Working on not just in the business

Many coaches and business advisors try to help leaders and business owners so they can work on and not just in the business. And it’s hardly a new idea. “Work On It, Not Just In It” was a phrase reputedly coined by Michael Gerber in The E-Myth Revisited almost forty years ago. I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently after working with several clients who have all said this to me at some point during our time together. And each time, during the conversation, it became clear that each person had a slightly different sense of what working on the business actually meant.


For some clients, there was a real clarity. They knew exactly what they would do, if only they had the time to do it.

For other clients, things weren’t quite as simple. They wanted time away from bureaucracy and repetitive tasks, but when asked what they would then do with the time… well, they weren’t quite sure.

They knew they wanted to work ‘on’ the business – to find their original passion, to improve processes, to fix inefficiencies – but they didn’t quite know how to go about it.

It became clear then, that how to “work on, not just in” the business is a two-fold problem. It’s a problem about time, and it’s a problem about strategy.

If you’re clear about what you’d do with your time, you just need to find the time to do your thing. That’s an efficiency piece. It’s about thinking about digital and tech, about processes and workflows, and about automation and working practices – how the team works now, how it could work better, what structures could be put in place (or removed) to help make that happen.

Efficiencies in place, you’ll have time to captain the ship in the way you believe will lead to success.

If you’re not clear about what you’d do with that time, even if you had it, then that’s a different problem. For sure, there’s almost certainly an efficiency issue here. But there’s also a strategy piece.

We have an approach that helps businesses evaluate and assess where they are, where they want to be and the route to getting there. What are the immediate next steps? What’s the roadmap?

We’ve worked with many businesses and organisations to help them think through challenges like these. We bring several different methodologies and heuristics to the table – PEST, SWOT, Value and data analyses, strategy mapping, customer profiling/analysis, competitor analysis – each of which help us to see how you can change your business, and how you’ll get there. The approach is a very comprehensive deep dive, and it adds real value – very quickly.

Wherever you are on your journey, if you want to work on and not just in your business – even if you’re not quite sure what you mean by that – then please don’t hesitate to reach out. The team is here to help.

Transform HR

Boost your people power with expert HR advice

Compliance, training, reviews, policies, contracts... Even if you only have a small number of staff, managing your HR responsibilities can feel like a full-time job.

However, whilst most small companies don’t need an in-house, permanent HR function, they will certainly benefit from having access to our HR Director-led services when they need it. 

Get in touch with Diane Johnson, our Lead HR Consultant.

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Make the most of digital technology

RfM’s digital transformation experts are only interested in one thing: helping your business to grow and prosper through the best use of digital technology. They will do this by giving you the answers to the questions you should be asking:

  • In which areas will technology make the biggest difference to my business?
  • Which technology products or services will be most suitable?
  • Where should I be focusing my technology budget?

Get in touch with Mark Thwaite, our Lead Digital consultant today.


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