‘The E-Myth Revisited’ is a small business owner’s classic. Published in 1995, the principles espoused date back to 1977 when author Michael Gerber started his consulting firm E-Myth Worldwide. Although the impact of technology in the past 15 years has changed some of the ways that small businesses run, the underlying logic is still the same. The entrepreneurial myth of success escapes many small business owners because they fail to plan ahead and invest themselves in the long haul.
Throughout the book, Gerber refers to four different stages that business owners go through. These stages transform them from technicians with big dreams to full-fledged successful entrepreneurs. Even if you haven’t read this classic business tome you can still benefit from knowing the four stages, and knowing where you are along the path can help you achieve success.
In the infancy stage, the technician strikes out on his own. He spends time working for someone else and thinks he can do better on his own. Since he is tightly fused with his business, if he is sick, injured or needs time off, the business ceases to run. If you’re at this stage, you need to realize that your approach has to change. You need to separate your personal identity from your business identity if it wants to survive and grow.
Once an entrepreneur gets reinforcements from outside, she can begin the transformation from the role of technician to the role of manager. For example, she may hire a salesperson, accountant, or assistant to help run the business. The lesson for this stage is to find the right technicians and learn what it is to manage. During this stage, entrepreneurs begin to establish a comfort zone with their business.
Pushing Beyond the Comfort Zone
At this stage, limits are pushed and the entrepreneur pushes beyond his comfort zone. He either needs to make his business small again, or move on to the next phase where he becomes an entrepreneur. If you’re at this stage, you might feel nervous, excited and scared at the prospect of either shrinking your business or making it all that it needs to be. Until you make the decision, you’ll be stuck at this point of chaos.
This is the last phase of the business life cycle, but this doesn’t mean that a business stops developing. At this point, the entrepreneur has gained enough business wisdom that she can begin to view the business as an entity separate from herself, an entitiy that is fully functional and built to last. She moves from manager to entrepreneur, and oversees both the manager and the technicians. If you’ve reached this stage, your challenge is to grow your business into the future, not just for yourself but for your employees as well.
Not all businesses make it to the maturity stage, and not all entrepreneurs want to become franchisors (which is the culmination of Gerber’s argument in the book, but times change, and now an IPO would be more likely). But reflecting on these four stages and considering your place along the path can help you understand where your business is going and the challenges you’ll be facing.
What about you? Have you read “The E-Myth Revisited”? What are your impressions of the path of business growth and where are you along the path?