I heard this a few years back and at first, my first reaction was “What’s the difference”?  Working IN your business (to me at least) means you own a job, working ON your business means you own a business and you are doing things to grow our business outside of your designated responsibilities.

Don’t get me wrong, there are times you need to work IN your business but your goal should always be to focus your efforts ON working on your business. It has taken me time to get in this mindset, and personally, it’s been years since I’ve worked in my business. 

When you are first starting out, you probably have no other choice to work ON and IN your business. But as time passes and you’re able to delegate more of your tasks you should have more time to work ON your business. That could mean a lot of things, attending more networking events to meet new potential clients or establish new relationships. Spending more time analyzing your expenses and profits, and making decisions based on those numbers. Or simply taking time to think about where you see the business in 2-5 years and putting together incremental goals to get there. 

Another example would be if a contractor starts his/her business. Some examples of working ON the business as a start up would be getting the entity setup, logos and websites created, business cards printed, etc. Working IN the business would be the time they spend on swinging the hammer, selling jobs, billing, etc... Most business owners see the opportunity to work IN the business as a way to increase profits. Many will think that working ON the business can wait, as they need to take on that job, or help someone achieve the deadline, which in reality can be a major mistake for the business as a whole.  I’ve met many business owners over the years that 20-25 years later they are still only working IN their business and never ON. They also are usually the ones wondering why they have plateaued in their businesses. 

You need to spend more and more time working ON the business or you’ll be stuck owning a job and NOT owning your company. 

Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t happen overnight. As mentioned before this took me a while to get this mindset down. Personally it took me about 2 years to shift from IN to ON.  When I started I was working early mornings doing tasks like billing, payroll, accounting. I'd spend 8:00 am - 5:00 pm working IN the business, dealing with clients, working with my partners and vendors. Then from 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm I'd be back to working ON the business. Running reports, and coming up with marketing campaigns.

As time went by I became burnt out. I wasn’t allowing time for my family or time for myself (which if you read some of my other blogs you will see time for “Me” such as working out/exercise is crucial for many reasons)  This also prevented me from really working on tasks and projects like forming partnerships, training staff, really diving into the profits of the business, and getting involved with industry associations & trade shows. It’s been more than 7 years now that I have only worked ON the business and not IN. 

Also, feel free to share your experiences on working ON vs IN your business

Share with me on TwitterFacebookLinkedIn, or Instagram your experiences of working ON vs IN your business use #OnvsIn.

About the Author, James Webster

James Webster, founder and CEO of ROK Financial has almost two decades of experience within the financial services industry. His passion for helping small business owners and his innovative way of thinking, has allowed him to run multiple successful businesses including National Business Capital & Services. Under the National name, the team was able to help secure over $1 Billion in financing for small businesses nationwide.