Business Advice

Remember to work on your small business, not just in it

Fi Bendall /

I had a big wake up call a few weeks ago and it has made me realise a few things:

1. Don’t go online shopping when heavily sedated;

2. Being laid up for a stint gives you time to hatch some crazy plans and ideas; and

3. You need to work on your business as much as in your business.

I’ll ignore the first two revelations for now as:

(a) you don’t need to hear about the skirt I ordered that might have been a leftover from that Olivia Newton John film Xanadu; and

(b) my ‘Uber for champagne’ app idea made sense when I was ordering the aforementioned skirt, less so now.

Instead, I’ll focus on the third.

As small business owners, we work very, very hard to bring our vision to life and grow it into something great. Sometimes we work too hard on the wrong things.

It’s easy to say, “take a step back and delegate”; it’s a lot harder to do. I love the ins and outs, the nitty and the gritty of what my business does. I get a buzz from all the action and get excited about every little win. That’s a lot of buzz and a lot of excitement. And that can take a lot out of you, mentally and physically.

What it also means is that you are not always focused on the bigger picture. You’re putting out spot fires when you should be making plans to prevent fires in the first place. You’re getting little wins that are probably not taking you in the direction of bigger victories. You’re in the trenches when you should be taking the strategist’s point of view instead.

Having an involuntary break from the business allowed me to step back and delegate out of necessity. Employees stepped up and did things I didn’t know they could do because I had been doing those things for them. Clients didn’t suddenly disappear because I was not constantly around. It was a bit disconcerting at first. The business can run even though I’m not there.

Parents will know that feeling when your child turns around and says, “I’ve got it, mum. I can do this”. And they can. And you suddenly feel massively proud but also a little disappointed all at once. But then you realise that’s your work. As a business owner, as an employer, as a leader, you are there to empower your people to do great things. Believe in them and give them the tools to do those things. Provide a roadmap and inspiration.

But as I said, it’s not easy. I still fight the urge to know about every little thing that’s happening on this account or that. I’m still asking questions about stuff I probably don’t need to occupy my time or brain space with. That’s me, and that’s okay. That’s another realisation about myself as a person and a business owner.

But I’m trying to tame that part of me and train myself to see the bigger picture: You need to work on your business as much or more so than in your business.

So what are you doing to work on your business this week?

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Fi Bendall

Fi Bendall is chief executive of The Female Social Network and a Westpac/AFR 2015 100 Women of Influence, who was described by CEO Magazine as 'The CEO's Secret Weapon'. An expert and pioneer in digital strategy, she has over 23 years’ experience in the digital and tech sectors.

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