A 7-Step Process for Working “On” Your Business

Success in Business Visual

There’s a lot of talk about how entre­pre­neurs work “on” their busi­ness, rather than “in” it. And it’s some­times hard to get out of that mind space when we’re work­ing long hours just to get by. Well, here’s a sim­ple process for work­ing on your business.

Step 1: Define Success

Most com­pa­nies do it along these lines: make money and do rad stuff. But the real goal is do rad stuff, and then they find ways to turn it into money.

Step 2: Define “Rad Stuff”

Fig­ure out what “rad stuff” is, and then talk about the things you do to make rad stuff. Maybe it’s prod­ucts or classes. Don’t for­get to list the things you hate or that are hard for you to do (ask me about how to offload those).

Step 3: Define Profit

Define how much money each one makes you. This will help you make the next decision.

Step 4: Pri­or­i­tize with Your Gut

Pri­or­i­tized, based on how rad it is and how much money it makes you. This is also called “Using Your Gut,” because this isn’t just about profit; it’s also about enjoy­ing the process.

Step 5: Plan Pri­or­ity #1

Make a spe­cific plan around your #1 priority.

Step 6: Hand it Off

Once it’s going the way you want, hand if off to some­one else. But make sure they have clear work­flows and good benchmarks.

Step 7: Repeat

For pri­or­i­ties 2–7, sim­ply repeat. When you’re done, you can either cre­ate new projects or start over with #1, opti­miz­ing it further.

Suc­cess comes from get­ting out of the day-to-day for a few min­utes and think­ing about oppor­tu­ni­ties that will improve your ROI and your sat­is­fac­tion. It’s get­ting out of your busi­ness for a lit­tle while and work­ing on it. And it’s really that simple.

Your typ­i­cal busi­ness con­sul­tant wants this to seem com­pli­cated. Unfor­tu­nately, “com­pli­cated” doesn’t move the nee­dle in your busi­ness. But clear pri­or­i­ties that work for you—your lead­er­ship style, the things you’re com­fort­able with, and things you like and don’t like to do—will push your busi­ness into new territory.

Feel­ing a lit­tle over­whelmed? Find out how to take con­trol.

Be So Brave that Even Bullets Fear You

Even Bullets Fear the Brave

Brav­ery Removes Defensiveness

Garry Kas­parov quote this as an old Russ­ian say­ing. It’s inspired me to find ways to go on offense. I hope it helps you take mat­ters into your hands, take respon­si­bil­ity for your own actions and reject mak­ing excuses.

When Curiosity is Your Hammer, Everything Really is a Nail

When curiosity is your hammer, everything really is a nail.

You’ve heard that say­ing, “If your only tool is a ham­mer, every­thing looks like a nail.” And it usu­ally refers to uncre­ative solu­tions to prob­lems: treat­ing every prob­lem the same, as if it will respond to the solu­tion that you’re best at pro­vid­ing. But if you tackle tough prob­lems with curios­ity, you may find that, with good problem-clarity, you can move past your assump­tions and cre­ate a new model. And real prob­lems are much eas­ier to solve than vague ones with fuzzy edges.

Directness in Strategy Comes from Asking the Bold Questions

Rapid and Direct

The most direct thing you can do is ask the right ques­tion, with­out wor­ry­ing about whether you know how to answer it or not.

Some peo­ple think you need to know how to answer a ques­tion before you can ask it. But inno­va­tion in strat­egy is often goal-driven. And if you know your goal, you know all you need to know to make the most direct plan possible.

Let Me Illustrate

Let’s say your city is under siege. You know an army is going to move into a space across from your walls. You also know that their gen­eral is their moti­va­tion for fight­ing. If he’s gone, the bat­tle is over. You’re won­der­ing how you’ll exe­cute the bat­tle. There are two ways to move forward.

  1. You can go into auto-pilot and do what you always do. Fol­low mil­i­tary doc­trine. Nobody would blame you. You set up the bat­tle line, for­tify your posi­tion and get pre­pared for a con­ven­tional war.
  2. Or you can ask ques­tions that oth­ers wouldn’t ask. You could say, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we could find a way to take out the gen­eral soon after the bat­tle started?” and then maybe “what if we could do it before the bat­tle started?” Then new options become open to you. You could then ask “how.”

Sce­nario 2: The Most Imag­i­na­tive, Direct Approach

Let’s assume you took sce­nario 2. The oppos­ing gen­eral has moved into posi­tion. It’s the night before the bat­tle, and everyone’s get­ting pre­pared for the next morning’s action. The gen­eral steps out of the plan­ning tent to find a place to relieve him­self. A sin­gle shot rings out, and before the bat­tle starts, it’s over.

Because you dared to ask how to take out the gen­eral before the bat­tle began, you made 3 plans. In the first, you ana­lyzed the bat­tle­field, find­ing the likely places the gen­eral would set up his com­mand tent. You send snipers to hide on the enemy’s side, gain­ing angles on the general’s likely posi­tions. Then you pre­pared fir­ing solu­tions to hit where the gen­eral was likely to move, so you could hit it with artillery. Finally, you pre­pared sev­eral traps that would lure him into a posi­tion to be captured.

Expe­ri­ence is Often the Problem

Expe­ri­ence pre­vents us from ask­ing ques­tions like this. Expe­ri­ence makes us work too hard, spend too much money and get too frus­trated. Bold­ness makes us ask the obvi­ous ques­tions that nobody wants to ask.

In fact, the plans from my sce­nar­ios would never have been thought of if nobody dared to ask the ques­tion “Wouldn’t it be cool if..?” And ask­ing dar­ing, ridicu­lous ques­tions is where we find the most cost-effective, effi­cient, direct plans.