It’s a 3-legged stool thing: Doing, Managing, and Building

How many of you started your business because you love to sell? Or because you love to do the bookkeeping and accounting for your company? Or create processes or manage employees? My guess is: not many!

But all of these “other” responsibilities are vital to a successful small business and, if you are like most small business owners, these vital tasks get back-burnered while tending to the day to day obligations of your business.


These are the three legs of the proverbial three legged stool that must be tackled to grow and sustain a viable business.


For most of us, it is easy to address the DOING leg. Usually, this is the most enjoyable part of our businesses. It’s what you would do all day long if you could. It is the day to day work of the business. It’s your core skills and probably why you started your business in the first place.

If you are a cabinet maker, it is working with the wood. If you are a therapist, it is being with your client delivering the services that will benefit him or her. If you own a retail shop, it is selecting lines and interacting with shoppers. If you’re a web developer, it is creating the web site. In short, whatever you started your business to do, is what you spend the most of your time actually DOING. That makes sense. But it often comes at the expense of not addressing the other two legs which are equally important.


The idea of MANAGING your business is more than managing employees. It is the effort you invest to develop or improve the processes within your company to create greater efficiency. It is getting invoices sent on time. It is following up on past due invoices. It is researching and developing new products or services. It is tending to administrative issues such as your lease or verifying you have a good interest rate with your merchant service provider. These duties are part of managing your business. They often do not require daily attention, but should be addressed on a regular basis to ensure you are running your business efficiently and profitably. Even though you have good intentions and these tasks get added to your To Do List, they often get skipped over because you need to do “more pressing things”. This can wait until tomorrow. The tomorrows to weeks and then months and you miss the opportunity to MANAGE your business for maximum profit, effective employees and efficient operations.

The penalty for not managing your business is a poorly run organization that does not improve with age. You’ll have bored and weak employees, ineffectual processes and log jams, lousy cash flow and poor profit and will find yourself stuck – unable to move forward in growing your business.


As a business owner you must engage in BUIDING your business so it is sustainable. Building your business entails the ever-present need to expose your products and services to potential buyers. It is actively marketing your business to create a pipeline of leads. It is a vigil of listening to customer needs and reacting to them. It is staying on top of industry and business situation trends. It is seeking out people who can use your products or services. In short, it is sales and marketing.

This leg is the most elusive of all. There are no deadlines to force you to react. Building your business is entirely up to you and you must be accountable to yourself to regularly build you business. Most entrepreneurs struggle the building leg because it’s hard! How do you know how to reach your potential clients? How are you supposed to make time to build your business when all your time is spent doing your business? How do you make that first call? How can we afford to do marketing?

If you don’t BUILD your business, it will fail.

So, if you’re thinking that you don’t spend enough time on managing and building your business, what can you do?

  1. Admit to yourself that your business will fail if you do not spend adequate time managing and building your business. Fear is a good motivator.
  2. You, as the business leader, will have to direct these activities, but you do not have to do all of them. Allow employees to take on some of the responsibilities.
  3. Outsource what you can’t do or don’t want to do. Hire a part time bookkeeper or a professional telesales rep to make calls.
  4. Create a comprehensive marketing plan with reasonable due dates that give you adequate time to execute the tasks you need to accomplish. Stick to it.
  5. Find an accountability partner to challenge you to keep to your commitments.
  6. Make appointments with yourself to dedicate to managing or building tasks. Do nothing else during that time except those tasks.
  7. If having the money to build your business is an issue, choose lower cost, yet effective, strategies such as social networking, in-person networking or working the telephone to contact leads. These take time, but are relatively inexpensive.
  8. If you are reticent about an aspect that you know you must do, take a training class on the subject to give you the tools and confidence to tackle them.
  9. Set aside one day a month when you do not schedule any other business responsibilities and work on managing and building responsibilities. Don’t allow for interruptions.
  10. Contact some of the many organizations that offer professional counseling such as the SBDC, SCORE, SBA, etc.

Remember, it’s a three legged stool thing. If one leg is weak or broken, the whole thing will crash. And that hurts.

How are you doing on making sure that your stool has all 3 legs? Do you have tips or tricks to share, or questions for me on how to manage this?

Leave a comment below and be entered into my monthly drawing for a free book.

“It’s a 3-legged stool thing” was written by and is copyright 2011 Mo Kanwischer of Momentum Business Consulting. Reused with permission.

About Marilyn Walker, Ph.D.

Marilyn Walker is Founder and Lead Consultant at Grow Your Org. She helps businesses plan and manage growth, with a specialty in technology.


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