• Craig Handy

Working 'In' vs 'On' the Business

We all have our responsibilities in the workplace, whether we are making sales calls, designing engaging content, supporting our customer’s requests, or leading a development team, we all contribute to the success of the business. While everyone is doing their expected role for the business, it was widely expected that the CEO would be the one who is responsible for the success of the company. Legendary business consultant Chet Holmes put it best when he said that there is often a divide between those who work ‘in’ the business and those who work ‘on’ the business. Chet found that the CEOs of many companies let the responsibility solely fall on them to work ‘on’ the business which, in his view, was a huge mistake. So what is the distinction between working ‘in’ and working ‘on’ the business?


Working ‘In’ vs ‘On’ the Business


Working ‘in’ the business is, quite simply, performing the tasks that are part of your immediate role with the aim to fulfill the objective at hand. This is performing sales calls, running marketing campaigns, writing code, etc. This work is vital for the business to succeed because it is quite often the reason for the company to exist in the first place. However, far less employees ever find themselves working ‘on’ the business which is a shame. Working ‘on’ the business would be doing things that improve how the business operates which in turn largely benefits the everyday tasks.


An example would be the sales team analyzing call recordings to find out what words being said resulted in more deals closed, then making a script with the key words in it and testing to see if it improved the call results.


Another example could be discovering what bottlenecks exist in the hand-off from a sales rep to an account manager. After investigating, the account manager has to spend a lot of time looking up the information on the account and the sales rep is often taken away from their responsibilities to answer questions from the account manager. A solution might be creating a section in the company’s CRM to allow the sales rep to input all of the information needed and then automate the hand-off of that information to the account manager. Ultimately saving the sales rep valuable time and giving the account manager everything they need to keep the customer happy.


Working ‘on’ the business doesn’t need to be complicated and it doesn’t have to only be done by the C-suite or VPs. Taking the time at all levels to find ways to improve the business is a key component to driving future success. So what are some things you can do to work ‘on’ the business?



Communicate With Colleagues


The time old saying ‘the squeaky wheel gets the grease’ comes to mind here. If we see challenges or problems in our current work process, we can either fix them ourselves if we are able or we must communicate these challenges to others who may be able to provide a solution that we are unable to achieve alone. Don’t get this confused with ‘complaining’, as that helps no one, but when we take the time to communicate challenges we increase the number of minds who can help. I cannot count the number of times where a team was struggling to get a particular data point and when they shared this difficulty it turned out that another team had the data point easily available and were able to provide it to them.

Having structured ways to communicate is also a great way to encourage this behavior. Whether it is a message board, project management tool, or something entirely different, you can make the sharing of ideas and solutions very easy.


Set Time Aside


When we make time for something and put it on the calendar it becomes all the more real. This could be in the form of a monthly working meeting, a weekly team discussion, or requiring every employee to spend an hour bi-weekly thinking about how they could improve their own or their peers process. If you set aside time dedicated to working ‘on’ the business you start to breed a work culture that is always looking for a way to do what they do better or find new ways the business can grow.


Test Changes


So you have communicated with colleagues, set time aside to work on improvements, but how do you know when you have been successful? It is vital that you test the solutions you come up with to see where and how they have affected the business. Common improvements might be reducing processing time, increasing customer engagement, shortening sales cycles, but regardless, you should know what has worked so you can continue to build off of it or what didn’t work as planned so you can take it back to the drawing board.

One of the great metrics you can draw from testing your improvements is to find out how much value you add to the business per hour spent working ‘on’ it. Certain fast paced work environments might struggle to see how taking an employee away for a couple hours a month to improve their process is beneficial. Often in this case there is a dollar value associated with those hours (eg. A rep sells $1000 an hour worth of goods). But if you can see that your time spent improving the business on average adds $50 an hour in sales per hour spent on improvement, it can become pretty easy to see why working ‘on’ the business makes sense in the long run.


What are you waiting for?


In today’s business world, it is no longer just up the the CEO and a select few VPs to make the kind of business improvements that grow the company. It is everyone’s responsibility and each person can provide a unique perspective at every level. Improvements that affect an entire department or just one sales rep, all add the the overall efficiency and create a better company everyday.


So, ask yourself, ‘what can I do to work ‘on’ the business?”



Ready to work ‘on’ your business but not sure where to start? Shoot us an email at info@jamesonstrategies.com to get a free business improvement evaluation.


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