Of Entrepeneurs and Technicians
I recently read Michael Gerber’s outstanding book, The E-Myth Revisited. It was an odd experience, as it seemed as though Mr. Gerber was writing the book to me and me alone…sort of like he knew what kinds of things were troubling me as I embarked on a new path in life as the sole employee of the little internet company that I own with a buddy.
In the book, Mr. Gerber posits that most small business owners never grasp the difference between being an entrepeneur and being a technician. In fact, he says, most people who start small businesses are technicians who are suffering from an entrepeneurial seizure. That is to say that they are folks who are supremely good at what they do, and they figure that they can turn that skill into a successful business, even though they know very little about building a business. Mr. Gerber’s book is an attempt to get small business owners focused on the business of building their business, rather than working in their businesses. He calls it “working on your business, rather than working in your business”…the idea being that you create the systems that govern how the business works, and then staff the positions to work within the system.
I did a dreadful thing with the knowledge I gained from that book, however. I read the book. I digested it. I understood it and agreed with it. And then I put it down and very quickly went back to work in my business instead of working on my business. Every so often I remember myself and spend a little time working on my business, but mostly, I’m busy playing technician. After all, that’s what I know how to do, and that’s what I’m comfortable with.
So here I sit, now reading a companion volume called E-Myth Mastery. I realize that I’ve been stuck playing technician; staying well within my comfort zone. And I also realize that moving from technician to entrepeneur is going to be uncomfortable and discombobulating and weird and all that jazz, and (most importantly, perhaps) that it’s something that I must do or else my company will never become what I think I’d like for it to be. It will never grow to the point that it frees me to do what I want to do unless I put on the entrepeneurial hat and get to work on my business rather than in it.
I also realize that my business partner has been trying to nudge me in that direction for quite some time, and I appreciate his patience as I suffer through my entrepeneurial seizure.
All this to say that Mr. Gerber’s books are exceptional works, and should grace the bookshelves of every small business owner who really cares about making his business into something more than the job he owns. Mr. Gerber has a wonderful quote in The E-Myth Revisited (which I’m paraphrasing here because I’m too lazy to go find the book and give you the exact quote):
If your business depends on you, you don't own a business-you own a job…and you’re working for a lunatic.