What does working on your business or in it mean?

When was the last time you “worked on your business not in it” and I mean in normal working hours?

I got thinking about this recently here at WAG when I was reminded that there is only a finite amount of time to deliver for my clients in my business.

It’s also a sad side effect that because I use the available time working ‘in’ the business that the work ‘on’ the business gets done out of hours, making for long days and longer weeks.

You see, I’d been talking to Nick Cramp, a business coach whose catchphrase is ‘Better before Bigger’.

Picking up the phone is restricted by the amount of time you have available to you in working hours. Therefore businesses set targets for dials and use this as a base line for activity before they look at analysing the results. Business owners or managers can quickly overlook the fact that there are more tasks in the modern office than there ever used to be.

Thirty plus years ago, when I started out in the corporate world the role was much simpler.

We had an open drawer with hand written customer record cards with every detail about the products and pricing they took from us. There would be notes around the conversation and the order would be entered into the huge box called a computer which miraculously printed it in the warehouse.

The simplicity was to sort your cards each day for that delivery area and make two piles. One for ‘due to call’ and the other to go back in the drawer. You could then quickly tally up how many calls you had to make and further sort by time agreed to call. This gave you the days schedule and you were off.

Taking the orders, checking stock, matching pricing, hitting send and promising your next call back.

Compare that with today.

Email correspondence. Social media channels. Now imagine the rabbit holes those two activities create and the morning is gone. No point picking up the phone now it’s lunch time.

The afternoon arrives and there’s a flurry of correspondence and notifications from this morning. Goodness, it’s nearly home time. I’ll call them tomorrow.


This is working in the business but not on it. And it’s barely working in it as, if I may be so bold, the activity is not driving the conversations towards a customer placing an order or finding new business to transact with.

So, what does it mean when I ask ‘what does it mean to work on your business instead of in it?’

Looking at your number of dials over a period of time and assessing the time spent, the conversations held and the commitment gained are an indication of how well the activity is going. Have your dials reduced because of the other activities taking up people’s time?

When Nick talked about ‘Better before Bigger’ I was reminded of my own 4R Formula and how implementing that approach led to an increase in productivity.

Let me explain:

By selecting the right people to speak to for the right reason at the right time there’s no excuse in putting off the conversation because it will result in a positive outcome. The way to stay positive in the qualification calls is knowing that you are not going to reap the rewards today but simply sowing the seeds for the future.

This means that if other activities are creeping into the productive hours of the working day it may well be time to revisit the purpose of the activity to be in alignment with supporting the phone calls and conversations being had to generate business.

By working on your business in equal parts to identify future customers as well as ensuring the follow up conversations happen at the right time you are ensuring there will always be growth. be sure to involve the people who carry out the tasks for their ideas and expectations to be sure that it aligns with the future vision. When we are included we become invested.

When should you plan to work on your business?

A good best practice to implement is to set aside a regular time in the diary. The most successful business owners I know do this monthly however quarterly can be just as effective. Six monthly tends to be too long a gap but if you try it you will recognise this when you are left with an overwhelming feeling that not enough has been done or there’s still so much to do.

Consider what it is that you want to concentrate on.

Are you looking to crunch numbers as in £££’s on the balance sheet? Or have your outgoings changed, will it be a negative impact? Does the number of new customers interest you? have you retained or lost any existing customers? Are there any significant factors that have led to these points?

Truth is the list of questions will be up to you and my recommendation would be to look at as many as possible until they take no time at all to answer. These will be the business plan part.

Next should be Marketing. Content wherever you need that to be broadcast including any website and including the qualification calls with new potential customers. All of this works hand in hand with Sales.

Do the same people handle both marketing and sales? What is the process to be sure they are taken through the journey to become a customer? Are you able to identify whether you need any extra steps or if customers skip some? This can really help you be better in all areas of looking after the customer or account management.

What this allows you to do is to step back from the busy-ness of business and look in on it with fresh eyes. Haven’t done it in a while? Give it a try. You may spend the best hour doing so to bring you closer to being the best.

How do you disconnect when you’re on holiday? Is this any different for business owners than employees?

Often, I speak to business owners who literally remove themselves from the business to work on it, Yet, the best ideas surface when we are in downtime mode i.e.. on holiday. Right when we really mean it when we tell family we’re switching off. By focusing on other activities that are not work related and allow us to relax and have fun we find ideas pop into our heads as if from nowhere. The trick then is squirrelling it onto a scrap of paper or into our phone notes so we don’t get caught out for ‘working on it’ when we’re not supposed to be!

It’s not just a symptom of business owners either. I know when i worked in my corporate roles there would be challenges and problems solving working subconsciously in my head that would surface with a solution.

We all need to be reminded that we need to allow our inspiration to flow. It can’t be forced and the more we try the less likely we will be to solve anything.

I’m not sure who said it but “The best way out is through”.

Which leads me nicely to signing off from my ramblings about working on your business by saying; the best way for better before bigger is through conversations. Need help? Let’s grab a ChinWAG and see how we can work together.

Stay curious and speak soon,


Work on your business

More on why you should work on your business and not in it.


Planning. Research. Preparation. Growth.


How you can start working on your business

Plan your time and book out regular ‘working on the business’ sessions.

Research the data from your business and identify where you can be better.

Preparation to implement will mean involving whoever else works in your team, if you have one, or making sure there’s more additional time to make the changes.

Growth patterns will be evident from the numbers as you use this process and compare from each session.

Remember, the cost of inaction is far greater than making a mistake.

That conversation with Nick Cramp that spurred this blog? 

You can grab a listen to the whole conversation over here: https://makingconversationscount.com/working-on-your-business-not-in-it/

Apply the 4R Formula:

The right person, the right time, the right way, and the right results.

Your first impression matters.

To sample the philosophy of my approach to relationship building you may enjoy my best selling book ‘Making Conversations Count: How to sell over the phone’  

Follow-on resources to get you started for ‘not quite’ free lead generation

Grab a copy of my best-selling book “Making Conversations Count: How to sell over the phone”. It’s a great place to start making the right first impression.

Free lead generation resources from me

How ironic! I have a free resources page with free downloads (no email address required) video snippets and guest interviews where I give lots of take away tips.

Send me an email if you have want to comment on any of the details in this blog.

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Wendy Harris making conversations count telemarketing training author podcast