5 Ways to Start Working On Your Business, Not In It

By September 12, 2018 April 20th, 2021 Entrepreneur, Small Business

Maybe this scenario sounds familiar: a client has a question about your product or wants to change some minor details in their account, so you hop on the phone and offer them some support. You spend a few hours each day sending outreach emails, connecting with potential clients on LinkedIn, or even making cold calls in order to grow your client base; or maybe you’re pouring over financial documents and budgets, or putting some final edits on web content and blog posts until everything looks just right.

You push yourself to the limit and because of that your business is thriving, but you notice that you haven’t seen much growth in a while. You’re happy with where you are at, but you know that your business could reach greater potential if you could just push a little further, maybe put in a few more hours to start seeing the payoffs.

But there are only so many hours you can put in before all of your brain power and energy are spent on the day-to-day things, and you can’t even think about growth, let alone concepts like diversification, innovation, or any of the things that brought you here in the first place.

If any of these situations sound like you, don’t fear! You aren’t suffering from a lack of motivation and you certainly haven’t lost that fire that brought you here in the first place, you’re simply working in your business rather than on your business.

Here are five ways to turn the tables back around to start working on your business once again.

Put Aside Time for Dreaming

Working on the day-to-day stuff is fine, especially early on in your business when time and budgets are limited. But if you’re finding it hard to put aside the time needed to plan and strategize the big picture, then make that time.

Add a block of time to your calendar each day – it can be an hour, 30 minutes, whatever you can spare – and make sure you don’t do anything else during that time – ever. Treat this block of time as if it was a meeting with your most important client or a phone call with a potential investor. Anything you aren’t likely to push aside for other tasks.

If you aren’t growing or innovating your business, there may not be as many of those big client meetings or investment opportunities as there would be with a clear growth plan in place. A small investment in time now can pay off big later.

Systematize What You Can to Make it Repeatable

Efficiency and repeatability are the grease that gets those squeaky business wheels really rolling. If you’ve got tasks that get done at a regular interval and with an almost identical process each time, consider documenting the process to create a system. Once the system is in place, someone (ideally not you) should be able to follow the steps and carry out the project with little difficulty and a small margin of error. The more of these systems you can put into place, the more efficient your business will be, and the more smoothly things will run over time.

Now more than ever, some of these day-to-day tasks can even be automated, so consider looking into the processes that don’t need a human touch every step of the way, and find a software to fit the need. Social media automation is a great example of how this can work. You or someone on your team can write a batch of social media posts at the beginning of the week and set them up in a system like Hootsuite to post them automatically throughout the week on your chosen schedule. It’s quicker than writing a new one each day, and lets you keep your mind focused on other things for the remaining days.

Outsource the Smaller Tasks

Building off of the idea of systemization and automation, if you have tasks in your business that are simple and repeatable, but don’t quite merit hiring a full-time employee, consider outsourcing the tasks to a team of virtual assistants. We’ve written about the benefits of utilizing virtual assistant services before, but the basic idea is outsourcing saves you the money and hassle of hiring in-house employees for small tasks where full-time attention isn’t required.

There are virtual assistant companies that offer the basics – answering calls, scheduling appointments, etc. – and full-service companies that can even help fill roles like sales and marketing in addition to the basics. It’s something we at The Admin Center call “teamsourcing” because in a sense they become an extension of your team. So take the time to do some research and find the one that’s right for you.

After the initial set up the process is really like automation. For the tasks that are simple but still require human involvement, outsourcing is kind of the best of both worlds. Some companies will even manage the automations you already have in place, too, so you can really start taking things off of your plate to spend time on the things that need your attention most.  

Hire Properly, Train Well, and Treat Your Employees With the Golden Rule

It’s great to get those small, day-to-day tasks out of house and in the hands of an experienced team of virtual assistants, but sometimes in-house employees are inevitable and making sure they are a good fit can save you endless time and money down the line.

Finding the right people from the start is going to set you up for success now, but training them thoroughly and treating them well are going to set you up for success forever. Give people all of the tools they’ll need to do well on the job, show them your expectations early on, and then empower them with the confidence they’ll need to meet them. Encourage growth and learning along the way, and you may just find that your employees are inspiring you on the business, too.

If you feel like you’re finding the right people and offering adequate training but still don’t have great retention, consider doing some self-reflection; the more you lose people, the more you’re pulled back in, so do your best to not lose sight of this. Are you paying fairly and to industry standards? Is your work environment pleasant? Do people feel heard and appreciated?  

If you treat your employees with the respect you’d want to be treated, they’re going to return the favor. Not only will they do their job well, but they’re more likely to go above and beyond, really maximizing their capabilities to ensure that you achieve the change you want to see in your business.

Trust That Someone Else Can Do What You Can

No matter how much time you put aside, regardless of the solid systems you have in place or the superstar teams you’ve hired, if you can’t let go of the little stuff, you’re never going to make it out. It can be very tempting to feel like you’re the only person who could possibly perform some of the tasks it takes to run your business. You did them in the beginning and now your business is a success, so of course at times you’ll feel like you’re the only one who knows how to do them just right. When it comes to the small stuff that keeps your business running though, a little bit of trust will set you free.

In reality, that team of outsourced experts is going to have no trouble at all churning out those simple, automated tasks that you sent to them (you know, the ones you set up efficient systems for; the same ones they do for countless other businesses successfully), it’s literally what their business is set up to do. Their model thrives on doing great work just like yours does, and they’re bound to manage your business needs above their own even, often putting their clients first, so it’s safe to say you’re in good hands.

And what about those employees that you hired, tirelessly trained, and work so hard to nurture? If you trusted them then, you can trust them now. At the end of the day, your success is equal to theirs, so they’re going to make sure they’re doing what they can to make it happen.

If you find yourself working in your business and start losing hope about all of those things that fit into the “working on your business” category, consider taking a step back to assess that things really are set up the way they should be. Chances are you’ll find some processes that can be automated, some tasks that can be outsourced, and some quality people that can take some of the load so that you aren’t the only one bearing it.

Your business will always require a bit of you in it – that’s why it’s your business in the first place – but take advantage of all of the possibilities out there and starting working on your business, rather than just in it.

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