Myth of the entrepreneur

“If you want to work in a business, get a job in someone else’s business! But don’t go to work in your own


— Michael Berger


IN his book The E-Myth Revisited, Michael Berger brings a fresh twist to the issue of why so many small businesses fail across the world.

The problem starts with what he calls the entrepreneurial seizure.

For example a woman may be a marketing manager and then at some point she is seized by a desire to become her own boss in order to work flexible hours and make more money for herself, among other reasons.

She leaves her job and starts a company.

Gerber describes this process as the technician taking what she loves to do and turning it into a job.

What follows is something a lot of us are currently experiencing.

Instead of spending flexi hours doing what they love, the technician-turned-entrepreneur finds that there are a host of other activities that need to be done to run a business.

There is marketing, book keeping, delivery and collection, strategy, chasing payments, not to mention the actual work of producing the product or service.

More often than not the technical work gets done and everything else suffers.

This defines the infancy stage of the business, when “the owner and the business are one and the same thing.”

There would be no business if the owner of the infancy business is taken away.

The owner may become so overwhelmed by all the tasks that are being left undone they may decide to give up or they carry on until customers start leaving because quality is deteriorating and promises are not being kept.

The adolescent stage of the business starts “when you decide to get help.”

Again people who have tried this find that instead of solving the problem it may create more.

The person who is supposed to be doing the books sometimes has to serve customers, answer the phone and chase suppliers.

Despite taking on help the owner works even harder as they realise that the only way to get things done properly is to do it themselves.

The mature stage of a business is one that only a minority of small businesses ever see.

The global fast food chains are good examples of mature businesses.

So what is the difference between an entrepreneur and a woman who has created a job for herself?

The Primary Aim — Gerber says that people who build great companies often have an overriding vision of what they want to dedicate their life to.

They have a clear vision of what their company will look like in say 50 years time.

And then starting with this end in mind they act accordingly even when their business is still a one-person one.

The rest lies in what he calls the Business Development Process which his own company teaches all over the world.

Most of it we already know but rarely put into practice.

It’s writing down the vision, mission and objectives in quantifiable terms to enable tracking.

It’s writing down all the business processes in an operations manual which everyone in the business should follow.

It’s about orchestration he says, and there is no room for discretion.

There should be scripts for the staff to follow from how they answer the phone to interacting with customers.

We walk into a boutique and someone asks “May I help you?” and oftentimes we say, “No, just looking thanks.”

After which we walk out.

This is a fatal mistake, according to Gerber.

At the end of the day the boutique owner should know how many people walked into the store, how many bought or didn’t buy.

What they were looking for and if they found it or not.

According to Gerber a true entrepreneur spends their time working on the business and not working in it.

Products and services must be produced whether the owner is off sick or travelling.

Therein lies the challenge.

It appears the path to true entrepreneurship is one of personal transformation too as there are a number of comfort zones to cross from self-employment to building a successful business.

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