In the business—On the business


You are an entrepreneur. You have begun the journey. The old job is gone and you are FREE.

Time for talk is over!
A is for Action!
This is GO time!
3.2.1. Launch!
Drop the hammer!

Get some clients, hit the grindstone and start churning out money. That’s what you’re supposed to do. Go! Go! Go!

A lot of people do it that way. It’s a popular method: you start working, work yourself to the bone, make a few bucks along the way, and then start the cycle again. If you are saying anything along the lines of how much work YOU need to do, only YOU can do this, this is YOUR responsibility, and you suddenly find YOUR company has three employees, You, You, and You, then you may have a problem.

You gave yourself a demotion, from boss to employee. Congratulations.

The reason I say this with a slightly larger tone of sarcasm is because of the frequency in which this occurs. It’s like somewhere on the “Be an Entrepreneur” brochure they put some line in that says “work yourself to death” and people took that line to heart but didn’t read the part that said “Be the Boss.” These are two totally different things.

So let’s discuss the difference between “in the business” and “on the business.”

Most people get stuck within the “in the business” trap. That is where they work a lot—and I mean a lot. I’ve done my fair share of 100+ hour work weeks; I once did a 72 hour stretch on nothing but Pepsi, Skittles and cigarettes. I got a lot done, had a lot more to do, but my friends thought I was unsafe and made me go home (something about CNC machines and getting my fingers cut off or worse). They didn’t understand that no work means no pay, no pay means no food, and no food is a problem.

So when you are working “in the business” you are doing the normal operations of the business. If you are a storeowner you’re at the store and if you’re a white collar professional you’re out professing. In my case I’m knocking out a post and you’re doing that thing which directly brings in the revenue. From your view “In” is the most important thing you can be doing.

I have a friend, he’s a solo computer consultant, he is always “in the business,” and he is the busiest guy in town. If I ask him about hiring someone he either doesn’t have time or “nobody else can do what I do.” Either way, he’s a one-man band; unless he changes I don’t think he’ll make it that long—a couple years, maybe.

“On the business,” however, is when you work on the business itself. It’s when you really think about what the business is doing and what you need to do to improve it. It’s that part when you say “I have better things I can be doing, let’s hire …” It’s where you identify opportunities for improvement or growth and think about how to solve them. Once you get to that next step of the ladder, you identify more opportunities and solve them. That’s how you move up the ladder. It’s not a secret—it’s what separates the growing small business from the ones that stay small. It’s just a different way of prioritization.

I’m going to use myself as the example between the two, not for any specific reason, I just think there are a lot of readers who would say “what do you know about this, you’re a professional blogger?” Plus, it really exemplifies how even in an extreme case where I discuss business all day, there is still a difference between the two.

Let’s talk about behinds the scenes of The Logical Entrepreneur.

Blogging takes content, website stuff, social media stuff, and a host of other things that honestly you never think about. It’s a lot of work to do well. I could choose to do all of this myself, and I can work really hard at doing it, but I can do it. It will take a lot of time, but it’s possible. That looked like a quick way to get caught in the “In the business” trap. It wouldn’t take more than a month for me to burn out; I see a lot of people do it. I’ve done it. Take it all on and burn baby burn.

My “On the business” focus was to get us up and running as quickly as possible, set the tone, and really high level items like that. I knew I couldn’t delegate the writing, but everything else had to go. I don’t want to be in the “In” trap. So I give everything away.

I believe in delegation, you may not—maybe you cannot afford it and everybody’s circumstances are different. The bigger point is to stop doing the “In” stuff and do more “on” stuff. You can hire it out or do it yourself, it’s your call. In my case it was an easy decision. It’s hard to write if you’re exhausted. I end up writing a lot of garbage, so in my case I spend a lot of ‘On the business’ time finding and delegating tasks and roles.

In the business time:

When I am working in the business my primary focus is to write original content, that’s my job.

On the business time (more strategic and moves us up the ladder):

  • Work with the graphics guys to create a homogeneous look and feel across one website and seven social media channels.
  • Create brand awareness across the same seven social media channels (I got a social media Queen for that).
  • To improve the quality of the content, I needed a few copy editors. I had to find and recruit them.
  • I looked for a virtual assistant, just to off load more “in” tasks.

Now I’m facing a problem, I need more content; I can choose one of two paths:

In: Roll up your sleeves and get it done. It’s a good time to prove hard work is its own reward.

On: Consider and implement ways to entice other entrepreneurial writers to join my efforts.

And you can see it’s a dilemma and easy to get caught in the trap. I think, “just a few more articles a week, really how hard can it be? Enticing other writers seems so hard to do and it will just be easier to write more by myself. Really, it won’t be that hard, three more articles a week….”

Snap, it’s that quick. I got trapped “in.”

In my situation now my choices are often a question of delegating a task and my working “on” the business often boils down to be finding the right person to help me. It’s not that I couldn’t learn to do these things, it just more practical and cost effective me to hire them out. That’s an important distinction. When I owned Industrial Hobbies, often working “on” the business was simply improving a process, making a fixture, speeding up a cycle time; anything that was an investment to get time back.

When Industrial Hobbies took off, I had a single CNC machine, that I named “Old Trusty.” She was slow, but she got the job done. I had orders coming out of my ears and customers who prepaid a 50% deposit were pounding on me. I had headaches, chest pain, you name it, but kept working. I never stopped, with enough caffeine, nicotine, and fructose you can continue to function. Onlookers watched me dig my own grave, and I couldn’t shovel fast enough to keep up. My dad is the person who stopped me, like some sort of weird intervention. He talked with me, we discussed the difference between “in” and “on.” He knew enough about production to discuss the issues and see the problems, and then he helped me out of my own grave. I had changed the phone and the website to say, “Due to the overwhelming demand we are shutting down this month to re-tool our production facility.” I had called the existing customers and explained that I couldn’t support them if I was dead and there was going to be a delay. Every customer understood. It took about a month to re-tool and bring my new machine up to speed; I hired a helper or two in the process. During that time I didn’t work “in” the business at all. One hundred percent of my time was focused “on” the business. The new machine was about 12 times faster than Old Trusty and produced a part that took less finishing, which made everything go even quicker. I didn’t lose a single customer, and even gained a few because the downtime had afforded us to make some improvements to the product.

I survived the process, and in the process figured out how to keep a better work life balance, shortened the days to 12 hours, I quit working Sundays, but still worked Saturday, however I never ran production on the weekend again. That was my day to work “on” the business.


About Author


Hi, I am Aaron Moss, the driving force behind The Logical Entrepreneur website and social presence. I thank you so much for stopping by and hope you enjoyed your visit.