you can do.

2. Research. Think you know something? Are things going really well, and you think you understand why? Or do you think you’ve cracked the reasons behind something not working? Do some research – online, speaking with competitors/peers in the industry, mentors or industry figureheads, even your own customers – and try to pick apart your assumptions. Whilst it sounds counterproductive, it’ll bring better clarity around your own business and what to continue/begin/stop doing – whether it’s a deeper understanding of what people want, what your own clients love (or don’t love), or simply inspiration as to how the business is going to move forwards.

3. Don’t get comfortable. As the owner of a start-up, when things start seemingly falling into place it’s an incredible feeling – but great things never came from comfort zones. When things start working, it’s time to start diversifying. Keep testing. Keep trying new things. Utilise your data, listen to your employees and, overall, keep pushing.

They say – whoever “they” are – that business owners should spend about two hours a day working on their business. I’m in a unique situation as a small business owner, being that I had the backing of our amazing UK contingent with Certus Recruitment Group in London; further to that and better yet, having started my career there myself before emigrating to Oz. 2020 was most certainly not the year we expected it to be, but it doesn’t have to have any bearing on 2021.

Let’s all focus on working on our businesses, whilst continuing to work in them as well as ever. I’d love to hear from likeminded individuals to talk start up challenges, achievements and successes, or from businesses who we could help make the strategic hiring decisions which will take yours to the next level.

Happy new year everyone.

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