Review: The E-Myth Revisited

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For the longest time, I put off reading this book because I thought it was about online business, and since it was written at the height of the dot-com period, before there really was any e-commerce to speak of, I figured it couldn’t be very relevant — — this in spite of the fact that its perennially listed among the best business books to read.

It’s not about e-commerce. The E in E-Myth stands for entrepreneur, and Gerber’s premise is that people completely misunderstand what it means to be a successful entrepreneur. Since he and I agree on that point, I settled in to give his words some serious thought.

Who should read this book?

If you own your own business or dream of owning your own business– — even if you’ve only considered it once. It’s my considered opinion that this book will silmultaneously fire your imagination and make sure you’re serious about it.

What hole will this fill in your education?

Entrepreneurs, especially solopreneurs face a serious obstacle simply by having to learn the nuts and bolts of running a business. As Gerber points out, most entrepreneurs are technicians who struck out on their own to avoid the red-tape, interpersonal irritations and oversight required to be an employee. However, creating a business from that motivation only serves you, not your customers, and if you’re not serving the desires of your customers first, ultimately you’ll fail.

I’ve run several businesses, and using this distinction, I can plainly see the difference in the success of those businesses between the ones where I was running the business in order to be free to do my own thing, and the ones I’d created in order to fill the needs of customers.

How long will it take to read The E-Myth Revisited?

It’s 266 pages, so it’s around a three-hour read, but if you plan to, as I do, reread it with an eye to applying it to your own business, it will probably take several weeks, depending on how much time you can devote to it.

THE GEM

The one jewel of a takeaway I got from this book is also the subject of this quotation from Flaubert:

Be regular and orderly in your life so you can be bold and violent in your work.

Everybody wants to be creative, innovative, unique. But you will crash and burn outrageously if you don’t have a solid foundation under you. This book, better than any of the others I’ve read, shows you how to build that foundation under your business so that you can make it truly stand out.

Now, into the meat of it…

Make your Business into a Turnkey Operation.

I have to tell you, I reacted really strongly to that idea. I’m a systems junkie, and yet I did NOT like the idea of prescribing every interaction and system within my business. Where was the flexiblity? Where was the magic? In the end though, I became convinced.

Two reasons:

  1. It makes you really examine how you do things – and why. How do you treat your customers, how do you do your record-keeping– everything. It makes you mindful and conscious of every aspect of every process. In recording it, you internalize it, and by revisiting this SOP, you not only maintain and retrain yourself in these high standards, if you ever need to train anyone else, that information is at your fingertips.
  2. Devising and refining systems makes you a student of your business and your customers. Gerber describes the business as a dojo:

…a business is like a martial arts practice hall, a dojo, a place you go to practice being the best that you can be. The true combat in a dojo is not between one person and another as most people believe it to be. The true combat in [a dojo] is between the people within ourselves.

It’s only by training and planning meticulously that you can ever really trust yourself (and others) to be able to be flexibles and yet maintain your vision for the company. Speaking of visions…

The Business must grow from the vision, not the other way around.

“I once heard a story about Tom Watson, the founder of IBM. Asked to what he attributed the phenomenal success of IBM, he is said to have answered:

The … reason IBM has been so successful was that once I had a picture of how IBM would look when the dream was in place and how such a company would have to act, I then realized that, unless we began to act that way in the very beginning, we would never get there.

In other words, I realized that for IBM to become a great company, it would have to act like a great company long before it ever became one.

From the very outset, IBM was fashioned after the template of my vision. And each and every day we attempted to model the company after that template. And at the end of each day, we asked ourselves how well we did, discovered the disparity between where we were and where we had committed ourselves to be, and, at the start of the following day, set out to make up for the difference.

Every day at IBM was a day devoted to business development, not doing business.

We didn’t do business at IBM. We built one.

So how do you construct a vision?

The whole third part of the book is devoted to outlining how to go about it, and I personally can’t wait to try it.

I could easily spend another thousand words breaking it down, since it’s a fairly sophisticated section, but it would be much more purposeful for you to just read the book.

The Weak Points

Michael Gerber is certainly a man who likes the sounds of his own voice. He’s a born storyteller, and the style of the book is rather parable-like. Because of this I expected exaggeration to begin with, but since he brought in solid studies and examples where it counted I forgave his ebullience. Still, I found it tiresome from time to time.

I suspect the book was written the way it was in order to demonstrate what it’s like being an actual client of theirs. So I suppose you could say they practice what they preach.

One of the weaker points he makes is talking about “subconscious triggers.” Some examples he uses are “using circles in logos instead of triangles” and  “wearing blue instead of black or red”. He does not, however, suggest how you might go about getting expertise in this field.

Update: I’ve found an article that shows how a real person tested his logo. I know it’s not much, but it’s the only example I’ve ever found that uses actual data

For most things, though, you should be able to test for effectiveness. It won’t be scientific quality results, but since most people never test at all, the insights will likely be worth the effort. Challenging your assumptions usually is.

There is so much useful material in the The E-Myth Revisited, I would consider it THE BOOK to recommend to people who hope to own their own business one day. If you already have a business, my recommendation only gets stronger. You won’t be sorry you took the time to read this book.

[ssbp]

2 thoughts on “Review: The E-Myth Revisited”

  1. I got a lot out of the book, but I vehemently object to his claim that we should proceduralise everything and then force our partners and employees to use our procedure.You can do this with machines, but it’s highly ineffective to do it with human beings. Unless you’re working to government spec, dealing with legal issues, or managing life-threatening materials, it’s much better to show people what the outcome looks like, and then, with more or less guidance depending on their need, let them find their own path.Like Covey’s “7 Habits” this book would get read and used more if it were easier to read. Both are plodding drags, which hides the gems within.

    1. I thought more or less the same thing, but then I decided that if you are meticulous about creating your vision, and then you create the procedure, making sure that every required aspect of the procedure is there for a good and sound and necessary reason, you’ve raised the bar very, very high in terms of vision and how to go about acheiving that vision. Then, of course, they’re free to improve on it, but they have quite a ways to go.But if YOU don’t put in the legwork, and put a lot of your purpose, focus and vision into your business, essentially “creating the game” for your employees to play, it’s going to fall pretty flat. Of course, if you’re creating a collaborative business, then the rules are different. 

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