Graham Birkenhead, March 14 2023

Business owners, are you IN it? Or ON it?

We are working with the owner of a $20M business that manufactures racking systems. Growth has been solid, and they have come out of the pandemic with a solid order book. Sounds good, but the problem is that they are having tremendous difficulty attracting staff, completing orders, and managing inventory in an overcrowded work-space. The owner is head-down trying to fulfill orders and keep the business running. And for many owners, this is where they feel most comfortable. 

We often see owners who are still working ‘in the business’ when they should have promoted themselves to work ‘on the business’.  We tell every owner that wants to grow their business that they must work themselves out of their day job, otherwise they will never have the headspace to truly lead the business. 

Unlike larger firms with advisory boards or executive boards, owners of SMEs typically have small networks based on their vertical industry – suppliers, competitors, associations, etc. Their professional support is usually tactical – legal, accounting advertising etc. This leads to a narrow world view and no one to challenge their ideas and bring new perspectives to help them maintain or grow their business. 

If you are an owner wanting to break out, then a good place to start is to engage an outsider with broad experience to run a strategic planning session. These sessions are usually quite inexpensive and will open your eyes to what is possible and offer you a new way to lead your business. As a result, you may decide to stick with the status quo (but Darwin would say ‘adapt or die’) or, you may decide to start evolving. A good advisor will also provide ongoing help to ‘coach’ you through the changes. What are you waiting for? 

Where are you in your business?  Working in it?  Or Working on it?  


Written by

Graham Birkenhead


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