Work on your business, not in it: a blueprint for change, Part 1

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a two-part series originally published in Frame Building News.

– By K.P. Persaud –


K.P. Persaud

When I hear the expression “work on a business,” I envision a business owner in full control. I see a person connected to the business yet making strategic decisions from a healthy and objective distance. And if tomorrow this individual received an offer to sell he couldn’t refuse, he could simply walk away and hand over the keys to the new owner.

Meanwhile, the expression “work in a business” leads me to envision someone trapped inside the walls of a business unable to escape. This particular business owner is constantly in “spin cycle,” putting out one fire after another, and racing to accomplish tasks on a never-ending to-do list. This kind of business owner could never sell the business in the shape it’s in now. After all, this person is the business and without him the business could never survive.

Given the choice, we all want to be owners who work on our businesses and not in them. But how do we make this transition?

You might be familiar with Michael Gerber’s book The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work And What To Do About It. The book teaches us the invaluable lesson that to be able to work on our business, we must first view ourselves as three different people in one: (1) The Technician; (2) The Manager; and (3) The Entrepreneur. If we are too much of one—or not enough of another—our business is destined to fail.

The Technician within us is great at building and delivering the product or service. But just being good at cobbling shoes doesn’t mean the business will become the next Zappos, let alone a local shoe store that could survive more than a few months. Similarly, the act of producing superior post-frame buildings is no guarantee of success.

As for The Manager, this person within us excels in bringing order to chaos, in conserving resources and time, and motivating employees to yield maximum output. The Manager is great at executing the company’s big picture plans and ensuring that workers are attending to the finer aspects of the products or services. However, worrying about the big picture plans or sweating the minutiae of the products or services are tasks better left for The Technician and The Entrepreneur.

Finally, The Entrepreneur is the one with the vision to take an idea and turn it into a business. The Entrepreneur also thrives in taking the 30,000 foot view of the company and can spot new opportunities for growth. If The Entrepreneur were the only one in charge, however, the business might spend too much time at the “white board” or studying the balance sheet without the appropriate action to follow.

The important thing to note is that as a business owner, the technical, managerial, and entrepreneurial aspects of your business are always competing for your focus. Finding the right balance between all three is critical.

The first step in learning to work on your business is to step outside of your current reality and diagnose what you do well—and what you don’t—almost as if you were an outside investor or a consultant. Be brutally honest with yourself or the exercise is pointless.

Take a sheet of paper (or create an electronic doc) and write out three columns labeled “Technical,” “Managerial,” and “Entrepreneurial.” Come up with your strengths and weaknesses in each category. After that, decide, as a percentage, how you currently divide your time and resources between all three roles. For instance, you might determine your focus is 60 percent technical, 30 percent managerial, and 10 percent entrepreneurial.

Figure 1.1 is a hypothetical diagnosis I’ve created for the owner of a post-frame construction business.

Persaud Figure 1

In all likelihood, where you enjoy the most success—and where you also happen to be devoting the largest percentage of your time and energy—is in the Technical column. As a professional in the frame-building industry, you take pride in your products and services.

You’re proud to put your name on what you sell and believe the greatest marketing strategy is to deliver high quality. “When others hear of my quality workmanship, my purchase orders will skyrocket,” you might think.

Your laser focus on the technical aspects, though, has led to tunnel vision and an abandonment of the managerial and entrepreneurial aspects. For example, has your business been growing at the rate you forecast? Have you been meeting your profit goals? Could you walk away from your business for a week and leave others in charge? Or, if you were gone, would it result in a complete disaster?

This kind of diagnosis can sometimes be difficult for business owners in a field as technical as post-frame building. Having worked for many years as an industrial engineer, I understand the temptation to focus solely on the details of the task at hand and neglect the “bigger picture” problems of the business. Resist that temptation.

For most of you, it is precisely the “big picture” where you must first focus your energy. After all, your business’s biggest problems don’t require a deep-dive in analytics or high-dollar software to unearth. You already know your biggest challenges. Start by addressing those and then you can hone in on the details at the appropriate time.

No matter how you perform your initial diagnosis—whether you use this exercise or something else—I recommend that you write it all down as you go. Capture your thoughts on paper or in your word processor. Don’t just keep it in your head. By writing down all of these things, you will feel empowered to start working on them and you can do so in a methodical manner. You’ll also derive value in charting your progress over time.

In Part Two of this article, I will show you how to use the diagnosis you have performed to make important changes to your business. We will also explore what your ideal business looks like and how to make it a reality. I’ll also give you some important components that you can install in your business to boost your chances of success. CLICK HERE TO READ PART TWO

K.P. Persaud counsels owners and executives interested in taking their businesses to the next level. He provides services to clients across the country via online video conferencing. Contact him at or visit

Learn more about how to dramatically improve your business and your life outside of work from K.P. Persaud at the Frame Building Expo March 8-11, 2016 in Indianapolis. Register at


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