Part I: Why the book made me mad
A friend recommended I read Michael Gerber’s The E-Myth, and so I did. The book has received great press over the years, in a sort of wow-I-never-thought-of-it-that-way bewilderment of praise. While it cannot be denied Gerber put voice to a little-observed phenomenon, I believe the way he did it did a disservice to entrepreneurs, and people in general.
Essentially, Gerber’s E-thesis is, like leprechauns and the tooth fairy, there’s no such thing as a natural-born entrepreneur. What he calls an ‘entrepreneur’ is really just an ordinary — albeit technically proficient — person who suddenly realizes he doesn’t like his boss and/or could do things better than his boss. In that fit of pique, the ordinary person quits his job, sets up his own shop, and proceeds to fail. Why does he fail? Because despite being technically proficient, he doesn’t know how to run a business!
My response to this is: Bunk! While I can’t deny many new businesses fail, and that many people do go into business simply because they disliked their boss, etc., I emphatically declare that natural-born entrepreneurs do indeed exist.
Let’s put things into perspective. Who doesn’t know a kid who was drawn inexplicably to dismembering bikes and motors, and who grew up to be a grease monkey or engineer? How many of today’s great teachers lined up their toys in order to teach them the alphabet? (My grandmother, short on dolls in rural Ireland, claimed she used to teach the hedges.) Sympathetic, caring kids who put unnecessary splints on their pets often find themselves in medicine. Argumentative ones often end up lawyers.
And while some future chemists and chefs were busy combining lethal doses of sugar, salt, and mud, while some future musicians were banging on pot lids, while some future astronomers were devouring books about the stars, future business men and women were probably finding things to sell or holding auctions in their backyard.
The point is, I believe we have natural inclinations to certain types of work (which might even be apparent in childhood during play). Nonetheless, even the brilliant ones aren’t born knowing all the details of their craft! Pretty much everything is done better with some amount of training. A natural-born swimmer isn’t going to get very far unless someone shows her the strokes, and a natural-born surgeon would be worthless without all that education. And there’s a lot that a business owner will benefit from learning, too. In the case of the business owner, Michael Gerber sums this up as “systems.”
By carefully examining each and every detail of a process, systems can be developed and then taught. After all, aren’t systems the essence of dog training, construction, and the symphony? Don’t coaches teach systems in soccer, football, and chess? Simply put, extending the rigors of systemization to the everyday world of running a business was sheer genius on Mr. Gerber’s part. I only wish he hadn’t rationalized the need for systemization by insulting the passionate geniuses of the business world.
If you’d like to talk more about how ‘systems’ could help your business grow, give us a call! We love systems almost as much as we love natural-born entrepreneurs!