Before starting my first business I sought advice from several friends that had left the ranks of the employee to start a business of their own. One of the best pieces of advice I received was that I must read The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It before launching my business.
I went to the bookstore that same night and purchased a copy of the book. I put it on my bookshelf and in the flurry of activity to launch my business I forgot all about it. I wish I would have read it that same night.
It was not until a year and a half later that I opened the pages of this book and found myself staring back at me through the eyes of Sarah. I had experienced some success in my business, but I was tired from working long hours every day without any end in sight.
It was a constant struggle to meet the demands of my current clients while trying to add more to bring in enough money to replace the steady paycheck I had given up all too cheerfully. And probably the worst thing was that I was starting to hate the very thing that I used to love to do.
The Entrepreneurial Seizure
I did not realize it at the time, but I had suffered an “Entrepreneurial Seizure” two years earlier. It was exactly like Gerber describes …
“The excitement of cutting the cord became your constant companion. The thought of independence followed you everywhere. The idea of being your own boss, doing your own thing, singing your own song, became obsessively irresistible.”
The Fatal Assumption
I became obsessed with thoughts of being my own boss, doing things the way I knew they should be done, and gaining the freedom that came from financial independence. Once I had it there was no way to get rid of it other than starting my own business. But, as Gerber puts it,
“In the throes of your Entrepreneurial Seizure, you [I] fell victim to the most disastrous assumption anyone can make about going into business.” What was the assumption?” If you understand the technical work of a business, you understand the business that does the technical work.”
This is one of the primary reasons that so many new businesses fail. You can be the very best at whatever it is that you do, but you also must become adept at attracting customers, managing vendors, running an efficient back office, and managing employees if you plan on expanding.
The Entrepreneur, The Manager, & The Technician
Gerber goes on to explain that the fundamental problem is that when we go into business we really become three people: the entrepreneur, the manager, and the technician. All of three want to be the boss and are constantly competing to be so.
The entrepreneur is the dreamer that is always looking for new and better ways of expanding their company. The manager is the pragmatist trying to maintain order in the company. The technician is the doer that gets everything done in the company.
Understanding these various roles and how they interact with each other is one of the key components of running a successful business. For me, it was allowing the manager to become part of the business.
Work ON Your Business Instead of IN Your Business
I learned the hard way that there is a difference between being self-employed and being a business owner.
Being self-employed has all the trappings of being a business owner, but when you look it more closely you see that they are illusions.
When I was an employee I had one boss, but now I had many bosses demanding my time – so much for being my own boss. The freedom from financial independence is always just out of reach because if I got sick, took a vacation, or spent time with my family then I did not get paid. The service that I was going to do so much better now suffered as the weight of managing the back office and attracting new customers take its toll.
I could have added employees but that usually adds to the problem because now I must not only manage and train the employees, but I must also generate more income to pay for that employee adding yet more stress and strain.
Gerber spent the first half of the book trying to show me where I was and what has gone wrong leading me to the conclusion that if I was ever to achieve the goals of why I started my business then I had to step back and work on my business. It sounds so simple now, but that was a big revelation to me at the time.
He spends the remainder of the book showing how to replicate yourself through processes that are repeatable, consistent, and can be performed by the lowest level of skills needed for a particular position. He calls it a franchising model. It is only when you can replicate (franchise) yourself that you can truly step out of the business and start enjoying the fruits of your labor.