Work On Not In

Have you ever been told, or said to yourself, that you should “work on your business and not in it?”

I’m sure you have.

But do you know what that means?  Do you know what activities are working on and which are working in?

Whenever I ask my clients or entrepreneur friends what “working on” means, in almost every case they describe tactical activities such as creating processes for employees, analyze the team’s time utilization to find efficiencies, or to do payroll, or practically any other task in the company.

Working on is strategic.  Working on develops the strategy that defines what work should be done (working in).

I know, that’s not a helpful definition, either.  That’s why I created the 60 Minute Mission for my clients. It gives them a framework for working on their business.  “Working on” focuses your brain toward the Why and What for the company — it determines the field of engagement.

The How of getting it done is working in.  How is tactical.  It engages on the field.

Here’s a quick example to be less abstract:


All companies need to train their employees from new ones to continuing education for the experienced ones.

If a small company has been doing ad hoc training as new people come on board, eventually training becomes unwieldy and ineffective.  The founder thinks (or maybe a team member asks for) the company needs formal training.

Working On the business in this example would entail determining Why and What training is important to the company’s objectives.  What key performance indicators (KPIs) would verify that training is leading to those objectives.  Then identifying and assigning who in the company should create and manage this training.

Working In would be finding or creating the right training programs or education for a specific job such as sales.  The one responsible for the sales training would research training options, pick the best one for the company and then oversee the sales team completes the training — possibly being the trainer.  In a small company, this might be the founder who is acting as the sales manager.  This gets turned into a replicable system for future salespeople to follow.

The example is a bit rudimentary and still a bit abstract so I want you to do the following exercise that will have you experience working on your business each week.

The 60 Minute Mission

The 60 Minute Mission is a guide for working on your business.  It’ll focus you on developing strategies for each area of your business that will lead to your vision of the company’s future.

  1. Set aside a 60 minute block each week.  To turn Working On into a habit, the 60 Minute Mission should be done the same day and same time every week without fail.  Set it to repeat on your calendar  with a reminder an hour or so before to make sure you are mentally prepared to focus on your 60 Minute Mission.
  2. Take 5 to 10 minutes to “Define The Field” in the Core.  What’s important to you and the company?  What is on the 90-day horizon? Are you making progress?  Pick one area of the company that needs to be worked on this week such as marketing, operations, finance, etc.  Write your answers in the Core section of the diagram above.
  3. The next 20 to 40 minutes is used to make a plan out of the Core.  Focus on strategies that will have the highest impact for this week’s work.  Turn it into the #1 objective for the week.  A good plan will accumulate into achieving your long-term vision.
  4. The next 5 to 10 minutes is to assign Actions.  What activities must be done and what is their priority?  Do or Assign to specific team member or vendor to complete that week (or over the course of weeks).
  5. Lastly, use the remaining 10 to 20 minutes to create culture with Team Talk (you’ll learn more about this in an upcoming article). Write a note(s) to a team member each week acknowledging some good work accomplished the week before.  Do a ‘state of the company’ video (about 5 minutes long) that shares one of the values that is important to the company’s vision, something that is successful in the company and what might be improved.  You can even acknowledge an individual or a team for completing a project or even exhibiting a company value (i.e. providing customer service above the required minimum for a disgruntled customer).

The 60 Minute Mission will keep you focused on what’s important in your business.  Over time you’ll develop stronger leadership skills and clarity in communicating your vision.  You’ll be more confident in your direction and the activities of your team.  Your team will trust you more as a leader, especially as you talk to them more and acknowledge their efforts.

Below is an excerpt from an Ignite Mastermind coaching session that has examples of how to Work On your business.


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