Years ago, I was struck by a statement that had a great impact on me. In fact, it changed my entire approach to business, and ultimately became one of the driving forces behind my current Box Theory™ methodology and software.
Michael Gerber, author of "E-Myth Revisited," said, “Business owners must spend time working on the business, not just in the business.”
Working on a business—or running a business—is an entirely different task than working a "job" within the business.
Shortly after hearing this profound statement, two young fellows walked into my office and wanted to teach me about time management. Among other things, they said the best use of my time as a business owner was creating value in my company. The second-best use of my time was building relationships and creating sales opportunities.
The epiphany: Working on the business to create value for stakeholders, customers, and employees is the most important and best use of a business owner’s time.
I soon devoted an hour a day to improving my company's operations. This eventually increased to four hours a day—and everything just got better. I got off the treadmill and became a “business engineer”—one who plans, constructs, or shrewdly manages an enterprise" (Online Dictionary).
I was transformed by this new thinking, and so was my company.
Running a Business
Here are a few things I’ve learned over the years about how to get the best results when working on the business.
Get Clarity of Purpose: Make sure you and all employees understand your mission, vision, strategy and goals so that everyone is pushing in the same direction (easily accomplished with Box Theory™ Software). Working on the business means becoming clear about who you are, where you are going, and how you are going to get there.
Find Time for Learning: Spend some time every day in The Zone reading and learning, becoming an industry expert, considering feedback from customers and employees, and pondering your key performance indicators (KPI's). “There is no substitute for knowledge” (W. Edwards Deming, Total Quality Management). Working on the business means pursuing the knowledge and skills that give you an edge and keep your company on top.
Never Stop Improving: Continuous Improvement of business operations is the primary responsibility of business owners and managers. Hold a regular business improvement workshop that focuses on developing better people, products, processes, and policies. Tap into a wealth of employee ideas. Small improvements over time will produce significant financial benefits. Working on the business means creating a culture of learning and improvement—a culture of excellence—where people love coming to work and perform at their best, even when you’re not around.
Increase Value to Customers: Innovate to make your products and services easier, better, faster, and cheaper than the competition. WOW your customers and turn them into evangelists for your company. “See how much you can give for a dollar, instead of how little he can give for a dollar” (Henry Ford). Working on the business means figuring out how to provide so much value that you become the obvious choice of your target customer.
Elevate Your Employees: First, hire the right people. Then encourage learning and growth by asking them to take on new or greater responsibilities. Seek their help with important tasks and goals. Offer your people opportunities to acquire new skills—perhaps attend a paid seminar. Challenge them to stretch their performance levels. And be sure to recognize and reward achievement! Remember: If your business isn't learning, you'll fall behind, and a business learns as its people learn. Working on the business means lifting people and deriving the maximum value from their increasing talents and experience.
Take Cost Out of Your Business: Profit is the life-blood of your enterprise. Find ways to reduce ever-rising costs and preserve your margins, while maintaining the value given to customers. The secret to lowering costs is to make your products, services, and business processes better, faster and cheaper. And keep in mind the important principle of sales equivalency. Working on the business means applying pig-headed determination to get rid of the waste and inefficiency that increase operational costs.
Create High-Performance Business Systems and Processes: Your entire organization is made up of systems and processes. You can accomplish the six objectives above by creating good business systems that consistently get desired results. There is no other way. The primary purpose of those business systems is to differentiate your company in the marketplace, and to help you excel at finding and keeping customers. Working on the business means spending time designing, developing, overseeing, monitoring and evaluating all the systems and processes that make your organization run smoothly, create value, and generate profit.
Work On the Business More and In the Business Less
So, if you want to run a successful business, the above strategies will get you on the right track. As your company grows, you will spend more time working on your business and less time doing the pick and shovel labor in the business.
And that’s when it starts to get fun!
The mission and purpose of Box Theory™ is to help business owners and managers work on their business in an intelligent and systematic way. It replaces guess work with proven principles and methods that get results. With the Box Theory™ Way, you know every day exactly what you can do to improve. With each new successful business system or process, the task gets easier and your rate of progress accelerates.
I know the challenge small-business owners have in finding extra time to work on their business. Changing my work pattern to accommodate the process of business improvement was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in my business career. Now, all I can say is, “I’M GLAD I DID IT”… AND YOU CAN DO IT TOO!