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3 Steps to Take to Work On Your Business, Not In It

It takes serious blood, sweat and tears for nearly every entrepreneur to succeed. Ralph Lauren started his fashion and lifestyle company by sewing rags into ties and selling them to stores. Jamie Kern Lima began IT Cosmetics in her living room. For years, she and her husband developed and tested makeup formulas, handled marketing and customer service, and packed their orders. Leonardo Del Vecchio headed to his humble workshop every day at 3 a.m. There he worked late into the evening producing small, metal eyeglass parts and completing the frames he distributed through his infant eyewear business, Luxottica.

Over time, each of these entrepreneurs mastered the complicated art of working on their business, not just in it. And that’s when their dreams grew into billion-dollar enterprises. Yep, we said billion. Today, Ralph Lauren Corporation includes premium brands like Ralph Lauren Collection, Polo and Chaps. IT Cosmetics was acquired by L'Oréal, where Jamie became the first female CEO of a L'Oréal brand. And Leonardo developed an impressive global Luxottica eyewear portfolio that includes Ray-Ban, Oakley and Vogue Eyewear, plus high-end brands like Giorgio Armani, Prada and Dolce & Gabbana.

Here’s why our quick history lesson in three successful businesses is important for you: Whether you’re on a mission to build a business worth thousands, millions or billions, the only way to do it is to get above the daily grind too. You have to find time to work on your business, not in it, every single day. How much time? At EntreLeadership, we recommend working on your business at least an hour a day, and we have a whole system to show you how. As you get above your business, you’ll make room for the strategic planning, leadership-team development and personal growth necessary to achieve your goals.

The good news is this: Whatever stage of business you’re in now, you’re just three steps away from making room to work on your business, not in it. How do we know? Because we’ve seen thousands of other business leaders rise above the pressures of business by following these three steps.

1. Take control of your time.

Time really is a four-letter word when you have more on your to-do list than hours to get it done day after day. So, your first challenge to conquer is to get control of your time. These time management tips will help you.

  • Imagine what you would do with more time.
    What would you give more time to, and what’s holding you back?
  • Complete a time audit.
    That’s a painful request when you’re already slammed, we know. But the only way to know where your time is slipping is to write down everything you do in your workday. Try it for a week.
  • Discover your most productive time of the day.
    Doing an audit will show you what’s filling your day, but don’t stop with recording what you’re doing. Note how each activity makes you feel. When are you most and least productive? What work do you enjoy most? 
  • Prioritize tasks.
    Now, dig even deeper by putting everything you do into one of four categories: important and urgent, important but not urgent, not important but urgent, and not important and not urgent. This is called a time management quadrant, and it will help you weigh whether you’re getting the right things done.


  • Create a weekly schedule.
    Finally—you’re at the fun part and ready for a game-changing calendar shift! Use all you’ve learned from your audit and quadrant work to make a new-and-improved schedule. Prioritize what’s truly most important as you plan each day.

    Pro Tip: When you list your top three priorities each day, it’s easier to stay focused on your small-business goals.

Don’t worry if it takes a few weeks to get your new calendar set and feel comfortable with doing things differently. That’s totally normal, so be patient with yourself and stick with it. Before you know it, you’ll open more space for the most important things, so you can keep your business-development goals front and center and get some real productivity traction.

Ready to get time back on your side?

A business leader like you shouldn’t feel pulled apart by a dozen different priorities. Download the Ultimate Guide to Time Management to get your business week back under control. 

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2. Hire the right people.

It’s no secret that people are your biggest blessing and biggest pain in the butt. In business, they’re also your largest investment, so you’ve got to get the right people on the right seats of the bus. Here are some more reasons why the right team members are so important:  

  • Hiring affects everything in your organization.
    Your brand, culture, efficiency, product delivery, customer care—everything—can be topnotch when you hire the right people.
  • Hiring well keeps out the crazy.
    Let’s be real, incompetent and gossiping team members drain everyone else. You don’t want that.
  • Churning through team members costs a lot.
    Besides the time you’ll lose, you’ll pay the equivalent of six- to nine-months’ salary to replace a team member.
  • Time reveals gold and brings junk to the surface.
    So take more time to get to know your job candidates. You’ll be more likely to spot the right matches and any potential issues. Invest in the hiring process to get the results you want.

As you recruit and interview candidates, resist the urge to keep doing what you’re doing if it’s not working. These 12 components to a good hire will help you build an all-star team:

  1. Pray.
  2. Get referrals.
  3. Do a 30-minute drive-by interview.
  4. Check the resumés and references.
  5. Use testing tools to evaluate their skill level.
  6. Ask yourself, do you like them?
  7. Look for passion. (Do they light up?)
  8. Review their personal budget. Make sure they can live within the compensation you can offer.
  9. Discuss compensation.
  10. Create a Key Results Area (KRA).
  11. Do a final in-person interview and go to dinner with the candidate and their spouse.
  12. Implement a 90-day onboarding and probation plan.

Want to know what kind of people make the best hires? Those who want to be part of something bigger than themselves. So never sell a J-O-B. Share your mission and vision with pride and look for team members who are passionate about serving others and making a difference with you.

3. Delegate effectively.

With time on your side and the right team members in place, you’re on a roll! But it’s all for nothing until . . . you know how to delegate like a pro.


You probably thought running a business sounded fun—until you realized it would actually run you. Discover the EntreLeadership System—the small-business road map that takes the guesswork out of growth.

To be great at delegating, you’ll need to shift from doing the work to leading it. Truth be told, that’s one of the hardest things you’ll ever do in business. But when you slow down to get an effective delegation process in place, you’ll speed up later to grow your business. That’s a win for you and your team members because:

  • You’ll recognize their skills and abilities and give them new opportunities.
  • They’ll feel motivated by your trust and the chance to take on more. 
  • Your business will get more done faster and better than you ever could alone.

As you plan what to delegate, think back to your time audit. The work you keep in your court should include a lot of the things you’re good at and love but also some work you’re good at but maybe don’t love. (Yep, we all have those things we wish we didn’t have to do . . . but we have to do them.) Once you’ve pinpointed what to hand off:

  1. Start by having a high-level conversation with the person you want to delegate to. Let them know a new opportunity is coming their way. 
  2. Give them a detailed description once you’ve solidified your plan. 
  3. Define why the task matters to you and the business.
  4. Explain why they were chosen for the responsibility. 
  5. Tell them how the task connects with their journey and career goals.
  6. Let them know you’re committed to coaching them and giving them the resources to win.
  7. Remind them (and yourself) that practice makes you better. 
  8. Be a coach, not a cop. In other words, don’t micromanage them—but also don’t wish them good luck, then throw them to the wolves. Set regular times to give them clear feedback, and show them lots of grace.

Just like getting the right team members in place takes time, so does getting them up to speed on new responsibilities. But when you delegate well, you and your team will burn brighter instead of burning out. Even better? Once you’ve taken all three steps to work on your business, not in it, you’ll establish new rhythms to grow your business—and reach your dreams.

What’s Next: Create More Margin

Need more guidance on how to delegate the right responsibilities to the right people in the right way? Check out EntreLeadership’s free Delegation video course. 

Delegate with Confidence

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Ramsey Solutions

About the author


Ramsey Solutions has been committed to helping people regain control of their money, build wealth, grow their leadership skills, and enhance their lives through personal development since 1992. Millions of people have used our financial advice through 22 books (including 12 national bestsellers) published by Ramsey Press, as well as two syndicated radio shows and 10 podcasts, which have over 17 million weekly listeners. Learn More.

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