Working ‘ON’ Your Business, Not ‘IN’ It: Insights from E-Myth

In the world of entrepreneurship, it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day operations of your business. However, if you truly want to achieve sustainable growth and success, you need to shift your focus from working ‘IN’ your business to working ‘ON’ it. This concept known by Michael E. Gerber in his book “The E-Myth Revisited“, highlights the importance of defining your business, developing processes, and delegating tasks to focus on the bigger picture. Lets take a look at these insights from E-Myth.

Defining Your Business

One of the first steps towards working ‘ON’ your business is to gain a deep understanding of its purpose and identity. Defining your business goes beyond simply having a product or service to offer. Gerber emphasizes the need to view your business as an entity separate from yourself, with its own vision, mission and values. 

Take the time to define your business’s core values, target audience and long-term goals. Clarify your unique selling proposition and identify the problems you aim to solve for your customers. This clarity will serve as a compass, guiding your decisions and strategies as you work towards achieving your business’s true potential.

Let’s look at an example:

Sarah runs a bakery business. To define her business, Sarah can ask herself questions such as:

  • What is the mission of my bakery? (Is it to provide delicious and high-quality baked goods?)
  • Who is my target audience? (Are they health-conscious individuals or those seeking indulgent treats?)
  • What sets my bakery apart from competitors? (Is it the use of organic ingredients or innovative flavour combinations?)

By answering these questions, Sarah can gain clarity on what her business stands for, enabling her to make strategic decisions that align with her defined vision. 

Developing Processes

To effectively work ‘ON’ your business, you must establish efficient and standardized processes. This is very important! Many business owners and executives think they don’t have enough time to create processes. This is short term thinking, and to have a successful business, we need to think long term. Creating processes provides structure, consistency and scalability to your operations, and gives you more time to work ON your business, rather than IN it.

To develop processes, begin by identifying the key areas or departments of your business, such as sales, marketing, operations and customer service. Document the step-by-step procedures for each of the processes in these areas, outlining the best practices and desired outcomes. If you already have processes in place, remember to review them to ensure they are still correct and relevant. 

This documentation becomes the foundation for training employees, ensuring quality control and maintaining a culture of excellence. These systems allow your business to function independently of your direct involvement, allowing you to focus on strategic decision-making and growth opportunities.

If we take a look back at Sarah’s bakery, these are the types of systems she can document. 

Example 1:

Process: Sales

  • Step 1: Customer Inquiry and Initial Contact
    • When a customer makes an inquiry, respond promptly and professionally, either in person, via phone, or through email.
    • Gather all necessary information from the customer, including their name, contact details, and specific requirements or requests.
    • Provide clear and concise information about the bakery’s products, pricing, and availability.
  • Step 2: Order Placement and Confirmation
    • Once the customer has decided to place an order, guide them through the ordering process.
    • Ensure accurate documentation of the order, including product details, quantities, delivery/pickup date, and any customisation or special instructions.
    • Provide a confirmation to the customer, summarizing the order details and confirming the agreed-upon terms.
  • Step 3: Payment and Invoice Generation
    • Determine the payment method (cash, credit card, online transfer, etc.) based on the customer’s preference and the bakery’s policies.
    • Clearly communicate the payment amount and any applicable taxes or additional charges.
    • Generate an invoice or receipt, including all relevant details such as the customer’s name, contact information, order details, and payment method.
  • Step 4: Order Preparation and Packaging
    • Assign the order to the appropriate staff member responsible for its preparation.
    • Ensure that the necessary ingredients, tools, and equipment are readily available.
    • Follow standardized recipes and procedures to maintain consistency in product quality.
    • Carefully package the order, considering factors such as presentation, transport safety, and freshness preservation.
  • Step 5: Delivery or Pickup
    • Coordinate with the customer to determine the preferred delivery time or pickup schedule.
    • Communicate any updates or delays promptly and offer alternative solutions if necessary.
    • For deliveries, ensure that the products are appropriately packed for transportation and arrive in optimal condition.
    • For pickups, have a designated area or system for customers to collect their orders efficiently.

Developing Processes: Insights from the E-Myth
Example 2:

Process: Operations

  • Step 1: Procurement and Inventory Management
    • Identify reliable suppliers for bakery ingredients, packaging materials, and other necessary supplies.
    • Maintain an updated inventory of all items, ensuring appropriate stock levels and reordering when necessary.
    • Regularly review supplier performance to ensure timely deliveries and quality products.
  • Step 2: Production Planning and Scheduling
    • Develop a production plan based on anticipated demand, taking into account seasonal variations, holidays, and special events.
    • Create a production schedule to allocate resources, including staff, equipment, and ingredients, efficiently.
    • Monitor and adjust production based on sales data, customer feedback, and quality control.
  • Step 3: Quality Control
    • Establish quality standards for the bakery’s products, including taste, appearance, freshness, and consistency.
    • Train staff on quality control procedures, emphasizing the importance of following recipes and maintaining cleanliness and hygiene standards.
    • Regularly conduct quality checks and taste tests to ensure that products meet the established standards.
  • Step 4: Equipment Maintenance and Safety
    • Develop a maintenance schedule for all bakery equipment, including ovens, mixers, and refrigeration units.
    • Conduct regular inspections, cleaning, and servicing of equipment to prevent breakdowns and ensure optimal performance.
    • Implement safety protocols and train staff on proper handling of equipment, chemicals, and potential hazards.

