Are You Working “On” Your Business or “In” It?

When you work as a solopreneur, there never seems to be enough time to schedule a strategy session.

It’s hard to consider what might happen a year from now when you are under deadline to just complete what needs to be done today.

It is easy to fall into the trap that author Michael Gerber describes as working “in” your business as opposed to working “on” it.

Yet you need to do both if you are going to benefit from all your labor and make your business grow.

Gerber, author of The E-Myth Revisited, one of the top five best-selling business books of all time, is best known for his advice to entrepreneurs.

Too many of us become doers and we forget that we must simultaneously be strategists and visionaries as well. We need to work rationally as well as hard. We need to work towards a destination goal, not just toward completing the deadline of the day.

Here are five lessons from Gerber that have inspired us to stay focused on business growth and innovation.

Number 1: Organize your business around functions, not people.

Gerber’s contention is that the main reason many small businesses fail is that they lack processes and systems for doing business.

For professional bookkeepers and accountants, with an endless task load and clients who often dump disorganization on you and expect you to work miracles in 24 hours, it is extremely difficult not to be more client focused than business task focused, but you must make the effort.

For every function that you do at least once a week, you need to consider each step of it and determine if you are handling it efficiently.

Is there software that could help you complete this task faster? Of course there is…think Karbon…think Aero Workflow…think Jetpack Workflow…just to name three.

Is this an essential but simple task that could be farmed out to a part-time assistant?

Each function or task that you do needs to have its own system. Clients come and go, but your system remains constant and reliable. And it is those systems that will help you to leverage your time going forward.

Number Two: You have to see the pattern, understand the order, and experience the vision.

With each client, there is a pattern to handling them, scheduling their work, doing their work, and determining where their work fits in the vision of your business.

As you deconstruct each transaction to focus on its parts, duration of time needed to complete each part, and how much of that kind of work is profitable for your business, your system gets more and more fine-tuned.

Number Three: Create the business vision that you want.

If you were a physical therapist, for example, you might want to work especially with women having pelvic health issues, or with geriatric patients to help with their balance, or with children with crippling diseases, or with patients who sustained injuries at work.

In bookkeeping or accounting, you may also want to find a niche – in fact, I highly recommend you do. You may select an industry, such as mining or forestry or construction, and become expert in all the intricacies of work in that sector.

When you know what you want, you strategically seek out clients in that area as opposed to just hanging out your shingle and taking whoever rings your bell.

Gerber says he believes the “difference between great people and everyone else is that great people create their lives actively, while everyone else is created by their own lives, passively waiting to see where life takes them next.”

Treat your business like your life and live it actively, not passively waiting to see who might need your services next. Go after the work that makes you the most money and that you find most fulfilling.

Number Four: Learn new systems and new ways to work on a regular basis.

Gerber says the problem with most failing businesses is not that their owners don’t know enough about finances, marketing, management and operations (although he believes they don’t but “those things are easy enough to learn”) but that they spend their time and energy defending what they think they know.

Are you learning new systems and skills on a regular basis? Are you continuing to explore better ways to run your business more efficiently? Or in your heart, do you believe that you already know best?

Letting go of believing that you know best is one of the hardest things to do. But when you learn with an open mind, it can change your business destiny in a good way.

Number Five: Always work so that another professional could take over.

Gerber says that “if your business requires your presence, you don’t have a business, you have a job.”

Running a growing business means that you keep fine-tuning your systems to the point that any other trained bookkeeper or accountant could sit at your desk tomorrow, look over your systems (which should be written down in a binder or program) and immediately pick up where you left off.

Otherwise, you will end up working seven days a week and for long hours each day especially during your busiest season because nobody can help you.

Think about what might happen if you were suddenly laid up for a couple of days. Would you lose clients and cause chaos? Or could another trusted professional move in temporarily to keep everything rolling?

If you want a business, not a job, the answer has to be the latter.

The ultimate challenge: Finding time to work on your business

Knowing that you need to devise systems and capture them as a fully developed process is easy to say, but most bookkeepers and accountants are so busy they just can’t manage time to do those things. When the last task of the day is done, they are exhausted. How do you change that cycle?

The best way is to uncompromisingly schedule time to work on your own business into your calendar and treat it with the respect and commitment that you would approach any other client appointment.

Start with what is reasonable. A half day a week is a good beginning, or one full day every two weeks.

Spend part of that time ensuring that your business is looked after. Ensure all your invoices are sent, reminders are sent if needed, and all projects are reviewed and on target.

Divide the remaining time into two parts.

In the first part, look at the tasks you have done in the past couple of weeks and determine if they could have been done more efficiently by establishing a system.

For example, do you have a set formula for onboarding each new client? Is there new software available that might expedite some of the work you are doing manually? Could a simple change in the way you file things or approach a task streamline the process?

Examine your client base. Are you building your business or just doing a job? Are you spending an inordinate amount of time with one client without the profits to match the investment?

Remember that if you are spending all of your time servicing your current client base, you are not investing any time in growing new business. How could you find time to do that?

In the remaining portion of your time, look at the vision you have for your company.

What client base would strategically fit into your business? How could you approach someone in that sector to help you? What kind of competitive package could you offer to entice them into your business?

If you secured even 10 new clients suddenly, could you handle it? Do you need new technology or a part-time assistant to do some of the regular tasks that would leave you free to attract more clients?

If potential new clients google you, what will they find? Is your LinkedIn profile up to date? Does your website portray your company and its services accurately? What are you doing to grow your reputation as a trustworthy, knowledgeable player in your field?

What have you learned about managing your company in recent months? If you have no new skills, you need to actively go out and explore new ways to do things either through reading and studying or talking with others in your field.

Thank you for reading this post. Until next time take good care.

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