Are You Working IN Your Business or ON your Business

An interesting thing happened a few weeks ago when a friend of mine started having the inside of his house painted.  He met with the painter who walked him and his wife through the entire process of how his company did business, the owner set expectations for the entire job – from timeframe to organization, and then, Monday morning, when my friends were expecting the painter to show up, he did … followed by two other young men in a separate vehicle.  “The Boss” walked around, introduced everyone, made sure that the instructions and requirements were clear, and left.

While this may not be very novel, the entire time that the “painter” was speaking with his clients, he spoke in terms that suggested that he would be there for the whole project – never giving any indication that he had a team that would be doing the work, and yet that fateful Monday morning, the painter introduced his team to the clients and drove off.

What happened?

The work was first rate.  The young men (there ended up being three that week) showed up on time, got right to work, were respectful of the home and property, and above all, got the work done in a very professional manner.

Now, this is a stark contrast to another family we know who had done virtually the same thing – hired a different company to do some interior painting, met with the owner, and then saw the owner every day, handling the work with only one other employee, spending his lunch break following up on calls, leaving the job early to meet with potential clients, and, in general, trying to handle both sales and production at the same time.

So let me ask you this – which one of these two examples represents the place your own company occupies?

Are you answering the phone while you’re painting?

Do you have a paint brush (or mouse, or keyboard, or steering wheel) in one hand while you try to give your attention to a potential client on the phone in the other hand?

In short, are you so far into your company that you have become the company?

From a corporate tax point of view, this is one of those tests the IRS uses to assess whether an LLC is really a Sole Proprietorship and then they can drop a tax bomb on you.

Can you say, “I am not the company and the company is not me”?


Not enough time?  No “good” people to hire?  Too “busy”?

To go back to our first painter – the one who doesn’t really paint – here’s an example of a business owner (and since I know little else about him, I’m not even sure we can call him an entrepreneur, although I’ll bet it’s true) that has made an important distinction in his enterprise – he is delivering the highest value to his business, not his customers.  As the owner, he is harnessing, at the very least, customer relationships for his company.

As for the value of the work that his company does, it appears that he has developed a system of sorts to make sure that the work that the company is hired to do – in this case – painting – is done properly and with respect to the client’s needs.

It does take a skilled hand to paint a house, but it doesn’t take a business owner.

It doesn’t take an entrepreneur.

I’m willing to bet that some of you reading this are thinking, “but I love to do (whatever it is that your company does)!”

And you are probably good at it, with thousands of hours of time spent learning the trade and the craft, but as an entrepreneur, you can’t do that anymore.

You are a business owner.  If your love of painting, or auto repair, or accounting, or whatever is so great that you still want to do it, then I’d challenge you to go back into the workforce as an employee and do that thing – you’ll make more money and have a much better quality of life versus trying to run a company and do a job at the same time.

If, on the other hand, you truly want to own a business, then I challenge you to embrace the responsibilities that spring from that position – establishing a structure to create the enterprise you wanted in the first place – one that solves one key factor in your clients’ busy lives so effectively that they cannot help but be excited about the idea of using your company to do so.



P.S. By the way, if that test phrase I mentioned in regards to the IRS – “I am not the company and the company is not me” caught you a little off guard, then it might be a great time for us to sit down and look at how you have your company structured and, more importantly, how well you’ve documented any corporate assets you have.  Let’s sit down and talk about how to keep the IRS from interrupting your day. Call us, text us, email us.



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