By having standardized processes in place, you can maintain quality control and provide a seamless experience for your customers, employees and key stakeholders.

Delegating Tasks to Focus on the Bigger Picture

As a business owner, it can be tempting to handle every aspect of your business. However, this approach not only hinders your own growth but also limits your business’s potential. Much like point number two (developing processes), delegating may have an initial time investment, however will save you time in the long run.

To begin, identify the tasks that can be entrusted to others and work on building a competent and reliable team. Hire team members who align with your business’s values and provide them with the necessary training, resources and empowerment to take ownership of their responsibilities. When you learn how to delegate effectively, it will free up your time and energy to concentrate on the bigger picture, such as exploring new markets, developing partnerships, and envisioning the future of your business. (Shifting your focus towards long-term planning, innovation, and strategic initiatives instead of short term day to day operations.)

There are some key points when delegating tasks to make sure they are being done to your standard (and you can sleep at night):

  • Identify tasks suitable for delegation
    • Review all the tasks involved in running the business and identify those that can be delegated without compromising quality or customer satisfaction. Generally, routine and repetitive tasks can be delegated, while strategic and decision-making responsibilities should be retained.
  • Clearly define expectations and standards
    • Before delegating a task, clearly communicate the expected outcome, quality standards, deadlines, and any specific instructions. Provide examples or templates if necessary to illustrate the desired end result. Ensure that the team member understands the importance of meeting these standards.
  • Select the right team members
    • Assess the skills, capabilities, and availability of each team member to determine who is best suited to perform the delegated tasks. Consider their experience, expertise, and previous performance when making decisions. It’s important to match the task to the individual’s strengths.
  • Provide proper training and resources
    • To ensure that the team members can perform the tasks to the desired standard, provide thorough training and resources. Offer clear instructions, guidelines, and documentation, and be available to answer any questions or provide clarification. Consider cross-training team members to increase flexibility and coverage.
  • Delegate authority, not just tasks
    • Trust the team members with the authority needed to complete the tasks. Give them decision-making power within defined limits and encourage them to take ownership of their work. This empowers them and enables them to find creative solutions and make necessary adjustments without constant supervision.
  • Establish communication channels
    • Maintain open lines of communication to address any questions, concerns, or issues that may arise during the task execution. Regular check-ins or progress updates can help ensure that the work is on track and provide an opportunity for guidance or feedback.
  • Monitor progress and provide feedback
    • While delegating tasks, it’s important to monitor the progress of the delegated work. Set milestones or deadlines for progress reports or check-ins. Provide constructive feedback and acknowledge the team members’ efforts. Offer guidance or support if adjustments are needed to meet the desired standards.
  • Celebrate success and learn from challenges
    • Recognise and appreciate the team members’ accomplishments when they successfully complete delegated tasks. Celebrate milestones and achievements, both individually and as a team. Similarly, if challenges arise or mistakes occur, focus on learning from them and finding ways to improve processes or provide additional support.

At Sarah’s Bakery, here are some of the tasks she could delegate while maintaining peace of mind about the quality of the work:

  • Order taking and customer inquiries: Assigning team members to handle customer inquiries, take orders over the phone or in person, and provide product information.
  • Baking and food preparation: Delegating the baking and preparation of bakery items such as bread, cakes, pastries, and desserts to skilled bakers or pastry chefs.
  • Inventory management: Assigning someone to monitor and maintain bakery inventory, including ingredient restocking, tracking expiration dates, and ensuring adequate stock levels.
  • Packaging and presentation: Having team members responsible for packaging finished bakery products, ensuring they are presented neatly and appealingly, ready for customer pickup or delivery.
  • Cashier duties: Assigning team members to handle cash transactions, process payments, and provide receipts to customers.
  • Cleaning and hygiene maintenance: Delegating cleaning tasks such as washing dishes, sanitizing work surfaces, sweeping, mopping, and ensuring overall cleanliness in the bakery.
  • Delivery or pickup coordination: Assigning team members to coordinate delivery schedules, ensure on-time deliveries, and maintain clear communication with customers regarding pickup arrangements.
  • Social media management: Having a team member responsible for managing the bakery’s social media accounts, including posting updates, engaging with customers, and responding to messages or comments.
  • Event planning and catering: Assigning someone to handle event inquiries, plan and coordinate catering orders, and ensure timely delivery and setup at event venues.
  • Administrative tasks: Delegating administrative duties such as managing appointment bookings, organising paperwork, maintaining customer databases, and handling email correspondence.

It’s important to assess your team’s skills and strengths to assign tasks accordingly. Regular communication and training are vital to maintaining consistency and ensuring that delegated tasks meet your standards.

Working ‘ON’ your business, as advocated in “The E-Myth Revisited,” is a transformative approach that can pave the way towards sustainable growth and success. Embrace the mindset of a visionary leader and commit yourself to continuous improvement. Remember, the key to working ‘ON’ your business lies in striking a balance between strategic planning and efficient execution. So, take the leap, apply these principles, and witness the transformative impact they can have on your business.

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