TypewriterFrom The Urbach Letter November 2002

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E-Myth Book CoverThe Entrepreneurial Myth
There's wonderful business book by Michael Gerber that's become something of a modern-day classic: The E-Myth. Even though it's been six years since I read it last, the book's BIG LESSON is still firmly planted in my mind. I'll tell you what the lesson is in a minute. But first, let me point out what's so remarkable about Mr. Gerber's concept. It's rare for a business publication to have a central point so clear and understandable, that one can reduce it down to a few sentences, yet fully developed enough so that it's worth reading the whole book. Even if you're not a book writer yourself, you can benefit by adopting this mindset in the things you do write.
If you can't say what needs to be said about a subject in a one page memo, you don't understand it well enough. People are super-busy, and won't take the time to decode a complex presentation to deduce what it means. Interpret it for them. Don't be afraid to put a stake in the ground and express your opinion. Say what needs to be said in a page (or two) maximum, and attach supporting documents if necessary. Put your effort into the "Executive Summary." Everyone will appreciate it, and you'll be more successful in communicating your ideas.

The E-Myth means the Entrepreneurial Myth. Gerber states that most small businesses "don't work" because they're started by "technicians" happily working for a boss who one day suffer from a sudden "entrepreneurial seizure." Thinking that because they're good at the technical work of their profession, they'll be successful managing their own business. Even though Gerber focused on the classic "small business," similar things happen within larger organizations, when people who "do the work" transition to "managing the work." Indeed, these days, many large companies are organized into multiple, nearly autonomous small businesses under one roof.

Being a manager or running a small business is highly stressful. Many people in this position long for the "good old days" when life was simpler and they could focus on the things they trained to do... and enjoyed. Running a business or department is like playing Whack A Mole As soon as you pound down one problem, another pops up. It's a rare day when everything seems to be fully under control.

Here's how to regain your sanity. It's the big lesson, and Gerber's central concept: you should run your business/department like you were going to turn it into a franchise and sell it. Document EVERYTHING. Develop systems and procedures for every task performed in your business/department. Prepare training manuals for employees (even if it's just you and one other person). Etc., etc., etc. Even if you never want to sell your business, think about what you'd have to do to make it an attractive business to buy from the perspective of an outsider (someone without industry-specific expertise or professional training like you). That person would be looking to buy a business that runs like a well oiled machine, with SYSTEMS for doing everything: buying, managing inventory, hiring and firing employees, training, accounting, marketing, etc. Far too many business owners, managers, and professionals are walking around with all this "stuff" in their heads. It makes you much more "indispensable" than you ought to be. Start writing it down!

Get the book. It's a good read.

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