Working IN vs ON your business

Updated: Apr 9, 2021

What does it mean and what is the difference?

Working IN your business achieves results for your clients, and includes some of the following activities:

  • Meeting with Clients

  • Writing business proposals or answering tenders

  • Answering queries

  • Paying invoices

  • Invoicing Clients

  • Scheduling Clients

  • Paying staff

  • Fighting fires (dealing with crises)

Working ON your business achieves results for yourself, your business and your clients, and includes some of the following activities:

  • Education - podcasts, blogs (about business)

  • Creating systems (technical and non-technical)

  • Planning for the future including financial forecasting

  • Setting goals

  • Measuring and reviewing business performance

  • Automating processes

  • Creating Marketing copy

  • Writing content blogs/articles/tips

  • Talking with mentors

Does the following summary describe your situation?

  • You just work IN your business for weeks and weeks and even months without doing anything to work ON your business.

  • You are running your business in a reactive way instead of a proactive way.

  • Every day stuff happens so you deal with that stuff.

  • And, as a result, you are not doing much at all to help your business move forward.

If you want to achieve sustainable financial results and grow your business you need to do both.

How do you get started?

The key is planning. You need to schedule time that you will spend on your business every single day.

You need to prioritise this time and not allow yourself to be distracted. It is also about focus, working on your business is hard so you need to put 100% focus into it.

It does not take much to get started, even 30 minutes a day to begin with to get into the habit. The great thing about working ON your business is that very quickly it will make working IN your business a lot easier and more rewarding.

An additional approach is to understand where you are spending your time and to then remove key time wasters. This starts with you recording everything you do for a week and then categorising everything into either ‘IN’ or ‘ON’ your business.

HINT: use the above list of example IN and OUT activities to categorise

Upon review of your list, you will be able to identify potential opportunities for you to delegate or outsource.


Start with delegating some of the financial responsibilities or outsourcing to others – book keeping, payroll, accounts payable.

Examples of opportunities for delegation or outsourcing are:

If you do not want to deal with designing a product or managing people, you can hire self-managed people to pave the road as they go.

If you do not want to deal with bringing in new Clients, you can attach yourself to a larger company who wants to offload work. Or, you can identify an external supplier whose focus is generating leads for you.

If you do not want to deal with managing finances, you can hire a business manager or external book keeper who watches your top line, bottom line, and connects the dots. They will ensure your financials are kept up to date, and can also ensure your invoices and salaries are paid, and alert you to potential improvements which can be made.

As a business grows the pressure is on. The business owner’s role changes. Most business owners start out doing everything. To enable a business to grow, business owners need to spend more time working ON their business and delegate some of the tasks they previously performed.

Rod is a business advisor providing smaller businesses with the necessary skills and processes to deliver their business improvement and turnaround initiatives in the role of advisor and delivery manager. In particular, based on 30 years advising and delivering large and small enterprises on technology projects, Rod has provided guidance and support to businesses on how to use technology to grow or to support the scaling of businesses. For more information refer to

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