Effective Leadership: Work ON vs. Work IN the Business

by Brandon Bissell
Effective Leadership

There are many forms of effective leadership, and everyone in a leadership position has their own style. Like all leaders, I value the wisdom I have gained from others. The insights shared here represent a culmination of best practices garnered through study, learning, and experience. It is my hope you will find this information of value.

Have you heard the analogy about working ON the business vs. working IN the business? It’s a concept developed by Michael Gerber and discussed in his 1995 book The E-Myth Revisited.

Work in vs work on

Working IN your business

Working IN your business includes day-to-day tasks others are fully capable of handling. This includes the activities that make the business run, everything that creates and deploys your product, as well as acquiring and retaining customers. It’s the execution of those systems created by top-tier executives and consultants. For example:

Working in your business

When a business leader is distracted by the day-to-day activities that others can capably handle, he or she is misplacing energy and neglecting the big picture.

Working ON your business

Working ON your business is about vision: planning, goal-setting, identifying new directions or identifying where your company can improve.

This includes anything strategic:

  • Business strategy
  • Marketing strategy
  • Sales strategy
  • Product development
  • Research
  • Vision and decisions that live in the C-suite

As you start up or launch new products, working ON your business also includes creating the systems that make your business run, such as:

Working On Your business

Working IN the business is critical – you can’t have a running business without it! We have a lot of excellent people working IN the business, with all oars in the water propelling us on, but to where? Where are we supposed to be in 3–5 years? Why are we going there? Why are we doing this at all? What is our purpose? How are we going to get there and achieve whatever it is we are supposed to accomplish?

Effective leadership: The leader’s role

As president of 5THGEN and its entities, including Imperial, I see my role as a leader who devotes intentional time to working ON the business vs. working IN the business. And when I say intentional time, I mean the majority of my time.

Effective leadership

This means my team does not find me to be tactical or involved in operational initiatives. I am not required to step in to make changes in the organization. Don’t mistake this as a lack of interest or caring. It means I trust we have the right person taking care of that part of the business for all of us. The opposite of this would be to micromanage, and with that style, there isn’t time to work ON the business.

Effective leadership: Empowering others makes working ON the business possible

I will reiterate that I am a strong advocate for the empowerment of the team to execute what is within their job description. I am an advocate of a healthy balance for myself and our leadership team when it comes to working ON and IN the businesses. From my perspective, this is critical for any company that desires growth and success.

Like anything else in life, this is easier said than done, especially if you have a tough time delegating. But it is critical to make your business grow.

Imperial Advantage

With effective leadership and an empowered workforce, Imperial provides superior print and clinical trial support services. Our many subject matter experts ensure you get best-in-class printing and quality processes tailored to your trial, plus unsurpassed end-to-end support. This includes award-winning design and content creation, layout, and translation services, print and digital production, kitting, warehousing, and global logistics. Contact us to discuss how we can eliminate your pain points.

What are your best strategies to move from working IN the business to working ON the business? Please scroll down and add your thoughts in the comment box below.

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