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Working ON Your Business vs. IN Your Business | ActionCOACH

This month, we are sharing another blog post from Eric Knam with ActionCOACH Tulsa. Eric is a certified business coach providing business help, advice, and mentoring services to small and medium-sized businesses. We’ve watched many of our business colleagues move from working IN their business to working ON their business, enjoying the perks of being the boss as a result of partnering with Eric.

Keep reading to learn more about how to start working ON your business instead of IN your business!

How to Work ON Your Business vs. IN Your Business | Action COACH

Michael E. Gerber, the author of “The E Myth” series and business expert once said, “If your business depends on you, you don’t own a business – you have a job. And it’s the worst job in the world because you’re working for a lunatic!

Running your own business can be one of the most rewarding and frustrating experiences there is! The good news is that there are ways to decrease the frustration and increase the reward, you just need to be willing to stop doing everything yourself and take control of your time.

Giving up control can be a scary concept for many business owners. They have been so involved in the growth of their enterprise for so long, that they end up thinking that nobody else has the skills or abilities to do things as well as they can. As a result, they keep ]themselves in the position of the employee instead of taking on the role of owner.

The fatal flaw here is that they spend so much time focusing on the $12 an hour work (employee work), that they don’t have the time to focus on the $500 an hour work (owner work). Put another way, they get caught in the cycle of working IN their business instead of working ON their business.

Don’t think this is a fatal flaw? Consider this, “66% of businesses make it to the 2-year mark and just 30% make it to the 10-year mark. One of the main reasons for this is because very few owners spend the required 20% of time working on their business and this contributes to businesses failing.” (gamechanger, 2019).

So, how can you break the cycle? How can you ensure, as a business owner, that you have the time to develop your business?

Establish Boundaries

Start by establishing boundaries. It’s ok to say “no” to the things that don’t bring you or your business value. Just because it’s a priority to someone else doesn’t mean that you need to be involved. Next, take control of your day instead of letting your day take control of you. You’ll want to do a couple of things here.

First, make a list of all the things you do on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. Now take a hard look at your list and ask yourself these questions:

  • If I were to prioritize this from levels A-C, what would it be?
  • Is it necessary?
  • Do I enjoy this task?
  • Is there someone else who can do it?
  • Is it possible to automate this process?


After you are done, determine the things you will automate, delegate, and eliminate. Then do it. It might be scary to hand things off to your staff. Just remember, they aren’t perfect, and neither are you. With a little training, clear expectations, and some coaching they’ll get better and better at the things you’ve given them to do. Who knows, they may even get better at it than you!

Get Control of Your Time

Now you can focus on getting control of your time. Using a “Default Calendar” is a great way to do this. The purpose here is to identify specific times during the week for key tasks that could not be automated, given to someone else, or scrapped. As an example, some of those tasks might include marketing your business and reviewing your financials.

Instead of hoping that you have the time to work on these very important items, schedule time weekly to ensure they are addressed. You may designate Monday afternoons from 1-4 pm as “Marketing Monday”. During this time, work on all the marketing activities that need to be addressed for the week.

If you get something related to marketing on a Wednesday, it gets added to the list of things to address during your 1-4 pm time block next Monday. Perhaps you need to send out invoices, review your P&L and balance your checkbook. 8-11 am on Friday mornings could be a great time for “Finance Friday”.

Once your priorities are blocked on your calendar, there should be very few things that keep them from taking place. Make sure your staff and family know that you will be unavailable during these times. Close your door or leave the building. Turn off your phone, forward your calls to someone in the office, or put it on “Do Not Disturb”. That way, you can focus on what needs to be done without distractions.

You may need to “tweak” your calendar to maximize your efficiency and it will take some discipline to stick to it. Once you take control of your day, you’ll be amazed at how much time you really have. What a great opportunity to schedule some time to work ON your business!

Working On Your Business vs. In Your Business

If you are wondering what the difference is when it comes to working ON your business vs.
IN your business, here are some examples:

Working IN Your Business

  • Making things
  • Delivering things
  • Administrative stuff
  • Paying invoices
  • Dealing with conflict
  • Phone calls
  • E-mails

Working ON Your Business

  • Personal development & education
  • Strategic planning
  • Goal setting
  • Financial projections & forecasting
  • Creating strategic alliances
  • Establishing & implementing systems and processes
  • Setting your strategic vision


Your business should give you the life you desire, not become your life. Taking the time to automate, delegate, and eliminate your non-essential tasks will free up your time so you can work ON your business. Once that happens, you’ll be amazed at how rewarding owning a business really can be.