On Work vs. In Work

Shift your focus from daily tasks to visionary leadership and watch your business soar.
Dec 20 / Noah Lantz
As a gutter company owner, you want to keep your business running smoothly. From managing employees to running estimates , there are plenty of things to keep you busy throughout the day - if you let them.

Is your phone ringing off the hook? Do you feel like you’re being pulled in a thousand directions at once? Are you bringing work home with you?

Congratulations! You’re “making it” in the gutter world.

But there’s a difference between making ends meet and building a thriving business.

That difference is leadership - specifically, your ability to lead and spend time “on” the business instead of “in” it.
Most gutter company owners make just enough money to make ends meet. Our industry research indicates that 86% of all gutter companies sell less than $500,000 in services every year. That’s not total profit - that’s total revenue.

There’s a lot eating at that total figure. Everyone gets a piece of it. Suppliers need to be paid. Employees need checks. Finally, the tax man takes his cut.

Out of that $500,000, what’s really left for the owner of the company?

Not much.

Meanwhile, there are gutter companies - including your competitors - who do millions upon millions in sales every year.

One of them, Leaf Home Solutions, rakes in almost $600 million every year. They are one of the largest home improvement companies in the nation. And they work on gutters. Just like you.

But the executives aren’t showing up to work every day. If you call them, they won’t pick up the phone.

They’re certainly not climbing ladders, hiring and firing installers, or filling out paperwork.

They’re not even doing the taxes.

Instead, these individuals direct their energy towards high level, high impact decisions that affect their businesses larger revenue strategy. That is what leadership in business entails.

So - are you working in your gutter business or on it? Are you a leader, or just another employee?

To answer that question, start by looking at where you spend your time.

If you ‘own’ a gutter company and spend all your time hanging gutters, selling gutters, or managing a team doing those things, you actually created a job for yourself with the extra stress of running a gutter company.

In other words, you’re an employee - but without any of the stability. You can’t unplug from your business, because the success of your company ultimately rests on your shoulders.

If that’s what your business feels like, you’re probably better off working for someone else. Clock out at the end of the day and go back home to your family. Let someone else have the extra stress of running a gutter company.

Not happy with “working for someone else” money?

Well, here’s the rub.

If you want to work for yourself and have the money, success, and freedom that comes with leading a gutter company instead of working in one, you need to work “on” your business - not “in” it.

"On Work" Examples

When we talk about "on work," we're referring to strategic, high level, high impact decisions and the deliberation involved in making those calls.
Here are a few examples of what that "on work" looks like:

System and process development

Developing systems and processes is a critical part of "on work." By creating standardized processes for things like sales, installation, and customer service, you'll be able to ensure consistency and quality across your business.

This is where the courses offered by the Rain Gutter Association step in - we’ve developed a plug and play training system – all so you can spend more leading and less time working.


Networking is an essential part of "on work." By attending industry conferences and events, you'll be able to meet other professionals in your field and learn about new trends and best practices. This can help you identify opportunities for growth and make valuable connections that will help you advance your business.


By staying up to date on industry trends, best practices, and new products, you'll be able to identify new opportunities for growth and stay ahead of the competition.

Research also involves setting up larger systems that enable you to make informed decisions, like CRM’s (customer relationship management) or surveys. These types of tools can help you isolate where you should focus your sales, marketing, and customer service efforts.

This type of data can be used to help pivot the direction of your company or efforts.

Hiring (and firing) key employees.

Leadership involves hiring people responsible for managing the “in” work and holding them accountable for the results.

Deep thought

Sometimes, the best ideas come when you take the time to step back and think deeply about your business. This could involve taking a long walk, meditating, or simply setting aside some uninterrupted time to think. This valuable time can help cultivate deep insights into your business, strategy, and goals.

Why On Work is Neglected

While "on work" is essential for scaling and growing a gutter company, it's often neglected in favor of the "in work." Here’s why this happens, time and time again.

1. Background

Most people running a gutter company have a background in the industry - often as a salesperson or as an installer. And their experience ends up informing how they spend their time in the business. Owners with installation experience end up on job sites, doing installs. Owners with sales experience end up running leads or managing an office.

This leads directly to the second point:

2. Fear of delegation

Due to their background, owners may feel like they're the only ones who can handle certain tasks and may be hesitant to delegate them to employees. For example, a gutter company owner with a background in sales may justify running all the leads themselves. After all, if they can do it best, why give that responsibility to anyone else?

