How to Work ON Your Business, Not IN It | Pearson May

You may have heard the well-worn phrase “work on your business, not in it” many times. But do you know when it was coined?

For that, we have to rewind to the 1980s and the seminal business book – The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber. In it, he debunked the myth that most businesses are started by entrepreneurs, instead recognising that it is most often technicians who make this move.

For all their passion and technical ability in their field, such technicians build businesses around themselves. This can mean that when they reach a certain level of success, they find they are unable to extricate themselves from operations.

Their customers buy into them; no-one else can know their business as well as they do. 

Sound familiar?

If you can get hold of a copy, The E-Myth Revisited is a great read. It describes a change of mindset that can help you move from technician to entrepreneur. Even if you can’t access a copy immediately, to get you started, we’ll give an overview of three key areas to explore for freeing up your time.


Trusting other people (whether employees or contractors) to perform key tasks in your business is essential for freeing up your own time. The trouble is, many people find it notoriously difficult to do.

From simply enjoying the work, to feeling it will take longer to explain than to do it yourself, or believing only you can do it, there are a host of reasons people may give themselves for not delegating. It can be difficult. But it is an important step towards working on your business, not in it.

Delegation is a skill, though, and one you can learn. Try it incrementally, first picking something peripheral to hone a process and gain confidence. Choose a person you trust who has the right skillset to delegate the task to. It could be a virtual assistant for invoicing or a junior employee ready to take on more responsibility.

It will take an investment of time from you. Define what your desired outcome is and show them how to perform the tasks. Ensure they have the correct resources and authority, and importantly, allow time and room for failure. Make sure both of you review the process, and give praise where it is due and support where it is needed. 

Once you have cracked your first act of delegation, move on to another. And then another.


Automation has been a buzzword for years, but now that AI is taking off it really feels like it’s heading to another level.

It has the potential to touch on most areas of your business, and generally offers significant time and/or cost savings. From bookkeeping tasks to email marketing, adopting automation frees up resources for busy business owners.

The landscape is evolving all the time. So by reviewing what can be newly automated in your business, you could unlock important time which you can invest in working on your business.


The E-Myth Revisited focuses on the notion of a turn-key business, where there’s a system or process for absolutely everything. This allows for a consistent service to be delivered every time. McDonald’s is an example cited often in the book, where you can expect to get an almost identical service around the globe, because of the adoption of standard procedures everywhere in the world.

You will find you already have processes in your business – “the way you do things”. Many SMEs will not document them, however. This is a glaring inefficiency which not only makes it difficult to improve your processes as you grow, but much more difficult to train staff or delegate.

You can unlock huge value in your business by formalising systems and refining them, essentially creating intellectual property. 

In turn, by becoming process-led, you will find it much easier to remove yourself from operations, and, as the title of this article promises, work ON your business, instead of IN it.

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