Working ON the business vs IN the business

In all my years as an Entrepreneur and Founder, I’ve realized that society has a very warped idea of the role an Entrepreneur plays in a business. More often than not, our success is equated to our involvement in day-to-day functions and the number of hours we invest in our companies when in reality it is the exact opposite.

I recently came across this quote which I think perfectly summed up my idea of a successful Entrepreneur. “If an Entrepreneur is unable to take a month off, and have their day-to-day business functions run smoothly, they have failed.”

Taking a month off

While at the very beginning, most of us may have to take on the role of both the employee and the employer, as our business grows this changes drastically. We shed our day-to-day responsibilities and take on our true role as change-makers. This means that even with us not present, our business’s basic functions need to run smoothly.

If we take a look at basic economics, a business is usually broken down into land, labour, capital, and entrepreneurship. The functionality of a business falls into land, labour, and capital, while entrepreneurship stands apart. This is because our role is not a functional one; if it were we’d just fall under labour as well.

Instead, our role is value expansion, it is to grow our businesses by an X amount each year. So while land, labour, and capital help run our day-to-day smoothly, we help take the business to another level.

Our businesses go through several stages, there is the 0 to 1 stage, the 1 to 10 stage, and the 10 to 1,000 stage. As Founders our focus should be pushing through to each of these stages, but some stages are better kept in the hands of our teams.

This is what truly separates successful entrepreneurs from the rest. Our goal is to work on the business, and not in it.

Are you “in” or “on” your business?

Photo by on Unsplash

As I pointed out earlier, most of the time people mistake the role of an Entrepreneur to be working in the business, with the general assumption being that we manage vendors, office teams and make the payroll. But in reality, these are roles of those in the business, such as team members who run the business, office managers who handle administrative tasks, and the accounting teams who keep a running total of all income and expenses.

As Entrepreneurs, we stand outside this daily functional spectrum.

Our goal is to work on the business, by building it, scaling it, and governing our companies and team members. While these roles alone can be daunting, we are also tasked with consistently creating, recognizing, and capturing opportunities.

This makes your role radically different from thinking about how to improve your company’s marketing or sales. It’s about how you define the next stage of the business and how you as a business owner navigate the business to that stage.

In my experience, a business can never be successful until you start focusing on the latter. Improving your business each year will be the toughest hurdles you face as an owner, so you can’t waste your time on the day-to-day; that has to be taken care of by the systems you have put in place and the people you have hired.

If you want to achieve a level of success that will last, you need to create this balance when it comes to the roles of the team and your roles as the business owner. Otherwise, you will end up playing the role of the labourer and not the entrepreneur.

Working on your business = opportunities

Photo by LinkedIn Sales Solutions on Unsplash

When you start working on your business and not just in your business, you’re also expanding your business into new opportunities and new markets. You’re not just doing the same thing over and over again.

So it is on you, as the owner, to constantly look for new opportunities that will elevate your business to the next level.

As the Co-founder and CEO of CabbageApps, I have experienced firsthand how important it is to be constantly looking for business opportunities. I spend the majority of my time looking outwards, talking to customers, and observing platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn, and seeing whose interesting to have a conversation. These conversations tend to present opportunities over time.

These opportunities are not just customers but potential new hires, new investors and new partners.

It is very easy for us to miss business opportunities when we aren’t looking. So as a business owner, you need to dedicate more time towards researching future opportunities, and not the day-to-day functions of your company.

Once you’ve seen these opportunities, you can begin setting your goals accordingly. All this will add up to your bigger picture, and your role will be to slowly work on your business and grow your business into what it can be.

If you’re a founder looking for advice from someone who has been in your shoes, follow me on my LinkedIn and get updated on more entrepreneurial hacks that will aid your business.




I am a Tech Entrepreneur storytelling 📣 my experiences about 🚀 Business, ❣️Relationships, ✨ Life and 🕊 Philosophy.

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Recommended from Medium

Stream 2017 and visions of the Valley in Africa.


How to set the scene for a successful Corporate/Startup pilot

VC Fund Returns Are More Skewed Than You Think

Five critical questions: Are you listing your startup too soon?

Zero to One Million

How a Unicorn Is Being Built in Egypt — Ep. 1: TechCrunched

How to modify your investor deck to seed round

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Dulitha Wijewantha

Dulitha Wijewantha

I am a Tech Entrepreneur storytelling 📣 my experiences about 🚀 Business, ❣️Relationships, ✨ Life and 🕊 Philosophy.

More from Medium


5 Benefits of using Google My Business.


Who is an Innovation Champion?