by Bill Collier
Unless you’ve just been released from a long incarceration in a Turkish prison, you know that the concept of working on your business – rather than in it – was popularized by Michael Gerber in his mega-hit book, “The E-Myth Revisited.”
Gerber made many great points (which explains the “mega-hit” part), but the on/in distinction is the big takeaway for most readers.
Here’s an excerpt:
“Go to work on your business rather than in it, and ask yourself the following questions:
•How can I get my business to work, but without me?
•How can I get my people to work, but without my constant interference?
•How can I spend my time doing the work I love to do rather than the work I have to do?”
So, what does it mean to work on your business?
Well, one of Gerber’s main themes is the idea of systems. Systemize everything. Manage systems, not people.
It’s terrific advice, of course, but many small-business owners still struggle, even after reading “E-Myth.” What’s a system? What systems are needed? Where do you start?
My answer: Anything can be a system. A system is simply a way to avoid not making things up as you go along.
•Instead of plucking interview questions out of thin air, create a hiring system.
•Leaving the coffee pot on overnight or forgetting to set the alarm? Create a “last person out the door” system.
Here’s a system I’ve used for years in my own businesses:
“Never, ever ask for computer help until you’ve restarted it. Period.”
Simple? Yep. Like I said, anything can be a system. Not all systems are this simple, but you get the idea.
Beyond creating and installing systems, how else can you work on your business?
Perhaps more to the point, how can you find the time to work on your business when you’re consumed by it all day, every day?
Here’s a way to let the ideas and time find you: Constantly be in “improvement opportunity mode.” Every time an error or crisis occurs, stop. Avoid the temptation to put out the fire and get back to work. Analyze what just happened. Was it human error, or could a system – even a simple one – prevent future recurrence? If so, create it right then and there. In many cases, you can do this sort of “postmortem” work in a matter of minutes.
Planning is a great way to work on your business. As an early riser, my favorite planning time is early Sunday mornings, before my wife gets up. And business trips can turn into mini planning retreats – if you keep the TV turned off in your room.
My friend Tom Lee, owner of Duct Systems, likes thinking about his business while cutting the grass. Ron Ameln, publisher of this magazine, really embraces this concept by taking the entire St. Louis Small Business Monthly team on an annual out-of-town planning retreat.
Exactly what you do is less important than developing the habit. Start working on your business today.
“Do it. Do it now!” -Arnold Schwarzenegger
Bill Collier is the St. Louis-area coach for The Great Game of Business. He helps businesses increase accountability and results with open-book management. He is the author of “How to Succeed as a Small Business Owner … and Still Have a Life.” He can be reached at 314-221-8558 or email@example.com. His blog is http://ggobstl.wordpress.com.