Growing Your Business: 8 Steps to Working On Your Business Instead of In It 

Almost every small business owner knows how easy it is to spend time putting out fires and tackling the “urgent” tasks that come up. But your business can’t grow until you move past the urgent and focus on what is truly important. 

You may have heard the phrase “working on your business instead of in it.” This refers to the need for business owners to step back from day-to-day operations and focus on putting a foundation in place that will enable the business to flourish. For long-term success, your business needs to be able to sustain operations and draw a profit without your direct involvement in every aspect.

To support you—our small business owners and entrepreneurs—to step back, identify the truly important needs, and set a foundation that will enable you to navigate the second stage, our RISBDC business counselors share their years of expertise.

First, we recommend that you check out our previous blog post to assess what type of business you are running and ask preliminary questions about whether you are ready to expand. If you’re ready to take action, read on.

Here are eight concrete actions you can take to work on your business instead of in it.

1. Automate tasks that can be automated

Before your business can grow, you need to stop spending time on tasks that can happen on their own. Investing time on the front end in setting up automations will vastly free up your time once those structures are in place. Tasks that can be automated include

  • Email marketing
  • Customer communication
  • Invoice reminders
  • Payroll
  • Bill pay
  • Email signatures
  • Recruiting
  • Following up on leads
  • Sending appointment reminders
  • Soliciting reviews

2. Delegate daily duties

Hand off daily tasks to an appropriate employee. To standardize your output, create SOPs (standard operating procedure) documents or have the employee document the training to give you peace of mind when assigning work to others. If you struggle to imagine stepping out of tasks, spend a week tracking your time. Make note both of where you spend the most time, and which tasks could be most easily handed off. Start small—we venture a guess that as soon as you taste the joy of having more time, you’ll find more tasks you’re willing to pass along. 

3. Create a mission statement 

If you don’t have one already, creating a mission statement is another worthwhile investment of time because it provides a rock-solid mirror to evaluate your business choices against. With every decision and choice of how you are spending your time, ask whether that choice furthers your business toward its mission. You may find it easier to let go of “urgent” tasks that turn out not to be very important in the long run.

4. Identify your one-, five-, and ten-year goals

As a coda to creating your mission statement, set tangible, objective, measurable goals for short- and longer timeframes. This may well be work you’ve already done as part of your business plan, but bringing them to mind again and keeping them where you can see them will help you evaluate choices and opportunities that come along to ensure each task gets appropriately assigned (to you, to an employee, or to the dustbin—read on).

5. Eliminate tasks that don’t contribute toward your mission or long-term goals

Once your mission statement and goals are set, ruthlessly trim or axe any tasks that don’t support your mission or advance your business to where you want it to go.

6. Outsource to professionals

For areas that are important but aren’t your strength, make a point of investing in a professional in areas with high ROI that will lead to growth. Whether for a one-time task or for ongoing work, there are many areas where outsourcing is the perfect solution to bringing on an expert without having to add one to your full-time team. Services that fall into this category include

  • Web design
  • Marketing
  • Social media posting
  • Copywriting
  • Accounting
  • IT
  • Research
  • Shipping and logistics
  • Customer service

7. Find a sounding board

Every business owner needs a strategic partner or two who can act as a sounding board. This reduces stress and keeps you on track, both by pushing you to evaluate your choices by your mission and goals, and because having a clear head will help you make better decisions on your own too.

8. Say no to work that isn’t worth it

Along with axing tasks that won’t get you to your goal, remember that it’s OK to say no to customers and clients who won’t help you reach your goals. You will not be the right business, service, or product for everyone. Stop trying to make everyone happy and say no, with confidence, to working with people who aren’t the right fit. This will clear the way, freeing up both time and resources for you to stay laser focused on what your business is great at, and hitting that sweet spot you were meant to be in.

Are you ready to work on your business? Submit a request for counseling via this form or by calling (401) 874-7232.