Working On the Business Instead of In the Business

I consider myself an accidental entrepreneur. I never dreamed I would own a company and MBA’s aren’t common in the public relations industry, so education beyond college was never on the horizon.  Now, eleven years into owning a PR firm, I realize there are things that I could learn about being a CEO. Hence, I’m entering into the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program this summer to hopefully learn best practices on running and navigating an ever-changing business.

With a healthy staff and a growing business, one may think school isn’t needed, but owners like myself grow accustomed to working IN the business, and not ON the business. Although I try to treat my company like I would treat a client, I think there comes a time for every owner where they ask themselves, “What else could I be doing?” to better the company.

Additionally, I think it takes several years IN the business to realize what you don’t know. I’ve seen many entrepreneurs launch a business with a perfectly spelled out plan that includes thorough research, a competitive analysis and even robust funding. However, there are elements, good and bad, outside of a beautiful business plan that are simply unpredictable and it takes being thrown curve balls to learn how to swing at them.

Here are five other reasons why working ON the business, whether it’s through a formal education or by consulting others, is important.

  1. Create or Revise a Business Plan – Having a business plan that comes to life in actionable ways can be a puzzle. For example, a goal of “improving company culture” only works if there’s tactical steps in place, and it takes discipline to do this, while keeping up with day to day operations. Revising a business plan with a keen eye can only help.
  2. Take a Fresh Look at the Business – It’s easy to play armchair quarterback to others’ businesses, but when it’s your own company, you can “drink the koolaid” and assume that you’re the most attractive company in town. Working on the business makes you give yourself some “tough love” about your company pitfalls.
  3. Get Well-Rounded Experience – When you are the sole owner, you can assume the role of janitor, HR, accounting and CEO. However, how well you wear these hats is debatable. There are only so many hours in the day, but being more proficient in the core tasks that a CEO is exposed to can better you as a leader and grow the company.
  4. Re-Motivate Yourself – It’s hard to think that owning a company can be dull, and most of the time it’s far from. But after being in business for so long, there is some monotony in the day-to-day work. I’ve re-motivated myself by networking and attending seminars, and learning form others is a natural way to help re-energize my mind in the business.
  5. Learn From & Meet Other Business Owners – It’s always comforting to commiserate with other business owners about the roller coaster that is owning a business. Although I’m in the marketing sector, I can always pick up on smart ways to handle operations from other businesses.
  6. Knowing How to Spend Your Time — When I evaluate my time, it’s always eye opening to see how much time is spent mentoring, managing financials, working on business strategy, sales or marketing. Working consistently ON the business can help define the accurate percentage of time that should be allocated to what tactic.