Once a business starts growing, the entrepreneur faces a challenge: do they work in the business or work on the business?
Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP/File
Entrepreneurs face a difficult challenge in how they should be spending their time as a business grows.
The dilemma is commonly referred to as needing to "work on the business rather than work in it."
Typically, entrepreneurs are heavily involved in working directly with their customers during the startup phase. They do much of the work necessary to generate revenues. Tasks such as sending out invoices, bookkeeping and developing marketing materials are squeezed into their days as they can find time.
And if there's no time during the day, these things may get put off until the end of the day or the weekend.
But with growth comes the need to add more employees, and with a growing staff comes the need to develop procedures and systems to make sure that all the necessary work of the business gets accomplished.
This is when entrepreneurs' own job description needs to begin to change, as it is up to them to "work on the business" and make sure it evolves and develops.
However, for many entrepreneurs this transition in roles is much easier said than done.
Often it's the "in the business" work that led someone to start the business in the first place. The owner may have started a cabinet company because he loves working with wood. Or someone may have started a Web development company because of her design skills and knack on the computer.
It can be hard to let go of work you really enjoy doing.
Another issue that can get in the way of this transition for the entrepreneur is being uneasy with delegating important tasks to others. Developing good training programs, clear procedures and effective systems can help make that process a successful one.
I hear from many entrepreneurs that the process of moving from a hands-on role to more of a management role can create anxiety. They tell me that they feel they're not busy enough. Or they say that they feel as if they're not really contributing.
From my own experience, I can say that these feelings will ease over time as the business grows and the entrepreneur becomes more comfortable in his new role.
Some entrepreneurs are not sure what success looks like when working "on the business." They are more accustomed to checking things off the to-do list by working with customers and doing more routine work.
But creating effective systems and building a strong culture will become a bigger part of the entrepreneur's job. Any outcomes from these tasks will evolve slowly. Therefore, it will take a long time to see the results of these efforts.
It's best to view the transition of the entrepreneur's role in the company as a one- to two-year project. As you begin to delegate parts of what you do, replace them with things that will improve the business and help it grow.
Moving from working in the business to working on the business is best accomplished if it's viewed as a gradual process rather than an abrupt event.