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914 of 942 people found the following review helpful
This book is a guide to success for small business owners. Gerber is the founder of a consulting company for small businesses. In the beginning of the book, Gerber cites the well-known failure-rate statistics for small business: 40% fail in 1 year. Of those who survive 1year, 80% fail in 5 years, and of those who survive 5 years, another 80% fail. Over the years, Gerber has observed that the small business owners who fail often share a number of characteristics, while those who succeed do so not by luck, brains, or perseverance, but by taking a different approach. This book explains the approach that is necessary for a business to survive and thrive.

One of Gerber's most striking observations is that most small businesses are started by "technicians", that is people who are skilled at something and who enjoy doing that thing. (A technician can be anything from a computer programmer to plumber to a dog groomer to a musician or lawyer.) When these technicians strike out on their own, they tend to continue doing the work they are skilled at, and ignore the overarching aspects of business. Without clear goals and quantification benchmarks, they soon find themselves overworked, understaffed, and eventually broke. Worst of all, they may come to hate the work they do. Rather than owning a business, they own a job, and they find themselves working for managers who are completely clueless about how to run a business- -themselves.

The solution, Gerber argues, is for every business owner, especially the technician-owners, to balance their business personalities. According to Gerber, every business owner needs to simultaneously be an entrepreneur and a manager as well as a technician. The technician is the worker-bee, the one who produces the product. The manager makes sure operations and finances run smoothly and consistently. The entrepreneur formulates the goals, and steers the business in the direction needed to reach those goals. Of these three personalities, the entrepreneur is key- -without it, the technician will work himself or herself to death or bankruptcy. As the business grows, the business owner will need to draw away from the technician work and manager work and delegate this work, rather than abdicate this, to others.

For turning businesses around, or getting them off the right foot, Gerber suggests looking at franchises as a model. In comparison to the dismal rate of ordinary small-business start-ups, 75% of franchises succeed at 5 years. The reason they succeed is that they are set up so that any unskilled person off the street could walk in, buy a franchise, run all operations in the franchise, and have a fairly good chance of success. The product of franchise companies is a business model, not food, hotel rooms, etc. In order to meet this level of success, franchise companies have clear operations manuals, procedures, consistent sales approaches- -every detail of running the business is specified down to dress codes and wall paper.

By asking us to consider the franchise approach, Gerber is not saying to go out and buy a franchise license. Instead, he says to imagine that you want to sell your business as a successful franchise within a finite period of time. If so, what will you need to do regarding your business plan and management in order to meet this goal? That is, if you were going to make your business fool-proof so that any unskilled person could take over as owner after a few years and succeed with it, what will you need to do?

Overall, I found the ideas in this book extremely profound and incredibly useful for my own small-business venture. The writing style can be a bit wordy and choppy at times, which is the only reason why I did not give this book full marks. If you're a small business owner whose business is out of control, stagnant, or worse, or if you're thinking of going into business yourself, this book can be of immeasurable value.
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228 of 234 people found the following review helpful
on January 2, 2006
I teach Entrepreneurial Marketing, so I'm always on the lookout for good books on this topic. I have started many businesses and I can tell you from first-hand knowledge that this is an important book for budding entrepreneurs to read.

First the good news: Gerber is exactly right. Most new businesses fail because of poor planning, a lack of organization and what I call "entrepreneurial disillusionment" -- in other words, the owner of the business discovers that running a business doing what he or she loves is not what they thought it would be. It's clear Gerber knows what he's talking about. He hits most (if not all) of the salient drawbacks to starting and running a business. It's an easy weekend read and it is an entertaining book.

Now the bad news: The way Gerber goes about conveying his message might turn people off to the book. He is overly verbose, some of his examples don't make sense and he takes too long to come to the point. In one passage, Gerber wrote for five pages describing "opportunity cost," (and never mentions that term) when a sentence or a paragraph would have sufficed. Seasoned businesspeople and grisled entrepreneurs will find this book repetitive, pedestrian and more than a little frustrating as they wait for Gerber to make his point. I think Gerber's editor failed him on this book.

