The perils of working in the business instead of on it

In any business, it’s crucial for leaders to understand the difference between working in the business—dealing with day-to-day operations—and working on the business—focusing on growth and strategic planning.

This paper explores the pitfalls of getting too absorbed in the former, what you can focus on to work on the business and how working with Murray Smith can help you and your team to a transformative shift.

The trap of working in the business

Many business leaders find themselves mired in the minutiae of daily tasks, from managing customer inquiries to overseeing financial transactions. This hands-on approach, while seemingly productive, often leads to a myopic view that neglects long-term strategy and innovation.

Operational consequences – Short and Long Term

Short term


Without strategic oversight, businesses risk becoming static, unable to adapt to market changes.


Leaders who don’t delegate effectively may face burnout, impairing their decision-making abilities.

Opportunity Cost

Time spent on routine tasks is time not spent on growth opportunities, potentially costing businesses substantial revenue.


Lack of Vision

Businesses may lose sight of their goals and fail to set a clear direction for the future.

Financial Loss

Without innovation and adaptation, businesses can fall behind competitors, leading to decreased market share and revenue loss.

Talent Drain

A lack of leadership development can result in the loss of talented employees seeking growth and advancement.

Financial consequences

The financial repercussions of not focusing on business development are significant. For instance, a business with a revenue of $1 million could be losing as much as 20-30% in potential growth annually by not investing in strategic planning. This translates to a staggering $200,000 – $300,000 loss per year.

How to overcome working in the business

Firstly, your leadership teams must want it, i.e., get to a position of working on the business regularly by doing things like:

  • Develop and communicate a clear direction for the business
  • Set clear goals and priorities for the long-term good of the business
  • Hold everyone, including yourself, accountable for what you are required to do
  • Provide not only leadership but great management across the business
  • Delegate activities where you can
  • Continuously learn and debrief your activities
  • Build repeatable processes that others can follow

This can be difficult to do. However, you can seek assistance.

Murray Smith offers a structured approach to help businesses break free from the operational quagmire. By working with Murray, businesses can:

Gain Clarity

Define a clear vision that aligns with the company’s core values and long-term goals.

Improve Operations

Streamline processes to enhance efficiency and productivity.

Foster Growth

Identify and capitalise on new opportunities for expansion and revenue generation.


The distinction between working in and on your business is more than a matter of semantics—it’s a strategic imperative. By recognising the pitfalls of being too entrenched in daily operations and embracing the guidance of Murray Smith, businesses can unlock their true potential and chart a course for sustainable success.