By Esther Vargas

An entrepreneur recently commented that, as much as he hears mentors and advisors talk about the importance of business owners working ON their business versus IN their business, he really wasn’t sure what that meant.  What exactly is the distinction?  In response, I asked him if he were to take a month or two off, would the business continue to run well without him?  He replied with a sarcastic “yeah, right”.

I explained to him that that’s what working ON your business is all about. It’s about setting up your company with effective business and operational systems and processes, human resources, and checks and balances so that you can effectively go away for a time with the peace of mind that things will run smoothly without you.  That’s what Michael Gerber intended 35 years ago when he coined the phrase “working ON the business” in his best-selling book The E-Myth, and it still holds true today.

Now, to get there takes some dedicated time working ON the business.  Here are some examples of activities that constitute working ON your business and working IN your business:

Working ON Your Business:

  • All things Strategy (visioning, strategic planning, marketing strategy, sales strategy, product development strategy, financial strategy and projections, organizational structure, and culture, exit strategy, etc.)
  • Meeting with Mentors
  • Creating and automating processes
  • Creating strategic partnerships
  • Innovating
  • Building a team
  • Growth-oriented activities

Working IN Your Business:

  • All things Tactical and Day-to-Day
  • Short-term planning and execution
  • Accounting/Bookkeeping
  • Coding software
  • Crisis management
  • Activities to maintain the business

Besides not being able to take a month or two off without your business falling apart, another result of not taking time to work ON the business is that of missing strategic opportunities due to being immersed in the day-to-day.

Taking some time over the next few days or weeks to assess and adjust how much you are working ON the business versus IN the business is a good starting point towards building a sustainable foundation for your company.  Before you know it, you’ll be able to take a couple of months off without any fallout.

The University of Central Florida Business Incubation Program is a community resource that provides early-stage companies with the tools, training, and infrastructure to become financially stable, high growth/impact enterprises. Since 1999, this award-winning program has provided vital business development resources resulting in over 300 local startup companies reaching their potential faster and graduating into the community where they continue to grow and positively impact the local economy.

With eight facilities throughout the region, the UCF Business Incubation Program is an economic development partnership between the University of Central Florida, the Corridor, Orange, Osceola, Seminole, and Volusia Counties, and the cities of Kissimmee, Orlando, and Winter Springs. For the 2017/2018 fiscal years, the activities of these participating firms have helped to sustain more than 6,725 local jobs and have had a cumulative impact of over $725 million on regional GDP and over $1.3 billion on regional sales. During the same period, the program has returned more than $12.00 in state and local taxes for every $1.00 invested in the program. In addition, for every $1.00 of public investment, the firms also produced $118 of additional regional GDP and $226 of regional sales. For more information, visit