3. Perceived lack of time

But this fear of delegation leads to the third problem: Time. One of the biggest reasons why "on work" is neglected is simply because most gutter company owners don’t feel like they have the time to focus on it. "In work" tasks can be all-consuming, leaving little time or energy for higher-level tasks.

In truth, this is a priority and planning issue. Not a time issue.

4. Inertia

Finally, it's worth noting that humans are creatures of habit. Once we get into a routine, it can be difficult to break out of it. If you’re used to focusing on the "in work" tasks, they continue to be prioritized even when they’re not in the best interest of your company.

This inertia can manifest in other areas of business as well, such as misplaced loyalty to employees or working in isolation.

The combination of these four elements in leadership is what causes most small businesses to stall or fail. They’re the result of habit, circumstance, and experience. Growing your company involves identifying these traits in yourself and taking deliberate steps to overcome them. This might involve stepping outside of your comfort zone, and quite possibly, acting counterintuitively.

This can be quite humbling. Most people aren't willing admit that their old way of doing things is no longer working for them.

Making it happen

So, how can you create systems that enable more "on work" in your gutter company? Here are a few key strategies to consider:

Plan, plan, plan

Most small businesses start and operate without much structure - with operations, responsibilities, and tasks being delegated based on relationships and personalities (aka who the boss knows or who people get along with) rather than structure and accountability. Unfortunately, this is more akin to how a mob operates than a business. If you are the head of a mob, you’ll have mob problems - like dysfunctional relationships between employees, constant turnover, and customers who don’t (really) want to pay you.

A business, on the other hand, requires strategy, organization and accountability - all of which needs to be clearly defined, planned out, put to paper, and acted on. In a perfect business, this work has all been completed before the business even opens its doors.

Some examples of this planning include:

  • An overall business plan
  • An org chart, with clearly defined hierarchies and roles
  • Clearly defined KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) for teams and roles.
  • Writing manuals that clearly lay out tasks, responsibilities, and how-to’s for each role in your company
  • Checklists to help ensure work gets done right each and every time
  • Organizational values that embody the culture you are shooting for

RGA business coaching can help you with this planning.

Prioritize “on work”

Designate times or days where you don't have assigned responsibilities. This could involve taking a half-day off each week or blocking off time on your calendar for strategic planning and development. Consider this your “on” time.

By designating these times, you'll be able to focus on higher-level tasks without being interrupted by day-to-day responsibilities. This can help you stay focused on the bigger picture and ensure that your business is moving in the right direction.

Hire employees who can take the bulk of the “in work” off your shoulders

One of the most important things you can do to enable more "on work" is to hire out and delegate tasks to your employees. This will allow you to focus on the higher-level tasks that are necessary for scaling and growing your business. Once you have the right people in place, everything else gets easier.

Use software to automate repetitive tasks

Technology can be incredibly valuable in terms of automating tasks and freeing up your time for higher-level work. For example, you could use software to manage your sales and customer service processes, or to track your inventory and orders. By automating routine tasks, you'll be able to focus on the big picture and move your business forward.

Looking for recommended software tools for gutter companies? See a list of our partner programs for great tools at great prices.

Plug into our rain gutter certification courses

With Rain Gutter Association courses, you can rest assured that new employees are up to the work in front of them. Our rain gutter certification courses cover the basics of safety, installations, and sales - so you can spend less time in your business training new employees and more time planning your next move.

What are the benefits of focusing on "on work"?

1. It encourages you to act strategically.

When you're constantly bogged down in the day-to-day tasks of running your business, it can be difficult to see the big picture. By focusing on the "on work," you'll be able to step back and take a broader view of your business. This can help you identify new opportunities for growth and come up with creative solutions to problems.

2. You'll be able to take more time off.

If your business is too reliant on your direct involvement, it can be difficult to take time off. By focusing on the "on work," you'll be able to create systems and processes that allow your business to run smoothly even when you're not there. This can give you the freedom to take more time off and recharge.

3. Your business will sell for more.

At the Rain Gutter Association, we advocate building for selling. In other words, think of your business itself as a product and prepare to sell it.

Put yourself in the mind of a potential buyer, prepared to write a multi-million dollar check for your businesses’ assets, customers, and brand. What would you like to see in terms of staff, marketing, accounting, systems, etc? Those are the elements of the business you need to build out so you can hand the keys off successfully...and for a premium price.

As leadership expert John C. Maxwell explained, "A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way." While the "in work" tasks are necessary for the day-to-day functioning of your business, they're not enough to scale your operation
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