Are you working on your business, or just in it?


Man and woman at computer

Working on your business can help you achieve your long-term goals, but you need to prioritise spending time on it, rather than on daily tasks.

No-one else is going to do it. As the leader of your workshop, you need to make time to think about the direction you want your business to go in, and put plans in place to make it happen.

How much time do you spend planning, developing, learning and growing your business, as opposed to working on customers’ cars, ordering parts, and fighting with your apprentice?

If the answer is “not that much”, and you want to have a prosperous business, it might be time to set a new course for success.

If you’re spending a lot of time working in your business – working on cars, doing admin, and keeping suppliers, customers and staff happy – then you’re not working on your business

Working on your business means thinking about and setting goals and tackling the problems that hold you back in the long-term.

Your job as the owner, or manager, of your business is not only to oversee daily operations, but it’s to set the standard and know where you’re trying to go between now, next year and the period after that.

Setting goals for growth, customer experience and profitability is a powerful way to focus the mind and remind you daily why you’re doing what you’re doing.

We know from the State of the Nation Report 2020 that only 42 per cent of Capricorn Members are very or extremely confident “working on growing and developing the business” and only 40 per cent are confident “planning for the future”.

Yet, the building blocks for great businesses are there: 86 per cent of Members told us they feel extremely confident with “customer service” and, likewise, 82 per cent felt confident “working on the tools”. Knowing the business will prepare you for taking the next step.

The skills you need to plan for the future and grow and develop the business come with practice. They probably aren’t taught as part of your apprenticeship, so if you’re not confident, don’t panic.

Woman at computer 

Working on the business takes time, so make time for it

It will be a conscious decision you make. You need to carve out time in your calendar for annual planning, quarterly check-ins and regular times in between to think about the difficult problems facing your business. This can be time you spend alone, with your entire team or with a business coach.

An annual cycle for setting objectives works well for most businesses, when you decide where you’re going:

  • Are you setting the scene to open a new location in future?
  • Are you setting a target for the average star rating you receive on Google Reviews?
  • Are you adding electric vehicles to your service offering?

Whatever it is, set the course, determine your measure of success (“how will we know we are there?”) and write down your goals somewhere visible for regular reference.

Set aside one to two days for annual planning to give yourself enough time to do it right.

Quarterly goal setting is the next level down that gives your team a manageable horizon to focus on. A quarter, just 13 weeks, is long enough that you can achieve a lot but short enough that you don’t lose focus.

You can choose a quarterly goal to focus on that contributes to your long-term objectives, like asking customers to leave reviews so that your ranking in Google improves.

Spend half a day each quarter planning the next goal and celebrating the wins of the previous period.

During the quarter, whether you do it monthly, fortnightly or weekly, you should form a rhythm where you take time out from the workshop floor to review your quarterly and annual goals and see how you’re tracking against them.

By coming back to them regularly, they will be top of mind and you will find a way to make them happen.

But we know what you’re thinking. Finding time is a real struggle. You need to put a few things in place to free yourself up so you have planning and thinking time.

Man and woman looking at paperwork 

Use tools to help you automate tasks

Are you manually writing down when customers need to come in to get their oil changed next? Get a low-cost or free customer relationship management tool (CRM) that can help you store and manage your customer interactions.

Are you trudging through Microsoft Excel to produce an invoice or a purchase order? Subscribe to some low-cost accounting software and have your bookkeeper set up your templates and accounts. It will save you time and prevent mistakes.

No matter the task, if it is repetitive and common, you can bet there is a cost-effective software tool out there that can help you do it faster or from your phone.

Saving five minutes three times every day might not sound like much, but it allows you to think about, and do, something more valuable for your business.

Delegate or outsource to save time

To help you make time for strategic thinking and planning that will help you achieve your goals, you should delegate tasks that don’t directly contribute to the services your customers pay for.

Two obvious examples of things to delegate are:

  • Bookkeeping: you need to know this is being done right, but you don’t have to be the one doing it. Hire an experienced bookkeeper and free up time.
  • Marketing: understanding your marketing strategy is your job, but enacting it can be better done by someone else who is more savvy with the required tools and techniques.

Don’t delegate the fundamentals

You mustn’t give away control of everything; it is your business:

  • Quality Control: the buck stops with you and you set the standard for the work that gets done for your customers. Always keep an eye on what work is being delivered, to avoid a poor experience for customers.
  • Team Culture (including hiring): the people in your business are your business. They interact with your customers and you need to make sure they are aligned with where you need to go and have the right personalities and skill sets.
  • Strategy and planning: never delegate this, even if you find it difficult or uncomfortable. Your business is led by you, so keep this one under your control.

Working on your business, not just in it, is crucial to the long-term success and growth of your business. It might be difficult to find the time to do it, but you’ll never regret it. It’s an investment as important as any new scan tool or employee.

This article was published 13/05/2021 and the content is current as at the date of publication.