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The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It Paperback – October 14, 2004

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About the Author

Michael E. Gerber is a true legend of entrepreneurship. INC. magazine called him "the World's #1 Small Business Guru." He is the Co-Founder and Chairman of Michael E. Gerber Companies—a group of highly unique enterprises dedicated to creating world-class start-ups and entrepreneurs in every industry and economy—a company that transforms the way small business owners grow their companies and which has evolved into an empire over its history of nearly three decades.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.


The Entrepreneurial Myth


They intoxicate themselves with work so they won't see how they really are.
--Aldous Huxley

The E-Myth is the myth of the entrepreneur. It runs deep in this country and rings of the heroic.

Picture the typical entrepreneur and Herculean pictures come to mind: a man or woman standing alone, wind-blown against the elements, bravely defying insurmountable odds, climbing sheer faces of treacherous rock--all to realize the dream of creating a business of one's own.

The legend reeks of nobility, of lofty, extra-human efforts, of a prodigious commitment to larger-than-life ideals.

Well, while there are such people, my experience tells me they are rare.

Of the thousands of businesspeople I have had the opportunity to know and work with over the past two decades, few were real entrepreneurs when I met them.

The vision was all but gone in most.

The zest for the climb had turned into a terror of heights.

The face of the rock had become something to cling to rather than to scale.

Exhaustion was common, exhilaration rare.

But hadn't all of them once been entrepreneurs? After all, they had started their own business. There must have been some dream that drove them to take such a risk.

But, if so, where was the dream now? Why had it faded?

Where was the entrepreneur who had started the business?

The answer is simple: the entrepreneur had only existed for a moment.

A fleeting second in time.

And then it was gone. In most cases, forever.

If the entrepreneur survived at all, it was only as a myth that grew out of a misunderstanding about who goes into business and why.

A misunderstanding that has cost us dearly in this country--more than we can possibly imagine--in lost resources, lost opportunities, and wasted lives.

That myth, that misunderstanding, I call the E-Myth, the myth of the entrepreneur.

And it finds its roots in this country in a romantic belief that small businesses are started by entrepreneurs, when, in fact, most are not.

Then who does start small businesses in America?

And why?

The Entrepreneurial Seizure

To understand the E-Myth and the misunderstanding at its core, let's take a closer look at the person who goes into business. Not after he goes into business, but before.

For that matter, where were you before you started your business? And, if you're thinking about going into business, where are you now?

Well, if you're like most of the people I've known, you were working for somebody else.

What were you doing?

Probably technical work, like almost everybody who goes into business.

You were a carpenter, a mechanic, or a machinist.

You were a bookkeeper or a poodle clipper; a drafts-person or a hairdresser; a barber or a computer programmer; a doctor or a technical writer; a graphic artist or an accountant; an interior designer or a plumber or a salesperson.

But whatever you were, you were doing technical work.

And you were probably damn good at it.

But you were doing it for somebody else.

Then, one day, for no apparent reason, something happened. It might have been the weather, a birthday, or your child's graduation from high school. It might have been the paycheck you received on a Friday afternoon, or a sideways glance from the boss that just didn't sit right. It might have been a feeling that your boss didn't really appreciate your contribution to the success of his business.

It could have been anything; it doesn't matter what. But one day, for apparently no reason, you were suddenly stricken with an Entrepreneurial Seizure. And from that day on your life was never to be the same.

Inside your mind it sounded something like this: "What am I doing this for? Why am I working for this guy? Hell, I know as much about this business as he does. If it weren't for me, he wouldn't have a business. Any dummy can run a business. I'm working for one."

And the moment you paid attention to what you were saying and really took it to heart, your fate was sealed.

The excitement of cutting the cord became your constant companion.

The thought of independence followed you everywhere.

The idea of being your own boss, doing your own thing, singing your own song, became obsessively irresistible.

Once you were stricken with an Entrepreneurial Seizure, there was no relief.

You couldn't get rid of it.

You had to start your own business.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 268 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; Upd Sub edition (March 3, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0887307280
  • ISBN-13: 978-0887307287
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,423 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #744 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Amazon Customer TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 3, 2004
Format: Paperback
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.
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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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