If you have started to work for yourself or run your own small business, it won’t be long before some well-meaning pal, coach or colleague in the same boat suggests you “should” read The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber. If you are an entrepreneur, comme moi, I bet you just hate the word should in that sentence. Me too. But I have read it and here’s why you might make that choice too.
The E-Myth (for short) is a book originally written a while back by Michael Gerber, and hence the Revisited bit of the title, it was updated some time after the initial writing. It could be considered both a perennial in that addresses the trials and tribulations of all business owners trying to get up and running with their first small business, and a tad out of date since it effectively pre-dates the Internet and the way we all use that so centrally in our businesses now. But don’t let that put you off.
Gerber’s book is subtitled, scarily, Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work And What To Do About It. And most of us reach for it when we get to the stage of realising (and admitting to ourselves) that our own business isn’t working, it’s fatally flawed. And it’s biggest flaw is often – there’s no nice way to say this – us. Yikes.
Gerber’s book teaches you how to create systems in your business which means that – at some point in the future – it can run without you. If you are new and excited about this working for yourself lark, his message could come too soon for you. But if you are a couple of years in, you will be beginning to feel the need for his advice and structure.
And that advice shows you how to turn your real world business, one with staff and premises, into a well-oiled machine.
When I met Mr Gerber in Leeds there were people in the room who said “We’ve done that, Michael. We’ve successfully E-Mythed our business and we don’t go to work any more. Our business makes money without us and we’ve gone to the golf course and taken up hobbies. But we are BORED!”
To which the author and business guru surprised us a tad by saying in that case we’d misunderstood the book completely.
What he intended was that not only would we turn our first business, our Head Office if you like, into what he calls “the franchise prototype” but we would then go on to replicate it, growing our business branch by branch until we have a chain of pie shops or dental surgeries or garden centres or restaurants all across the land and all working without us.
His franchise prototype model also allows us to sell our business, or license it or franchise it, all of which will create wealth for us, as opposed to just a living which is where most of us are at now. If you’ve no idea what I’m talking about and your business is completely pain-free then please ignore this post. But remember where you saw it, and come back when pain starts to appear as I know it will. Sorry to be uncharacteristically gloomy but, like Gerber, I too have worked with hundreds of small businesses and know whereof he speaks first hand too.
Reading The E-Myth gave me the idea to license one of my own businesses, creating 22 branches across London and the South East of England and there’s loads more potential in that business too for growth and even greater wealth creation. What I love about the franchise prototype is that it enables me to teach my licensees how to run a small business easily, effectively and part-time, however much they resist that. No joke. [The entrepreneur’s anathema – just do as you are told?]
Thus, it isn’t for everyone. This isn’t the only or main reason most of us work for ourselves. Creators and entrepreneurs are not good at following the instruction manual and they are not much interested in an efficient little business which makes money without them. They have their ego engaged, they like their own ideas much more than anyone else’s and insist on reinventing the wheel unnecessarily. And that’s fine, so long as you don’t want to fix what’s broken about your own business model or lack thereof or make any real money. And one day you will, trust me and trust Michael Gerber. He knows.
The E-Myth is a very accessible book because it’s told as a story which we can all understand and wistfully, sadly recognise all our business failures in that story too, so easily. That business owner is us. I myself have (a) thrown the book across the room and (b) failed to finish it at the first attempt in a temper of self-recognition. How dare he know me so well without ever having met me! He knows us through and through, that’s how.
I have studied with the E-Myth folks in California and since finishing the book eventually I have met and worked with Gerber in the UK and I know that this book is an excellent primer. Think of it as a foundation stone to build your real world business upon. Get the principles under your belt even if you adapt them to the more modern, virtual business you own and run now, and liberate yourself from needing to show up at the coal face to exchange time for money 24/7/365.
One last thing about the E-Myth. I have met very few people who have been able to use the book to fix a broken business, despite Gerber’s best intentions. Most people I know have had to scrap or leave the broken one and start over, especially if they have business partners who are unwilling to engage with the book and its recommended systems, who insist on continuing to do things the broken way they love and prefer. People don’t like change. And that’s just the way that the world turns.
And, of course, the book won’t make real sense to you until the day dawns you recognise and admit that your small business isn’t working and you look for some help.
So here’s how it works:
1. Start off on your own and get it all wrong, ending up in pain, broke and going seriously off the thing you love, around which you created your business in the first place – pies, dentistry, gardening, cooking, accounting etc. Find yourself contemplating getting a J-O-B again – for a rest.
2. Read the E-Myth once the pain starts to get quite bad/unbearable.
3. Start over armed informed by 1 and 2 and make a mad, roaring success of it. Fall in love with your business all over again.
4. Your business makes you rich and/or you can stop going to work and/or you can sell it and/or you can rinse and repeat, getting better and better and faster and faster and wealthier and wealthier each time you put the E-Myth principles into practise.
Let me know how I can help with that.