When You Shouldn’t Be Spending Time In *Or* On Your Business

By Jessica Albon

Working with your business

I don’t hate the E-Myth. In fact, I think it was a groundbreaking book when first published in 1985. However, these days, I think business requires a new paradigm.

It’s not enough to work *in* your business. But, it’s also not enough to spend time *on* your business. All the systems in the world, no matter how well-designed (or justified), won’t give your business a soul, and they won’t create a business that serves your customers well.

So, instead of spending time on your business or in your business, start spending time *with* your business. You spend time with your kids (if you have them). You spend times with your spouse/significant other/favorite people. You spend time with your dog/cat/iguana.

But, I’m willing to bet you don’t really spend time with your business. Perhaps it’s never even entered your mind to spend time with your business. And yet, if you are building a business that is to have any impact whatsoever on the world around you, you’re going to have to dig in and learn to spend time with your business.

Here’s what I suggest:

1) I use Michele Lisenbury Christensen’s Meeting Your Business Mirror audio to visualize my business as a separate entity from myself. This might strike your fancy, or you might think it’s way too “out there,” but it helps me prepare.

2) Grab a pen, a pad of paper, and a new locale. Step outside of the office if at all possible. While you’re there, at your desk, with your computer and phone, the temptation is just too strong to check email one last time or to answer the phone if it rings. By stepping outside of your office, you really will find a new perspective. Now, sure, when I was living at the beach, I often did this outside, watching the waves. Now that I’m living further inland, I find a coffee shop or the neighborhood park work (almost as) well.

3) Ask yourself what your business needs. Does it need growth? What will it need to grow? Capital? A guide with media savvy? Does it need rest? How would it best experience rest? I find the answer usually comes to me pretty quickly, and I tend to just go with the first answer that comes to mind. (After all, you’ll be doing this again soon, you don’t have to do it perfectly.) But, you might find that in your early meetings, you don’t really have an answer right away. Feel free to make one up! (But please, please, please don’t copy someone else’s answer and claim it as your own–so if you know your best friend has decided her business needs to earn $1 mil in revenues this year, don’t just plop that on your paper no matter how wrong it feels. Forcing yourself to take on someone else’s goals will really work against you here.)

4) Ask yourself what you need. Are you feeling restless? Exhausted? Overwhelmed? Bored? Satisfied? Do you need more clients? More time off? A new coach? Again, feel free to try on an answer if you’re not quite sure–so, just guess at something and see if it feels right. Your first few meetings, you probably won’t be all that comfortable answer this question because it’s probably not one you ask yourself all that often. With practice, the question gets easier and more rewarding to answer.

5) Ask yourself what your team needs. If you work with a partner, employees, freelancers, or anyone, think about what they might need. Does anything come to mind?

6) Ask yourself what your customers need.

7) Ask your business for guidance on where you might begin. Remember, your business is an entity separate from you. It’s also often savvy in ways you might not consider yourself to be. (For instance, my business is great at meeting my customers as autonomous adults.) So, if your business were a person, how would he or she handle all these notes you’ve made. What would his or her first step be?

8) Make a list of 3 action steps. Try to keep them bite-sized (15 minutes or less). Remember to take advantage of your business’s guidance here. Sometimes, I find my list has three things I really can’t stand the thought of doing (which usually means the list gets ignored), or three really easy (and not altogether useful) actions. When I weigh my own insights with the business’s insights, the lists tend to be more balanced.

9) Take those actions over the next week.

10) Repeat the process again next week.

Especially in the beginning, spend this time with your business at least once a week. You want it to become a habit, and that’s hard to do if you only get around to it once a month. At first, you’ll probably feel like you’re making all the answers up, and that’s perfectly alright. Over time, the answers will start to reflect the synergy of you and your business working together.

Through my own business meetings, I’ve had some of my best ideas for growing the business *and* some of my outlandish ideas for next action steps that actually worked. Painful stuff comes up sometimes, too, so if you bump up against the feeling that you’ve been not taking good care of your business or yourself, or that you’ve been treating your business like a child, or anything else that might feel uncomfortable, know that that’s pretty normal. These business meetings can be a great time to take a step back and remind yourself that your goal is to always be kind, both to yourself and to your business. So, don’t let the fear of what you’ll uncover hold you back–even if what you learn in your first few meetings isn’t 100% encouraging, in time, you’ll be able to process anything painful.

When will you hold your first business meeting? I’d love to cheer you on or answer any questions you might have about the process.