Meta Work

If you’re an entrepreneur, you need to do three things well to realize your vision:

  1. Work in the business
  2. Work on the business
  3. Work on improving how you work on the business

These three areas build on one another and compound success. Let’s dive deeper into each…

1. Work in the business means using your unique skills and insight to help create and deliver the products and services your customers value. Leaders at all levels need to contribute work output that keeps them close to their customers and allows them understand what their customers need and value. Contrary to some popular opinion, working in the business is valuable work for leaders.

2. Work on the business means taking time to assess how well the business is able to deliver your products and services and to continually improve how effective, efficient and adaptable your are in adding customer value. This includes:

  • Developing and articulating a clear mission and vision.
  • Understanding the context in which the business runs and how internal resources and capabilities must adapt relative to external trends like customer needs, competitive positioning and social and regulatory limitations.
  • Defining how you will compete to win within this context through your product market fit and go to market activities.
  • Implementing projects and initiatives that create priority new capabilities and offerings.
  • Measuring and achieving objectives and goals that grow the business.
  • Solving problems that prevent you from fully reaching your goals and vision.
  • Working to acquire the people, skills, resources, processes and tools needed for the business to run well and thrive.
  • Organizing how you and others work best together.

Let’s call this work that creates a differentiated strategy.

3. Work on improving how you work on the business means improving your ability to understand, articulate and deliver your differentiated strategy. While working on the business may sound daunting, real growth comes from improving how well you work on the business. This is work on the process that is used to work on the business.

Leaders benefit first from acknowledging that working on the business is a process. Call it the strategy process. Recognize that it is on-going work that requires regular attention and focused time.

Next, adopt a strategy process that is tested and proven. Once adopted, work relentlessly to make it work for your business. Adapt and grow it as your needs change. Engage other leaders in the process. Continually improve your ability to continually improve your strategy and your ability to work toward your vision. Work on being the best at implementing a strategy process.

For more detail on what a strategy process is and how you can adopt one for your business, start with the StrategyOS I use. It is borrowed and blended from tested ideas that fit most companies who have at least a few employees and and some customers. I typically modify it depending on company maturity and size as you might do for your company.

Or, you might pick another author’s “packaged” system. Most small to medium sized companies will find the EOS from Gino Wickman’s Traction is a light weight way to quickly add a common process with minimal overhead. Matt Mochary’s The Great CEO Within documents another approach worth adopting, especially for startups that are starting to get product market fit. Early stage companies may look to Erik Reis’ The Lean Startup or Kim & Mauborgne’s Blue Ocean Strategy for ideas. More mature companies might like more structure from Kaplan & Norton’s Balanced Score Card.

Keep in mind that success comes from finding time and focus to always work on these 3 areas that deliver your vision. Don’t work harder, work harder on the things that will most impact success using these three as foundational building blocks.


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