Many business owners struggle to make the shift from working in their business to working on their business because they’re so used to running the day-to-day operations that they don’t realize what’s required to do things differently. It’s not about tactics or to-do lists, it’s about the owner’s mindset and how they view their role in the business.
Since it’s their company, their name on the door, and their signature on the checks, they think that whatever they’re doing is the owner’s work. But until they can break free from that mindset, they’re stuck working in the business—another Technician left in charge with no way to change it. As Ilene Frahm talked about her in post, Work On It, Not Just In It, business owners need to shift their perspective. When they can step back and see the larger picture, it can change everything.
I want to share the story of one of my clients who recently felt this shift. I hope that it will resonate with you as it did with him.
Ryan owns a property title insurance company. He bought the company from his father, a lawyer, who started it almost 50 years ago. But his father still worked In the business day-to-day, and the business had been set up to revolve around him in almost every conceivable way. Ryan soon recognized that this pattern wasn’t sustainable.
During our coaching, we talked again and again about how the business would have to change so that Ryan didn’t replace his father as the center cog in this machine. He wanted to run things differently, in a way that supported his life and his goals and made the business more efficient and sustainable.
Ryan learned the business through years of study and observation—getting the lay of the land and learning how things were done inside the company. But because of his father’s day-to-day involvement, Ryan struggled to figure out where he fit into his own business; should he be managing the employees, looking after the finances, or studying to take over operations once his father retired?
Things went on this way for quite a while, with Ryan trying to lay a foundation for the business he wanted to run while still figuring out his new role as owner with his father so firmly in the picture.
Ryan and I spent some time putting together the organizational chart for his company. What we created mostly reflected the current setup of the business, with a few tweaks here and there to increase efficiency, management oversight, and financial controls. When it came time to put Ryan’s position on the chart, he hesitated, unsure about where to place himself. I asked him, “Ryan, what is your job in the company?” He replied by talking about the various activities the company does, so I asked him again: “Ryan, what is your job in the company?” He got quiet for a moment, then responded with, “My job is to lead the company.”
AHA! That was it. That was the spark he needed. In that moment, pieces started to fall into place for Ryan and things became so much more clear. He had been looking for a role within the business, some discrete part to call his own, but what was required of him as the owner was to lead his company toward the vision that he’d laid out—working on the business so that others could work in it. He saw that his job was to mold and shape, to effect change at a high level, and to build the business that he wanted to own.
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You might also be inspired by putting together your own organizational chart. Start by recording how things look right now; then, design the chart based on how you want your business to look in the future. Take time to consider your own role in your future business; where do you want to spend the majority of your time, and how do you want to approach your work? Seeing your name at the top of the organizational chart might be the spark you need to start thinking about your business differently—just as it was for Ryan.
This shift doesn’t necessarily come all at once. Ryan and I spent months working hard and exploring this issue. His lightbulb moment came from his dedication to the work and his willingness to be open to new ideas; so even this “instant” shift was the result of many hours of thought and consideration. Keep that in mind as you work through these challenges and search for more ways to work on your business. The reward is absolutely worth it.
Join the conversation. Can you relate to Ryan’s experience? Comment below!