Work On Your Business, Not In Your Business

Anna Roberts

Apr 2016 ⋅ 4 min read

Many entrepreneurs find it tough to delegate. It's your business - you've spent years planning and dreaming, and your hard work is finally paying off. To let go and start trusting others with your business is a big step.

Like it or not, it's a step you'll have to take if you want your business to reach its full potential.

Here's why you should work on your business, not in it.

The 'hands-off' approach

You may have always wanted to be the type of leader who gets stuck in alongside your employees, but this well-meaning approach can often be counter-productive. When taking this stance, you might end up spending time on relatively menial tasks or on business processes that you aren't particularly good at.

As the founder of your business, you're uniquely positioned to drive the business forward - but you must use your time efficiently in order to do so. That means leaving the sales calls to someone who's an expert, or letting your newly-hired admin assistant do the work they were hired to do without interruption.

Avoiding micromanagement

Delegating tasks is a necessity if you're to start using your time more efficiently, but poor delegation is more problematic than no delegation.

Entrepreneurs are often tempted to micromanage. Peering over the shoulders of employees, constantly checking that staff are carrying out tasks to their satisfaction; micro-managers are a nightmare to work under.

Micromanagement wastes the time of both the employee and the manager, but inexperienced entrepreneurs are prone to this costly practice. That's because entrepreneurs previously had to fill every business role themselves, and have a set idea of what each task should involve.

To prevent yourself from falling into the micromanagement trap, start by communicating properly.

Improving communication

If you're unhappy with your employees' work, or don't feel they're completing tasks quickly enough, the solution isn't for you to takeover.

Instead, work on training and communication. Perhaps you haven't adequately explained certain tasks, or there's been a misunderstanding between you and the employee. Maybe they don't have the right tools for the job. These issues are almost always easily resolved, whether by stocking up on new equipment or clarifying particular processes in a brief, impromptu training session.

For complex or high level roles, thorough training can take weeks. This huge drain on resources is temporary, however, and your time investment should see a quick return.

The temptation to micromanage will be significantly reduced, your employees will work more productively, and you can work on your business - safe in the knowledge that your new staff members know what they're doing.

Business meeting

Don't hold your business back

If you don't delegate to employees, you'll soon begin to hold your business back - not just because you aren't making strategic decisions, but because you're failing to account for your weaknesses.

No-one is perfect. You might have plenty of strengths in business, but no doubt there's at least one aspect that you're not the best at. It's important to recognise that your abilities restrict the business - unless you turn to delegation.

It takes some humility to admit that you need assistance if your business is to thrive, but if you want to see your business reach new heights, it's necessary to find some!

Turning to bigger plans

Effective delegation can free up hours (or even days) each week for you to put to good use. It's time to revisit those grand plans you dreamt up before you started your business.

Whether it's creating a new product line, expanding to another region or seeking investment, these plans potentially hold huge value to your company - and they may help you to fulfil your long term ambitions as a business owner.

During the infancy of your company, these are the tasks that you will never want to delegate to employees - they're critical, and the future of your company is dependent on the path you decide to take as a result of these strategic decisions.

As the company founder, you must work to define and maintain the values of your business and brand to your liking. There's much more to a brand than a logo. The decisions you make at this early stage will shape your brand for years to come - so it's vital that you make them, and no-one else.

If you're having to work on the front line of your company, you'll rarely be able to take a step back and assess the wider situation, let alone implement your long term plans. You can create far more value for your company by working 'on' your company, rather than in it.

You may wish to be seen as a hands-on boss who understands how the business operates at every level, but you'll have to compromise if you want to start working on bigger plans for your business.

Of course, there's middle ground here. You can make regular visits to your offices and business premises and catch up with staff frequently while using most of your time to work on strategic elements of your business instead of getting your hands dirty.

Delegation is just one part of staff management that you should aspire to master. Effective staff management boosts staff engagement, wellbeing and retention rates - three factors that are key to the success of every business.