The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work And What To Do About It, by Michael E Gerber
This particular book was loaned to me by my boss, and I am the sort of person who (perhaps understandably) takes very seriously the reading recommendations of my boss, although to be fair as long as someone has a modicum of similar taste in reading to me I am likely to respect the sort of books they enjoy even if I am not always familiar with the material. This is, in fact, the second book I have read by this author , and in it he does a very good job of explaining the two key components of the entrepreneurial myth as it is practiced in contemporary business: that most people who own their own companies are entrepreneurs by nature and that the task of a successful small business is doing the sort of activities that often led one to strike out on their own. Having read one other book by the author, I am able at least to see some of the similarities between the two books and at least extrapolate what his other material would be like.
The two books, at their core, share a lot of similarities. One of them is a rigorous focus on systems and strategies for everything from sales to quantification to dealing with employees. Included in this systemic worldview is a division of the tasks of a business and the different personalities of people into three different roles: the entrepreneur, who is the ideas and systems sort of fellow who has a vision of the future, the manager, who looks back at tradition and seeks order, and the technician who works in the present and seeks freedom. Likewise, this book is based around a dialogue that serves to illustrate the story while providing a useful foil to the author in such a way that is easy to relate to but at the same time less challenging than a real person would be, being a fictionalized composite that serves as an ideal foil for the wisdom of the author in expressing how it is that small business can succeed.
This book, though, manages to be a little better than “The E-Myth Manager” for at least a couple of reasons. For one, the author is much more candid about his own life and its turmoil. The author discusses his story briefly around the middle of the work, when discussing how it is never too late for someone to be successful, and it is a surprising tale full of broken relationships, grinding poverty, and a will that refused to be shaken despite the difficulties of life. This personal touch elevates this particular volume from being a book about responsibilization (as one of my professors would say in his Marxist fashion) to becoming a genuine effort at encouraging others to bridge between the inner and outer chaos of our worlds. Rather than seek the comfort of a paternalistic government or a company, the author seeks to give the tools that allow people to be successful leaders. The assumption, of course, is that the people reading this book are (by and large) entrepreneurs themselves, and this book does not in any way sugar coat the difficulties of that task.
What it does provide, and provide well, is a way for entrepreneurs to avoid the traps of doing work or abdicating responsibility to others, in seeking to turn one’s knowledge into a system to make it less dependent on the skill of individuals. The real key to building success is in service and in giving to others. To the extent that we wish to make ourselves indispensable, we will sabotage any chances of passing on a successful legacy, because we will lack the ability to share those things that made us great with others. Likewise, the way that we help others to succeed and catch the vision is to have such a vivid understanding of it ourselves, and to know the processes we wish for others to do so well, that we are able to feed the fires of success in others and to provide opportunities for others to develop and grow and pass along the culture that we have created. Such a work as this is fairly easy to read, and certainly not challenging in terms of its vocabulary, but it is all too little seen in practice. One cannot blame this author, or any other one, for that reality, though.