The Difference Between Working “On” and “In” Your Business

Working ON your business means that you are focusing on the big picture and long-term vision – such as the strategic cash flow planning, for instance — that will take your business to the next level.

However, working IN your business means that you are simply fulfilling the day-to-day operations, or completing tasks that keep the business running, but not necessarily growing. Executing manual payments or preparing daily cash forecasts are good examples of this. 

Our perspective – shaped through a combined 60+ years of experience in the industry – is that the treasurers and CFOs who have the largest impact are those who can frequently work ON their business, not in it. But of course, this does not mean that working IN the business is always wrong or less important.

We all know that organizations need productive employees working in the business also. In fact, working in the business is often how professionals best master the intricacies that make their organizations function. 

Finding the Right Balance

But, there needs to be a strategic balance between the two. 

Regardless of which position you may find yourself in today, we encourage you to spend time pondering the nature of your work, and how it is progressing under the current format. Consider what comprises a “good” or productive day in your role, and what constitutes a “bad” or unproductive day. What tasks or responsibilities come to mind?

It will likely not surprise you that many of the most successful financial executives – entrepreneurial or otherwise – find the most success by alternating between working “on” and “in” the business. This is ultimately what enables them to find the right mixture of productive, sustainable, and fulfilling work that also meets the company’s short-and-long-term needs.

Naturally, we understand that treasurers need to execute various tasks that require working “in” the business for defined periods. However, if you are ALWAYS working in your business, and rarely have the time to work on it, you might never come to truly succeed in enhancing the status quo or building upon the current state. In other words, you need to prioritize finding time to work “on” the business in order to reduce the time you spend working “in” it. As the metaphor goes, you need to sharpen your saw before you begin cutting down the tree. 


In the modern era of finance and treasury, one of the best ways to work on your business, not in it, is to outsource certain tasks to a specialist like TIS. Maintaining bank connections and bank account information or automating manual payments and forecasting workflows are examples of where this might make sense. Or, take a step back and think about your current role and team – either during an extended vacation or holiday. Evaluate whether you can delegate certain tasks to others – internal or external – who can perform them more efficiently or who have more bandwidth to accommodate them. This also frees up your time to focus on the big picture and strategic planning. 

For practitioners who would like to learn more about achieving the right balance in their workload or would like to explore solutions for simplifying their existing structure, reach out to us. We would be happy to discuss further! 

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