When you first dreamed of starting your business, you probably pictured long vacations, working from home, and showing up for all the school plays, right? You found the freedom of having a business that could run itself appealing (we all do, sister). You probably didn’t imagine struggling with how to work on your business, but it happens to the best of us.

The reality is that many business owners get sucked into the day-to-day responsibilities of running their business, or what we call “working in” the business. Although you’re the business owner, you may be caught up ‘inside’ daily operations the way an employee would be.

To move towards working ‘on’ your business instead of ‘in’ it – you need to take certain measures to preserve your position as the strategic and creative visionary. Otherwise, you’ll struggle to scale, and you’ll never move to that final stage where you can step away from your business without it falling apart. Let’s talk about why shifting from working “in” to “on” your business is so important, and the steps you can take to preserve your role as a leader.

Why You Need to Shift to Working On Your Business

When a new entrepreneur starts a business, it’s usually smart for her to start by doing most things herself. The startup phase is a critical time for nailing down client relationships, organizing workflow, and delivering high-quality products or services. Money might be tight, and a new business owner might also do as much of the work as possible to stay within her budget. However, the next thing she knows, a year (or more!) has gone by, and she’s still spending her days doing all of the work instead of the strategic planning for a more significant impact.

When a successful woman entrepreneur is working on her business, it means that she has the time and space to focus on high-level activities. This looks like identifying inefficiencies and opportunities, keeping an eye on what competitors are doing, and considering how she can streamline operations to accommodate new customers and employees or contractors. She’s also role modeling and rewarding the values that make up a successful culture.  And, importantly, she’s setting herself up for better work-life balance, focusing on her health, and quality time with friends and family.

Working on your business is what entrepreneurship is all about – thinking big, making a difference, pursuing passions, and creating freedom and flexibility in our lives.

How to Work On Your Business

Employees, Managers, Leaders

Consider the roles of employees, managers, and leaders, and how you’re spending your time. Employees are taskmasters, focused on the present activity to be completed. Managers enforce policies, remove obstacles, and focus on short-term goals. Leaders are visionaries. They set long-term goals and unify the team. How do your daily activities align with these roles?

Are You Working In The Business Like an Employee?

Take a typical week or two and track what you’re working on. Although you’re keeping busy, you might be surprised to find that you’re spending time completing tasks that could be fulfilled by employees. Are these tasks really the highest and best use of your time? Are you making the way toward serving more customers, making more money, and creating a higher quality lifestyle for yourself and your team? Or are you staying stuck in managing the mundane details of fulfillment, problem-solving, and research?

Delegate and Hire the Right Kind of Support

Now that you have clarity around the tasks you need to delegate, be sure you understand the key differences between hiring a contractor and hiring an employee. Document training for items delegated to new and existing employees. Investigate resources like Upwork.com to try out new contractors. Commonly outsourced work includes specialized activities like customer support, website design, human resources, accounting, administrative tasks, and social media management.

Overall, many business owners fail to delegate because of the amount of time and effort required up-front, or because they’re concerned that quality will suffer. It’s crucial, however, to make the mindset shift that your role is overseeing progress toward goals rather than managing tasks.