As someone who has been involved with startups and entrepreneurial businesses for the last decade, if not longer, I knew it was time for me to listen to Michael Gerber’s phenomenally popular book The E-Myth when twice in the same week I heard people make reference to it.
But I didn’t immediately grab a copy of the book.
In fact, rather a while passed before I bumped into the audible.com download of The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Business Don’t Work and What to Do About It (Unabridged). With their various discounts this audio book ended up costing me about $12 for an 8 hour audio title. Seemed quite a reasonable price for me to gain some insight into the myth of entrepreneurship…
I’ve now listened to the first 50% of this audio book or so, and it’s another of the overly large class of business titles that are focused on enumeration and gross oversimplification.
In The E-Myth Revisited, the key idea of the entire book seems to be that businesses are started by technicians frustrated by working for someone else who haven’t yet realized that doing the same job for themselves doesn’t alleviate the need for management and business infrastructure.
Got that? The E-Myth itself is that you can do what you like to do and ignore everything else, and the E-reality, as it were, is that a business has multiple facets and requires more skills than just that brought by the technician.
Can I just say now that this is so intuitively obvious that it’s astonishing it’s the basis of this book? Every entrepreneur I’ve ever met knows that there’s more to a business than just “doing the fun stuff”, even if they don’t necessarily like it.
Further, perhaps it’s addressed later in the book, but why doesn’t Gerber mention even in passing that you can bring other people into your business to strengthen your weaknesses. A startling omission and one that – so far – taints the value of this book to me.
One of the enumerations in the book is that there are three types of people involved with a business:
- Entrepreneurs (who are the dreamers, focused on the future)
- Managers (who are the organizers, focused on how to do things efficiently)
- Technicians (who are the “do-ers” focused on what’s to be done)
And, of course, each of us has all three of these simplistic personalities within us, and the challenge of successful businesspeople is to figure out how to integrate all three facets so that the business succeeds.
To be fair, I’m enjoying the book, and there’s no question that Michael Gerber is a wonderful storyteller, but it continues to amaze me that what seems like a good 45 minute lecture can be transformed into a book, eight hour audio, and series of ancillary products.
One precept of this book that I find surprising is that businesses must grow or shrink, and that shrinking is always a mark of being “unable to get out of your comfort zone” and “learn how to be a business owner”, while growth is always the goal and that, indeed, truly entrepreneurial companies are begun with the intent of growing and growing.
But I don’t agree. I think that with the so-called virtual companies and limitless capability for outsourcing and partnerships, companies can indeed apparently stay the same size yet tackle more work and be more successful. Further, there’s another facet of entrepreneurial business that’s glossed over completely, so far: some entrepreneurs want to help others rather than do it themselves. In that case, growth, hiring employees, becoming bigger, is death, is dissolution of the brand, ego over common sense, and isn’t a desirable outcome at all.
Oh, and if you do opt to listen to this audio book, you better be very interested in pie shops.
I’ll continue listening and add more to this article as I go