Why working ON your business yields more results than working IN it.

I started discussions with an owner of a window installation company, just before Thanksgiving. His company is a two-man shop, and he is very hands-on, as many small business owners are. This particular business owner claims to see the value of a website and the need to conduct business online. However, shortly after reviewing the proposal, he claimed that he was entirely too busy to undertake the project of developing his Internet presence and online marketing strategy. He had no time to meet with me for a follow-up appointment, because he was too busy working IN his business, and “could not” find the time to work ON his business.

Of course, working IN your business is important, isn’t it? After all, we can confidently say that it is what you must do to make money, right? But is it actually costing you money in the long run?

I run into this everyday. The Heating contractor, who cancels several appointments to fix thermostats. The restaurant owner who just can’t make the time. There are countless examples of small business owners who seem to miss the bigger picture. Or perhaps they see it but don’t think there is anything they can do about it. These business owners place so much value on the short-term that they fail to see the importance of developing long-term strategies to keep their business strong and stable.

I wonder: how could a small business owner, who needs to work IN his business for short-term financial gains, still give enough attention to working ON his business to help it prosper long-term?

This relates directly to the third habit of Stephen Covey’s (http://www.stephencovey.com/) Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. The idea Covey embraces is that putting first things first is, above all, the key to prioritizing work. As Covey explains, some things are very important but, because they aren’t urgent; they get ignored. The window company owner knows his website is important, but because he’s so overwhelmed with day to day work, the website never makes it to the top of his list.

Interestingly, now in March, the window installation company has almost no work. And the owner, who still claims to see the value in a website, is afraid to spend any money. His online presence, although key to his success, remains one of those things he hopes he will get to one day.

If you know and understand that you need to be working ON your business now, here are three suggestions that may work well.

  • Make a commitment to look at the big picture and see where you would like your business to be 2-3 years down the road. Make business decisions based on that long-term vision.
  • Schedule just two hours (at the same day and time) each week to examine where your business is and where you would like it to be. Make this time sacred, without exception, to make important decisions about your business.
  • Look back over the last 12 months and the hours you spent “installing windows” when you could have been developing an online presence to bring in dozens of high-income projects. Ask yourself…. do I wish I had installed a strong online presence instead?

If you do, it’s not too late to make an important decision today. Get help and get moving! The Internet is not going away!

To the business owner who doesn’t understand that he needs to work ON his business, I hope you are still in business 5 years from now when 95% of your competition has an online presence and you are wondering why your phone is not ringing.

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. This is a must read for every small business owner who chooses procrastination on important business issues. As a business owner myself I understand the wisdom of stepping back and looking at the big picture frequently.

    I can only hope that this message helps you get through to the hardheads. If they don’t wakeup soon and create a strong online presence they are doomed to failure.

  2. I’m reminded of the book Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson. This little parable talks about change in our world and how we must prepare for it rather than choosing to ignore it and continue doing things as we alsways have. Creating an online prescence is a MUST is today’s world. Perhaps the parable would remind people of how important it is to make time to prepare for change.


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