Work ON your business, not in your business! - How to succeed as a small business

in business •  last year

I've owned a business since high school, I've always have had a business regardless if I had a full-time job or not. Back in high school, I used to sell computers, it was great back then, $500-$1,000+ profit was the norm. Computers were expensive, and everyone needed help setting them up and training.

I never finished high school, and I didn't go to college. I spent a few years in the Navy and then I started working for startups. Working for startups was perfect for me, I had exposure and knowledge of many things, if I didn't know a technology, I at least understood it.

The last company I worked for was back in 2000, another startup with the same typical problems startups have. It was my favorite job as I really liked who I worked for and it was the reason I stayed there as long as I did even though the ship was sinking. At that point, I focused on my business and stopped moving from startup to startup.

As a small business owner, it is very difficult to spend time working on your business. If you are a technical person, this is, even more, the case, we tend to focus our time working in our business. By working on your business, you are working at a 50,000 feet level, looking down at all the moving pieces and making strategic decisions, not running the day to day work. As a small business owner, it is very difficult to do this as you are responsible for everything from writing business plans (if you even have one), doing sales calls, and cleaning the toilet in your home office. There is no time left to spend on things like marketing plans, business analysis, strategic development.

Michael Gerber calls this being the Technician and not the Entrepreneur. The reason you started your business is that you are an entrepreneur, but you are forced to be the technician almost exclusively as a small business owner. This also is also the case here on Steemit, a lot of us have projects here and how often are you doing the grunt work instead of the high-level work?

When you are stuck in the role of the technician, you are responsible for everything. When you are sick or not available, your business stops. This is why 80% of businesses fail within the first five years.

The mistake most small business owners make is to build their business on people and not systems. As a business owner, you fill three roles, the entrepreneur, manager, and technician as described by Michale Gerber in the book E-Myth Revisited. Most small business owners start as the technician but must fill all three roles. Because money is almost always the biggest concern for small businesses, you are a technician for most of the day.

To build a small business to grow and survive, you have to build it like a franchise. Every job needs to be documented and have a job description. Even if you are the one doing that job, you need a job description. This will allow you to hand it off at some point in the future. It also sets you up for the detachment of every task and job your business requires. Without doing this, you will always work in your business and not on your business. You need to work on your business to grow and eliminate the dependency on you.

As long as all aspects of your business depend on you, you will be forced to play the role as the technician and will not have the time to make the decisions and actions required to grow your business. If you build your business like a franchise, where you can replace every job with the least experienced necessary employee, you will be able to focus on the growth and development of your business. This is a job that typically can only be performed by you.

  • Are you doing everything?
  • Have you created job descriptions?
  • How much time do you spend working on your business?
  • Do you see a future where you are not doing everything?

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If you have so much trouble to find five good posts a day, have you considered white listing curated users and limiting everyone else to one upvote every 5-10 windows?

That would improve profitability for those found to create quality, and limit abuse from the rest.


Thinking about ways to deal with the garbage spam, there is just so much of it that it is endless. We don't want to use whitelisting as it will curate the same people over and over and we try to feature as many unique authors as possible. For a while, we were having the same authors show up a lot.


I do understand wanting to make the service available to a wider audience. That's why I suggest keeping it open, but limited to one upvote every 12 hours (with a white list that removes that upvote restriction).
Another alternative would be a white-list for higher bids, so that low quality authors are limited in the upvote they can get. This would make your problem worse, though (more low-quality posts at the lower limit).
Have you done any metrics around avg. bids by quality level? Having some insight into whether the bidding patterns are different for different quality levels might make it easier to make a plan that boosts quality overall.


Not sure how, but this landed in the wrong post. Was intended as a comment about the @buildawhale changes.

dude, this is BRILLIANT, actually. I run a number of small businesses, and the idea of writing job descriptions even if I'm the one in the job is really kinda mind blowing.


oh, upvote me, follow4follow and all that shit, too ;)


I never finished high school, and I didn't go to college.

HAHA! loser!

oh wait.

Good post - I learned this concept from a good book called "Work the System" by Sam Carpenter. I recommend reading it (though you boiled down the gist of it.)

I am planning to do a small business in the future so this is a good read for me. Thanks ! Upvoted


do your small business NOW not the future. DOnt put it off! START TONIGHT! start posting yoru business ideas!

and for the love of Steem pleaseget urself a profileimage so u dont look like a noob orthrowaway account! there sa noticable change in more steem when u get a profile image!

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Very nice... Thanks for sharing. We need more stuff like that...

4 hour work week was one of my favorites. Biggest take away from that is if your spending 80% of your time trying to make 20% of your customers happy drop those 20% and repriritize your 80% of your time you just gained.


80/20 rule applies to almost everything in life.

I can relate to this, i got snowballed in my last business. We had jobs piling up and invoices everywhere, it was a shambles. It is worse when you do the hard work and the customer turns around and says they aren't paying loads gun

This article is so true. I’ve been running a business for about 7years and very much fall into the category of technician. I have a business coach that I meet with regularly and they say exactly the same thing. You have to set aside regular time to work on your business or it will never grow. It’s really hard to do, but essential if you want to be more than a one man band.

Another aspect is how important it is if you ever want to sell the business. If all the processes are in your head, any prospective buyer will see that the whole thing depends on you being in it and be much less interested in buying.


That’s why it is key to document your processses and build job descriptions.

I'm in love with this post.....

"The mistake most small business owners make is to build their business on people and not systems."

This is so true....


Thanks for reading it :)

Wow I could not agree more. I know someone running a business and bring a technician and I keep trying to explain this to them. I love the way you articulate it. I am going to have them read this and maybe just maybe it will help them to understand the importance of keeping yourself free to run the business not do medial tasks you could easily pay someone else to do!

Calling @originalworks :)
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The @OriginalWorks bot has determined this post by @themarkymark to be original material and upvoted(1.5%) it!

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Good advice. Building a business without the infrastructure in place to scale will only limit you and lead to problems and loss of customers. More employees can always be added but the system should be in place first to support them.

I've been literally 8 days reading post after post, and this is by far the best one to me. I'm constantly doing everything in my business, and of course I think about it's future but I'm just stuck in that "bad habit", instead of on it, where I should definitely be better and more clear headed if you may. Guessing your experience plus a little of studying and order can get you to that point, better and proactive planning in present time, to be aware of everything under your position (It can make you look prett good for everyone in your business and outside of it too).

We do need other people more than we think. And even for jobs under our radar it's something that we necessarily have to excel at if you want to own a succesful business . Sometimes we're just stuck in the same routine and we forget about the fact that we need a well managed group and schedule, we are in fact always ahead of the next action, but we're always too deep in our problems and making ourselves look like the victim or at least the most important person above everybody else working for you. We're always in the need to learn how to solve these situations, and I think you did a great job explaining this to us. Thank you and cheers. I couldn't help but to be impressed by your story, it's really a nice one. Kudos for that.

This is such an excellent post! I realized there is a difference between being self-employed and being a business owner. Being self-employed means you do all the works. Being a business owner you are in charge of running the show and you create people and systems to run it! Great post!

This post is also really useful, thanks once more.

The best thing that I deducted from this article is to fully absorb in your job. Right?
Plus, I got some extra point from here >>