The only way for a creative agency to grow its sales is for the business owner to work on the business, not in the business. That’s why a business dashboard is key.
| |

Working ON the Business, Not IN the Business: What It Takes to Be a Leader

Moving from an Individual Contributor to a Leader in Your Own Business

You’ve taken the big first step to exponential growth. You’ve decided to get out of your own way. You’re going to stop struggling to do everything yourself or be involved with everything yourself. But you haven’t quite got there yet. 

Though you have reduced your workload, you haven’t yet got to the magical pivot point where you work on the business, not in the business. You’re still involved in the day-to-day operations. 

Why is this?

How do you work on business, not in it?

Changing to Working on Your Business Not in Your Business

Though you are doing less yourself, you are still micromanaging. For example:

  • You aren’t leading client meetings, but you are sitting in on them 
  • You aren’t producing first drafts of work, but you are inspecting it all
  • You constantly ask for updates on progress of work
  • You check the bank accounts daily and sign off on all expenses

Of course, ensuring that the details are right is important. But is it necessary to be involved in every step of the process of delivering quality services to your clients?

When you are working in your business rather than on your business, you become a bottleneck. Work cannot be released until you have checked it. You’re doing the weeding when you should be architecting the garden.

If you can’t let go of this final hurdle, you’ll risk business owner burnout. You’ll also undermine and demoralize your team.

Working on Your Business Vs in Your Business: What Holds Back Agency Owners?

So, what’s holding you back? With all the agency owners that I have helped get over business growth stagnation, I’ve found that there are two main reasons why you get stuck working in your business instead of on it.

  1. Involvement is how you measure quality

There are a few ways you might say this. They all have underlying meaning. A couple of examples are:

  • “Too much is at stake. I can’t afford for this to go wrong.” 
  • “If I don’t get involved, my team screw up.” 

What you really mean is that you don’t trust your people to do quality work. You believe that you must be personally involved to maintain the high standards that you have created and that your clients expect.

  1. You value yourself on what you do for your clients

As your agency has developed, your sense of self-satisfaction and worth has developed in parallel. You now value yourself on what YOU do for your clients. It’s a source of pride for you.

The problem here is that you are measuring your true worth wrongly. The value you bring to the table is in the big-ticket work, not the minutia. If you continue to be involved in the day-to-day tasks because you are concerned about quality, you can say goodbye to further growth.

“How Do I Get to Working on My Business?”

To be working on your business instead of in it, you need to tackle the above two issues with psychology and systems.

Let’s start with the psychology – often the most difficult for agency owners. You believe that you are integral to your firm producing quality work. It’s the way you have always operated. You enjoy being the essential piece of the puzzle.

Get over yourself!

You’ve used a foolproof hiring process and have great people in your team. Let them do what they do best. Trust them. Tell them what you need them to do, but stop getting involved in how they do it.

To do this successfully, you need a system to measure quality. A system that allows you to monitor work without micromanaging it. You need a dashboard.

Ensuring Quality with an Agency Business Dashboard

A dashboard lets you see what your firm is doing at a high level. You collect data from all parts of your business and see what is happening in all areas immediately. 

Like the dashboard in your car, you can easily see what speed you are traveling at, which direction you are going, how much fuel you have in the tank, and how far it will get you, and be warned of any internal problems you are encountering.

Typically, an agency business dashboard will include:

  • Financials and cashflow
  • Work in progress
  • Clients
  • Business drivers, such as lead flow and pipelines
  • Business risks

When you are designing your dashboard, you must:

  • Keep it simple
  • Make it visual, so it is easy to spot issues
  • Color-code information to get immediate context (e.g. yellow is good, red needs your attention)
  • Make it easy to use

This last point is important. It’s got to be easy to use by you and others. Whoever is undertaking a task must be responsible for entering the data needed. It must not be you. If inputs can be automated, then automate them to remove potential human errors.

With a business dashboard in place, you can finally stand back. You can do what you should be doing – spending your time on the big-picture, strategic planning that will drive business growth. You’ll be working on your business, not in your business.

Remember, if you are the one delivering results to your clients, you are on the critical path and your business can’t grow. That’s why you need to get out of that role.

Where do you start? Download my business dashboard template now and start to build a business dashboard that is unique to your business.

Take our Business
Growth assessment

Learn what stage growth your buisiness is in and get specific recommendations for how to move forward.