Work on the business, not in the business

"While it’s important to train and mentor team members - it’s even more important to let them interpret their own version of the role."

Andrew Dobbie | Founder | MadeBrave

How would you explain what “work on the business, not in the business” means?


I am a leader with a 'clear desk policy' (stay with me). If I am running my business correctly, then I shouldn't have a load of tasks on my desk, especially the ones I'm not good at.

If I am doing my job correctly, then I should be surrounded by people who are much better at each role required in the company (than I would be if I attempted the task).

These include both things that I’m not great at or things that are necessary, but take up loads of time if I were to attempt them. With my desk being clear, then I have the right headspace to work on the business, rather than in it.

It gives me the thinking time I need to help move the business forward, collectively.

What do you think about this ‘advice’?


I think it’s a great piece of advice that I learnt very early on. But it doesn't mean it’s easy to do. In fact, it’s probably one of the hardest things to do as a business owner.

When you’ve been so involved in every part of the business since day 1, handing over the reins is scary.

It’s at that moment you step up a gear and make sure you’re putting the right people in place. The people who can do the things you’ve been so used to doing yourself.

And while it’s important to train and mentor them - it’s even more important to let them interpret their own version of the role. It’s a new wave of leadership that can be incredibly exciting for your business.

Would you give this advice to other people?


100%. While it’s not easy, trust me when I say - if you feel like it's time, then it's probably the right thing to do.

If not, what alternative advice would you give to agency leaders?


So while I fully support the above advice, here’s a bonus piece of advice for anyone who needs it.

The best decision I made as an Agency leader was no longer checking my emails after 6pm (hear the panic screams from fellow Agency owners up and down the country).

But why?

Well first of all, and the most important one - it’s time to switch off, spend time with my family and really be present. You can’t make memories while scrolling through your inbox.

But secondly, nothing good ever comes from checking an email late at night.

If it’s unwanted news or a challenge: You start to stress, your mind starts running at 100 mph, your family gets ignored while you stress a little more and you’ll spend the whole night tossing and turning in your sleep.

And usually, it’s something that can’t be dealt with until the morning anway. So now, I just don’t check.

I wait until the morning - when I can open them, immediately do something positive for them, fix the issue and get on with my day.

No sleep lost.

Andrew Dobbie's full bio

Andrew Dobbie, 41, is a creative entrepreneur and CEO of MadeBrave - a strategic branding agency based in Glasgow, Edinburgh and London.

A true creative at heart, Andrew began his career as a designer and photographer after studying Multimedia Systems at University of the West of Scotland. Now considered one the UK’s leading branding experts, Andrew believes strongly in brands that live their purpose and that are built from the inside out.

Since launching MadeBrave in 2012 on a shoestring budget of just £1000, Andrew has grown MadeBrave into a 60-strong, multi-million pound business - creating award winning work for many of the world’s leading brands, including Nestle, Medtronic, Diageo and KPMG.

In addition to running MadeBrave, Andrew is well known for presenting a monthly podcast, ‘Just A Chat With’, celebrating best-in-class creativity from around the world.

When he’s not helping brands find their brave, Andrew can be found at home creating TikToks with his son Finn and his French Bulldog, Astro.

Humble promo of Andrew Dobbie and MadeBrave 


One of the things I admire most about Andrew is that he's not afraid of taking risks. Whether it's buying loads of raffle tickets to win fully converted camper van, invest in a bunch of random whiskeys that end up worth a bunch of cash and give TikTok a go (which many of us parents only dare venture into) - check out @Entertaining Dad and his "brand expert" account. Beyond that Andrew has built an incredible agency and team at MadeBrave. A mega creative bunch, always pushing the boundaries of creativity in marketing.

Daniel (Polymensa founder)



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