Are you working ON your business or just IN it? How to balance development and delivery.

There’s never a lack of work for the typical entrepreneur.  If you’re not responding to e-mails, you’re setting up appointments; if you’re not staying up with your social-media connections, you’re answering the telephone.

But in the midst of this never-ending busy-ness, it’s crucial to ask yourself: “Am I working IN my business at the expense of working ON it?”

There’s a difference between the two. Working in your business is what’s often called “delivery” work: You’re delivering the products or services that people pay you for.  A carpenter works in his business when he’s purchasing or measuring wood; an IT specialist works on hers when she’s cleaning a virus from a client’s laptop.  Delivery, or working in your business, involves activities that are typically:

Development, on the other hand, is a whole ‘nother kettle of fish. When you’re working on your business, you’re addressing activities that:

It’s easy to see why most entrepreneurs tend to spend so much of their time in delivery mode: The payoff is easy to identify and will happen fairly soon; the activities are easily identifiable ones the business owner is knowledgeable about and comfortable with.  It’s not uncommon to see entrepreneurs spend as much as 80% of their time here.

But is that the best use of scarce time?  Doubtful.

Development work is necessary to move your business from where it is to where it could be.  If you don’t look to the future and strategically implement plans for growth, you’re leaving that growth up to luck – and how nutty is that?

I’ve heard it claimed that you should plan to spend up to 80% of your time on development work, because doing so will allow you to reach that state of entrepreneurial bliss known as The Waiting List of Clients. If you suspect that you’re not spending nearly enough time working on your business because it’s too hard to figure out what that would look like, here’s an easy-to-understand model for identifying business-building, development activities.


The Four P’s of Development

You naturally want to devote time to developing Prospects.  This can be done through a variety of activities, such as speaking, networking, and asking for help from people who already know, like and trust you.  When it comes to adding to your bank account, this is the development activity that has the most immediate payback.

You also want to develop your marketing Presence.  You can have the most fabulous service or product in the world, but if people don’t know about it, it’s not going to do you any good.  Develop your presence by establishing yourself as a subject-matter expert, making it easy to find you online, continually refining your compelling marketing message, and similar activities.

To ensure future success, you’ll also develop additional Products to offer to clients and/or to use in your own business.  I use this term broadly to refer to tangible goods and services you’ll offer to your ideal clients, as well as to business processes that allow you to be more effective and efficient in providing those services.

And a vital development activity which underlies all the others is focusing on Professional and Personal skills.  If you do what you’ve always done, using the skills you’ve always used, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.  If that’s where you want to be, great.  On the other hand, if you want to be, do, and have more in the future than you do in the present, it’s crucial to work on your own skills.  While keeping your professional skills (such as knowing how to take advantage of social media in a way that makes sense for your business) is important, it’s even more crucial – in my opinion – to work on self-management skills.

So there you have it: a model for allocating time to both development and delivery activities.  You might be one of those people who takes this information and runs with it; in that case, Woohoo to you!  However, if you’re one of the majority of people who end up struggling to apply these ideas to your own business, maybe I can help.  Give me a call or e-mail me with your questions, and we’ll see what shakes out.

(By the way, thanks to aldenjewell and rvcroffi for the pictures of the delivery truck and science lab, respectively.  I found the images on flickr.)

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5 Responses to Are you working ON your business or just IN it? How to balance development and delivery.

  1. Pingback: Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months: A Month-by-Month Guide to a Business that Works Reviews » Glivens

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