Having written that, I plan to put this book on the suggested reading list for my Entrepreneurial Marketing classes. I think it might save more than a few new entrepreneurs from making big, hairy, expensive mistakes.
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86 of 92 people found the following review helpful
on February 22, 1999
Despite the pessimistic subtitle, the author of this little book is a champion for the small business owner. As a lawyer representing mainly small businesses, I have seen many businesses that deserved to prosper, run out of capital and luck. This book helps explain why, and offers a constructive mechanism to maximize a business's chances for success.
The "e"(for entrepreneur) myth is that hard work and perseverance -- plowing ahead against the odds -- will alter the statistical odds that doom most new businesses. Gerber uses as an example, a woman who had begun a small bakery business because of her legendary piemaking skills. Since she knew how to bake great pies, shouldn't it follow that that skill could be the basis for a successful business? Back in the real world, while the business hadn't exactly failed, it hadn't exactly succeeded, either. Gerber shows how the overwrought business owner can turn the idea into a successful venture.
The author advocates looking for guidance to the large franchise model (McDonald's is an example he cites frequently). The distinctive characteristic of the large franchise-based business is a detailed, finely tuned system that can be run successfully by non-experts. Gerber takes the reader through the steps to create a detailed small business model. Using this system, the business owner is transformed from a day to day operator to a sort of teacher whose success is achieved by training others in detail to use the very skills the owner brought to the business in the first place.
Few readers will have the time and discipline to adopt the entire soup-to-nuts program advocated in this book, but can still learn a great deal from it.
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106 of 116 people found the following review helpful
If you own a small business or are considering starting one, put this book at the top of your "must read list." As a personal coach, I recommend the E-Myth Revisited to our entrepreneurial clients, especially if the business has "taken over the client's life."
Gerber's E-Myth Revisited offers salient points with the most important being, "Work ON your business not IN it." We are introduced to three working personalities: 1) the entrepreneur who always has ideas, 2) the manager who keeps everything organized, and 3) the technician who knows that "If it's going to get done right, I'd better do it myself." Through the eyes of a business owner/client, Gerber unfolds the story that allows us to see the importance of each personality preference and the necessity for balance between them. We also see the different stages of business growth and come to appreciate the benefits of implementing systems at the beginning of developing a business.
Humor throughout the book makes this an enjoyable read, and as I tell my clients, savor your chuckles when you find Gerber describing you almost perfectly.
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297 of 338 people found the following review helpful
on April 17, 2006
Given the hubris with which Michael Gerber unpacks his pearls of wisdom throughout this book, it is perhaps not surprising that he would refer to himself on the cover as "The World's #1 Small Business Guru". More surprising is the homage he pays to Don Juan Matus, a Yaqui medicine man (probably fictitious), and G.I. Gurdjieff, author of Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson, and originator of the esoteric path of knowledge known as the Fourth Way.

What's this New Age mumbo jumbo doing in a business book? Your guess is as good as mine.

Gerber's thesis stripped of all this fluff is quite simple and unremarkable. He notes that most small business owners who see themselves as entrepreneurs are actually technicians; skilled workers in the production of whatever their business's product happens to be. Generally they lack management capability as well as true entrepreneurship - the envisioning of a primary aim and strategic objective and the development of a systems approach that will consistently produce the desired results. Gerber exhorts small business owners to see the big picture, take on the true entrepreneurial role, and in so doing, to work on, rather than in, their businesses.

While this is good common sense advice, the assertion that any business can (or should) be reduced to a McDonald's like franchise prototype oversimplifies and distorts reality. The promise of powerful results that will automatically be achieved upon donning just the right color of a suit and tie and delivering a canned sales script is alluring but also dangerous. Things in the real world of business are not nearly as simple and mechanistic as Gerber would have us believe.

I found the dialogue that runs throughout the book between the author and Sarah, the struggling proprietor of All About Pies, (a bakery), to be exceedingly annoying. In it, Gerber presents as a powerful and all knowing Svengali, weaving a hypnotic spell as he counsels his disciple in matters of the life and death of her business. Sarah is utterly compliant, totally receptive, and seems almost to be ravished by Gerber's surpassing prowess and wisdom. The smarmy tone of this is evident in quotations such as the following:

"I could see that Sarah got it.

I could see that the flush on her cheeks now had nothing to do with the work she'd been doing all day.

I could see that her dark, intelligent, creative eyes were riveted on mine, and that the questions were bubbling within her...".

Flush on her cheeks? Eyes...riveted on mine?

Come on - gimme a break!
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41 of 43 people found the following review helpful
on October 30, 2000
This is one of the few books you must read if you want to go into business. It's called The E-Myth because it addresses the entrepreneurial myth. The book starts off by telling you what a business is not. Having done so, the book goes on to tell you what a successful business is all about.
In a nutshell, a successful business is all about systems. A systems-based business is neither beholden to individuals nor at the mercy of their personalities and quirks. It is capable of running on its own without its owner having to be present.
An owner who cannot afford to be away from his business is merely a self-employed person. An employee sells time. A self-employed mere buys a job to work in. A real business owner works on the business rather than in it. The book adopts the concept of a franchise as the ultimate objective of all business owners. By aiming to be a franchise in any business you do, you will be reminded of the need to systematise every facet of your business.
If you are an employee, have little or no prior experience in business, but are keen to start your own business, you would do well to read this book. There are a lot of things that you should know before taking the plunge. This book will save you a whole lot of heartache and unnecessary aggravation.
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77 of 86 people found the following review helpful
This book deserves 7 stars for pointing out the fallacies of how most entrepreneurs operate. The book deserves 1 star for proposing a standard that most people cannot hope to meet. Pay attention to the former, and go light on the latter.

