What ‘working on your business’ really means for creative and technical business owners

Michael Gerber has a lot to answer for. As the author of The E-Myth: Why Most Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It, he provided great insight and a compelling formula for owner-managers wishing to grow their businesses.

One of the principles, which has become an oft-quoted mantra, is the concept of ‘working on your business’ as opposed to ‘working in your business’. In short, to successfully grow a profitable business, you need to get out of the day-to-day detail and focus your time on planning and more strategic activity.

I have had countless conversations with business owners who have picked up this message and proudly say, ‘I am now out of the toil and grind and spending time on the business’. The trouble is, particularly for highly creative or technical business owners, this can be a dangerous flip.

Don’t detach from the important stuff

Creative or technical businesses are generally based on the passion, knowledge and skill of their owners. It’s the owner’s creative flair or understanding of the detail and technicalities that makes their business a success. It’s the owner’s DNA running through the company that makes it the business it is.

The trouble with taking the ‘working on your business’ message too literally is that you can lose the essence of why you created the business in the first place. That’s why many great creative or technical business owners still spend time on the ‘everyday stuff’: working alongside team members, coaching, pointing out areas for improvement, delivering creative input and technical advice, and staying close to customers.

No amount of strategising and planning can substitute for really understanding what is happening in your business. That’s why you should never remove yourself completely from the creative or technical service your business is delivering, or put distance between yourself and what it’s really like to be a customer of your company.

Focusing on what you’re good at

So, is working on your business a waste of time? Of course not, but, as a business owner who’s highly creative or technical, nor should it be your sole aim. As in most matters, it’s all about balance. You need to understand what you’re best at, work on your areas of development, but don’t try and turn yourself into a remote, long term-orientated business owner if your passion and energy, and ultimately your enjoyment, come from being involved in the day-to-day creative or technical activity.

If your passion for your business lies in the creative side or technical details, if planning and strategising are not your strengths, you can always get help from others to ‘work on the business’. With the right support around you, you can focus on your strong creative or technical attributes, while still moving the business forward. For help working on your business, talk to Henchards.