As the senior manager in your business you are responsible for setting the future direction of the business and your people are depending on you to make the right decisions. These decisions cannot be taken effectively, without spending sufficient time ON the business.
Working ON the business means ensuring you have the people, products and processes in place to deliver your growth strategy.
Working IN the business means that your people, products and processes are all performing effectively to achieve the growth strategy.
Let us assume for the sake of these 2 quick exercises that you work a 5 day week in a 52 week year, giving you a 260 day year. That you take a total of 6 weeks “off” for personal and public holidays, so your year is now closer to 230 days than 365 days.
Let us now assume that you spend just 1 day a week in IN the business meetings, that’s 46 days and just 1 day a week managing your IN the business emails (you wish), that’s another 46 days – Over half the working year gone and you’ve not yet had any (real) time ON the business.
Look back through your diary for the last month and quickly jot down how much time you spent ON the business – time away from the day to day – to think, discuss or plan the future of your business?
Include the time you spent in specific planning meetings, or reading, networking, attending conferences, meeting with your customers, stakeholders or with your external peer group.
Total it up and express it as a % of your working month…
If you scored less than 5% … you cannot be serious
If you scored between 5% and 10% … it’s a start
So what’s stopping you spending more time ON the business?
Look back through your diary for the last quarter and identify what you did with your time?
When I did this in my role as a Commercial Director it roughly fell into 3 equally split areas: external meetings, internal meetings and desk time (not really surprising given my role) – drilling down into each of the areas, I was able to identify the IN the business and the ON the business activity and shift the balance accordingly for the benefit of myself, my team and my business.
How much time you spend ON the business, depends on what your growth plans are … for example a merger or acquisition could demand greater ON time than a new product or service; a new market entry could demand greater ON time than a new site opening.
Size is NOT an excuse
I often hear small business owners (who wear many hats), say that they simply don’t have the time to step back from / out of / let go of, the business as they find themselves fighting fires, placating dissatisfied customers, getting the website back up and tidying the books for tomorrow’s meeting with the Accountant. But if their primary reasons for doing things themselves is to save money, or that they feel they can do it much faster and better than anyone else in the business – They should think of the opportunity cost. As “business owners” they set the direction and growth goals of the business and they have a greater chance of success, the more time they spend time ON the business.
If you are still struggling to find more ON time then try starting with just one hour a day, spent on planning the implementation of an idea you heard about or read about or saw in action – it can be as small and as simple as you like, as long as you think it will add value to your business.