How working on the business and not in the business is the answer

Would you rather own a McDonald’s or an independent burger stand? At Bob’s burgers, who’s responsible for worrying about attracting customers? Who unlocks the doors? Who cooks? The answer to all of these questions is Bob, the owner, because he is focused on working in the business and in turn is becoming enslaved to it.

OK, now where is the McDonald’s owner? The McDonald’s owner is on a beach somewhere relaxing while his business makes money for him, or he’s traveling between the 10 stores he owns being the leader that he is.

The fact that McDonald’s can serve billions of their products each year is a true testament to the power of systems. The systems and processes work, so the owner doesn’t have to. 

Build it like a franchise

Whether or not your business is a franchise, I encourage you to build it like one. This type of mentality forces the entrepreneur/owner to work on the business versus in the business. Now, let me break down the differences:

■  On the business: Owner is creating critical processes, writing scripts, standardizing forms, reviewing and editing systems to make sure they are the absolute best they can be.

■  In the business: Owner is answering the phone, making the sale and filling the order.

The No. 1 goal for an entrepreneur/owner is to work on the business. This is your unique talent. This is how you’re going to grow your business and also maintain your quality of life.

When I first started Defender Direct, I was blessed to study “The E Myth: Why Most Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It” by Michael Gerber. Now, 15 years later, a day doesn’t go by without my reflection on this book and how it helped me understand how the business works versus working in the business.

Passionate entrepreneurs often get so caught up in the technical aspect of the job, and doing everything themselves, that they ultimately wake up to a nightmare rather than a dream. 

Know your talents

When Defender Direct launched in 1998, I didn’t know how to install or sell security systems. I quickly realized that my role as the entrepreneur was to work with the techs that knew how to do the technical work. This is how I knew I could best contribute to growing our business.

I began spending the majority of my time developing the best system/process to install. One million-plus security systems later, I’m proud to say that I couldn’t, and didn’t, install any of them. That’s the power of systems!

This next example fits every part of your business. In the early days of Defender, I made it a point to never do anything without a notepad in hand. With every task, I was simultaneously creating a Standard Operating Procedure so I could eventually hand off the chore and the newly created SOP for someone else to do. Then I could continue working on more processes.

Gerber states, “Entrepreneurs create the system. Managers assure that the systems are used and frontline workers use the systems.” Walk into any McDonald’s in the world, and you’ll witness this phenomenon. Too often we hire the flashy managers, pay them a lot of money and then ask them to create the systems. This leads to disjointed and unrepeatable processes.

It is the entrepreneur’s job to own the responsibility of creating the systems for the manager to share. When you look at the manager’s job in the light of Gerber’s definition, you begin to hire differently. You need a responsible manager who will hire the best team to assure that your systems always will be used.

So, the next time you encounter a large business issue, don’t dive headfirst into solving the problem at hand. Remember: systems are the solution!

Dave Lindsey is the founder, board member and chief missions officer of Defender Direct, a leading dealer for a portfolio of home security and digital communication brands including ADT and DISH Network. The company employs more than 2,000 individuals in 50 states with more than 100 branch offices nationwide. Visit for more information.