Gerber is correct that most entrepreneurs are limited by a comfort zone of wanting to remain in control as either strong technicians or managers, which limits the potential of the business. As soon as they exceed what they can handle, the business either fails in a break-out attempt or shrinks back to a simpler state. The new businesses that succeed the most are the ones that have a business model that is easy to replicate with ordinary people.

Where Gerber goes wrong is in suggesting that many people can develop such business models. I regularly study the top 100 CEOs in the country for stock-price growth, and few of them think they can develop a new business model. Why should someone starting up a new company be likely to do better than that? They won't. In fact, I have a friend who attempted to start a new business following Gerber's principles and almost failed before he adjusted to normal operating approaches. He spent so much time developing his business model that he never got around to operating it.

Gerber's three favorite examples are McDonald's, Disney, and FedEx. Notice that two of the three got most of their business model ideas from someone else (Ray Kroc from the McDonald brothers in San Bernardino, California and Fred Smith from an Indian air freight operation).

I think there is another fallacy here: You can get ordinary people to do simple things (deliver packages, cook and deliver cheap hamburgers, and smile at people on automated rides). But in many businesses the demands of the market are extraordinary such as in many technological product businesses and services. Microsoft has a business model, for example, but it is not one that Gerber would recognize.

Finally, he condemns people who want to operate their business as a job by being technically expert. What if Peter Drucker spent all of his time developing business models and systems to make pizzas and tacos rather than writing business books about management? What if great musicians developed business models for teaching children to play the violin and piano rather than performing? In other words, there is room and a need for extraordinarily able one-person companies run by technicians.

But don't let my quibbles keep you as an entrepreneur from failing to appreciate the excellent case Gerber makes for having a business model as soon as possible, and working systematically to improve it. If you can do that, you may well develop a true irresistible growth enterprise.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on November 28, 2005
This review is for the unabridged audio version. I spend a lot of time in the car and listen to a lot of audiobooks, mostly business and sales. I found this book to be far more relevant and applicable than most. The book really gets down to the operational how-to level where as most books can't seem to get past broad cliches that sound good and may be true but don't give you anything to run with.

Most of the business management books out there seem to be written for larger businesses. I'm sure this is because the authors that write them usually are running large corporations. It seems very hard for these authors to get back to the very beginning stages where most of us are starting from.

The ideas of creating systems to run and grow your business are so obvious yet I have such a tendancy (as apparently many others do as well) to try to manage everything on the fly. This book takes a lot of the mystery and intimidation out of running and growing a business. I will admit that the author could be more concise and often he spends far too much time on a simple point but I will still give it 5 stars because it is far better than most. I would definately recommend it to anyone just starting out or anyone who wants to grow their business past mom-and-pop size.
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41 of 45 people found the following review helpful
on June 20, 1999
I am now using this book as a text for a college level course designed for Information Technology students. I read the original version about 6 years ago when I purchased it for 39 cents at a thrift store. Having been a business systems analyst for many years I used these techniques but never knew it. Now using the messages in this book, I can share techniques that work with others. This book is a practical giude to business problem solving and it can be used to design useful information systems and implement effective training in any size operation. The "Revisited" edition has been enhanced using a case-study approach that makes the message easily understood by any reader. Employers today want more from employees than mere technical proficiency. They want people who can analyze their business and provide viable technical solutions that contribute to a good work environment as well as to bottom line success. This book focuses not only on developing a good business strategy but also on the leadership skills required to develop a business and meet goals. It provides all the steps needed to implement these ideas in the real world. It is an exellent book for the technician, the manager or the entrepreneur. Whether you run or are a part of any business I highly recommend it.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon January 30, 2003
Gerber's book is a very easy read, and should stimulate your thought processes even if you disagree with some of his advice. His major thesis is that many small businesses fail because they are started by technicians who are not prepared to handle the managerial and entrepreneurial tasks that go with running a business.
His minor thesis (which he spends far more time on) is that a small business should be run as if the intent were to franchise it. As a consequence, the owner should devise systems to insure consistentcy in execution of every aspect of the business. As part of this, Gerber advises envisioning the business at the point of maturity, determining what the systems and personnel roles will need to be at that point, and starting from day one acting as if you were at that point of maturity (this might mean that you have one person filling eight roles).
Having witnessed a number of small business failures, and having participated in one, I find myself in agreement with all of his major points, but not necessarily in the execution of them (which, as an aside, he should have developed more thoroughly). With my next entrepreneurial adventure, I will definitely be following his advice regarding systems and organisation.
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