Are you a
full-time overtime
employee or a
business owner?

THE top 25% profitable growers prioritise working ‘on’ the business that involves stepping back and tracking what goes on from the paddock to profit in the bank.

Dedicate time to working ‘on’ rather than just ‘in’ your business.

The importance of working ‘in’ and ‘on’ your business during these challenging economic times.

When was the last time you dedicated time to working ‘on’ rather than just ‘in’ your business?

As primary producers you know exactly what working in your business looks like: growing produce, ‘doing the work’ and wearing all the many hats needed to keep it all going and keep the lights on.

But what does it feel like when you’re only working in your business and never on it?
• ‘Stuff’ is getting done, but you don’t feel like you’re making progress forwards.
• You’re on a treadmill of constant busy-ness, stress and overwhelm.
• You’re not so clear on where it is all going and where the ‘end of the rainbow’ is any more for your business.

Sound at all familiar?

Of course, you have to spend considerable time working in the business to have a business at all. But if you’re acting like a full-time overtime employee and never stepping into the role of business owner or ‘captain of the ship’, the harsh reality is you’re destined continually repeat cycles and you’re not going to get very far.

In the current difficult economic environment of rising inputs costs, labour costs and availability, working ‘on’ the business has never been so important to ensuring that your business is sailing in a profitable direction.

In fact, one of the key consistencies among the Top 25% profitable growers that are currently weathering this storm is a consistent prioritisation of dedicated time to working ‘on’ the business that involves stepping back and tracking what goes on from the paddock all the way through to profit in the bank.

As one grower confined in me recently:

“Before if there was a problem then my response would be to go out and work twice as hard at it, something I learned from my father. But the reality is that would often made the situation twice as a worse because I was doing the same thing that was causing the problems twice as much.

Now when faced with the problem, I stop take some time to understand all the elements that are at play in the problem and then the solution more often than not becomes clear — and often it doesn’t mean working twice as hard at it!”

So, what does working ‘on’ the business look like? Here’s 5 simple pointers:

1 Taking a step back
from specific individual tasks and looking at the whole business end to end, seed to profit and all that that involves along that path.

2 Sitting down weekly, monthly, or quarterly — whatever is needed — and crunching the numbers to understand how each step of the path is performing, or not, and contributing to the overall profitability of your business.

3 Acknowledging that things change and that your working assumptions need continual testing — the way your father, or grandfather, did things will still have elements that stand but the environment in which they occur has changed dramatically.

4 Record your decisions, go do and then evaluate — it’s all well and good working ‘on’ the business but if you don’t hold yourself accountable to make any changes then it’s a pointless exercise.

5 Look further than next week and into the future as to where the business is currently heading and ask yourself if this where you want it to go?

You may try and do this by yourself but inviting in some help or an expert third party opinion will cut through any convenient stories you might tell yourself, make this a more rigorous process and altogether better use of time — the suggestion is asking for some help. You could even enrol in a project like the Building Business Horticulture Capacity Project.

Working ‘on’ your business is investing time so your business can be better tomorrow.

Yes, working ‘on’ your business requires dedicated time.

Yes, working ‘on’ your business requires concentration.

And yes, working ‘on’ your business requires sitting still and looking at computers, spreadsheets, numbers.

Let’s also be honest, working ‘in’ the business for many growers is a comfortable place to be in given its well-known and creates a sense of doing and achieving. But working ‘in’ the business can also be a place of avoidance when the reality of working ‘on’ the business means facing many unknowns and longer terms detailed thinking.

Ultimately, working ‘in’ your business is spending time managing your business as it is today. Working ‘on’ your business is investing time so your business can be better tomorrow.

The more you work ‘on’, the easier the work you do ‘in’ will get.


If you want to talk more about the themes in this article and how you can work more ‘on’ your own business, then get in touch with Bryn Edwards via email: