What’s the difference between working ON it versus working IN it? Allow me to explain how one keeps you busy and the other makes you wealthy.

These are ideas introduced in the book The E-Myth: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What To Do About It, first published in 1986.

The idea behind this principle is that there are two distinct roles that business owners need to fulfill: working ON the business and working IN the business. Here’s a breakdown of what each of these roles entails:

Working IN the Business: 

This refers to the operational aspect of running a business. It involves performing the day-to-day tasks, providing the actual products or services, and dealing with the immediate needs of the business. For example, in the context of a landscape contracting business, working in the business might involve tasks like designing landscapes, planting trees, and maintaining gardens.

Working ON the Business: 

This involves taking a step back from the day-to-day operations and focusing on the strategic and long-term aspects of the business. Working on the business includes tasks like creating and refining systems and processes, developing marketing strategies, setting business goals, and planning for growth. In the context of the landscape contracting business, working on the business might involve developing standardized procedures for client communication, refining project management processes, and identifying opportunities for expansion.

The main point of this idea is that business owners often get caught up in the operational tasks of the business (working IN the business – staying busy – busy – busy) and neglect the strategic planning and development that are essential for sustainable growth (working on the business – making the business work better – better – better FOR YOU ). Neglecting the latter can lead to stagnation, burnout, and difficulties in scaling the business.

The E-Myth suggests that business owners should strive to strike a balance between these two roles, ensuring that they allocate time for both working IN and working ON the business. By building efficient systems, delegating tasks, and focusing on the bigger picture, business owners can create a foundation for long-term success.

It seems that when we have long holiday weekends like the upcoming Labor Day weekend, business owners reflect on the idea of working ON it more and IN it less. It’s a worthwhile thought.

Consider the long term impact of your choice to work ON it versus IN it:

  1. Working ON it forces meaningful improvement of business systems
  2. Working IN it will keep you busy-busy-busy
  3. Working ON it multiples wealth
  4. Working IN it (exclusively) will burn you out

If you own a lawn service business, The E-Myth Landscape Contractor: Why Most Landscaping Companies Don’t Work and What To Do About It was published in 2011 with Michael E. Gerber and Anthony C. Bass. This version of the E-Myth provided specific guidelines that lawn and landscape business owners could follow to make the working ON it easier to implement. You can purchase your copy of the book by clicking here. 

Tony Bass, Co-Author

The E-Myth Landscape Contractor: Why Most Landscaping Companies Don’t Work and What To Do About It