How to work on, rather than in your business

5 extremely practical tips that you can put into action today to take your business to the next level

As an experienced business coach, I have a blunt question:

Are you a busy fool?  No – seriously, are you?

What have you actually achieved today?  If you’re self-employed, did you get paid today and importantly, did the amount reflect your skills, and the number of hours you actually committed to the work?  Crucially, do you have more projects in the pipeline from this client?  If you’re a company boss, did you manage to leave the office on time today, safe in the knowledge that you’ve made some powerful strategic steps forward to increase profits?  And, that your employees have effectively taken care of any operational “glitches” that happened today?

Or, maybe you put an awful lot of effort into solving your existing clients’ problems.  You know, the ones who pay you the least but who make the loudest noise.  Perhaps you created a beautiful spreadsheet.  Did some admin.  Made pointless twiddly widdly tweaks to your website.

OK, I’m being harsh. The truth is, I meet many busy people who work hard.  Who’re hard at it every hour of the day and often at weekends. Likeable, clever folks who are simply not achieving the success they deserve.

Why?  Because they’re working in the business rather than on the business.  They’re operational, not strategic.  They’re managing, not leading.  There’s no vision of where they want their business to be.  No focus on the bigger picture.

Perhaps you’re self-employed.  You’re great at what you do but getting in front of the people who could use your services is something actively to be avoided at all costs, at all times.

Right.  Here’s how to change things:

Initially, take some time out

This may seem counter-intuitive but believe me, it will pay off.  Think long and hard about the typical fire-fighting scenarios that occur regularly.  Are there processes within your business that don’t seem to be working so well?  How could you do things differently?

For example, is there a typically manic period at certain times of the year, or the month?  How can you plan and anticipate better?

Sit quietly, close your eyes and “see” things working more efficiently.  Then, create a NEW procedure.  Write it down.  Be pro-active.

Start Outsourcing

Don’t even think about doing our own accounts.  It’s easy to get things wrong and the money you spend on an accountant will release your free time to work on your business.

Spending hours and hours writing your own website content is a total waste of time.   You’re not being paid to do that and besides, good copywriters know how to write to engage people’s attention on websites much better than you can.

Consider outsourcing yourself.  If you offer a valuable skill, it’s likely that there are people out there who are as good as you.  Yes, it’s very annoying, isn’t it?  If you trust them (and only if they can prove their quality and worth), you may be able to offer them work in exchange for a finders’ fee of some sort.  Many business owners have found this an effective method of increasing profits.

Personal Development and Training

I have exceedingly wonderful clients, you know.

People with skills I could never dream of having; business owners who deliver great work and fabulous customer service.  And yet, who can’t sell.  Who don’t appreciate the importance of marketing.  And, who don’t understand that in order to run a successful business you need a viable mix of operational, interpersonal and business development skills.

Why do businesses fail?  One reason and one reason only:  Because people don’t make enough money. Don’t let that person be you.

Google “sales and marketing courses/workshops” and see what comes up. Consider investing in a few self-development books (contact me for recommendations).  TED talks, perhaps.  There are resources a-plenty out there– some of them free or low-cost – that can help you develop the essential competencies you need in order to run a business.

It’s All About the Money

You can’t hide, you know. You will need to get a grip on the money coming in and out of your business.

For the self-employed and for the business owner, everything (or almost everything) is going to be about finances.  Do you know what your profit margin is, for example?

Work out the money you need to live on, PLUS your “living well” earnings.  Are you earning enough to live on? And what’s the difference between the two?

You may need the help of a business coach for this one if you find figures a bit scary.  I’ll help you get on top of the money side.

A Strategic Strategy

Again, you’ll need to remove yourself from the day to day activities in your business for a while. Well worth it, though.

If you want to work on your business rather than in it, it’s time to see the bigger picture.

Who is your ideal client?  Do not consider this answer to be “everyone”.  That’s simply not true. Male/Female?  Age? Occupation?  This sort of customer profiling exercise can be highly valuable. This lower-hanging fruit demographic is where you will be focusing most of your efforts.

Improve Your Work-Life Balance

Some people have great business ideas while they’re pounding away on a treadmill at the gym.  Others, on a bracing walk in the countryside. I expect you’ve noticed that our relaxed brains often come up with genius plans while we’re doing other things.  Leaving work strategy aside for a moment, however, you need down time.  Proper personal space.

Your family appreciates your company, you know.  You deserve to de-compress.

Having a healthy work life balance is incredibly important.  You can’t pour from an empty cup, so keeping on top of your personal time and setting strong boundaries will help you stay sane and see the wood for the trees.

Know Yourself

Amongst others, I make use of the Myers Briggs profiling system to help my clients better understand themselves and how they see the world. Simply knowing your likely reactions to certain situations and vitally, to other people enables you to realise your best potential and communicate better.

So, there you are.

Is all of this easy?


There are no short cuts to doing things differently.  Working on rather than in your business isn’t easy.  Having empowered countless business owners to get their business ready for the next level, I’d be happy to help you on your way towards a more productive, more fulfilling personal and professional life.

Contact me, Jason Cornes for more information on my business mentoring services.

Are you feeling ambitious but stuck without a plan to move forward? Please visit one of the links below to find out more:

Business Coaching
Executive Coaching
Business MOT

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