Benjamin Ola. Akande
A lot has happened in the 15 years since CEO and bestselling author Michael Gerber first published The E-Myth. More people are blazing an entrepreneurial trail and starting their own business. Some make the move with the belief they hold the business plans to the next Wal-Mart or Starbucks. Others yearn to be their own boss. And a few feel forced to hang out a company shingle due to the economy and their current employment outlook. The unfortunate truth is that this year alone, more than a million people in the U.S. will start a business. And in the end, according to the Department of Commerce, at least 40 percent of them will be forced to close shop within the first year.
The problem, the author argues, revolves around the ‘e,’ or entrepreneurial myth. This falsehood is based on an assumption by those starting out that they will prosper with the formula Desire + $$$ = Success. Nothing, according to Gerber, is further from the truth. In reality, most businesses fail because the entrepreneur is not a visionary at all. Most businesses are started by the workers, the doers and the technicians behind a specific job. Without a true entrepreneurial outlook or ‘wonder,’ these business owners will find themselves not working for another, but instead working themselves to death in an attempt to start their new life. They don’t ask and force an answer to the most important entrepreneurial question, I wonder what my business will be like?
If they do, then the independent business owner must prepare to face the phases of any business’ life (infancy, adolescence, beyond the comfort zone, maturity and the entrepreneurial perspective). Gerber says successful business owners embrace these phases and establish a business development process, which gives them needed tools to face and sometimes pre-empt the world full of changes each business confronts. The real ‘secret sauce’ of success then comes in the operating system of the new business, which enables a company to differentiate itself from others. The standout brands who excel at this are McDonald’s, Dell Computer and FedEx. Each has found that uniqueness and has moved fast forward. Rest assured, the author says, any business can do it, and do it well. According to Gerber, this turn-key system is nothing more than an organized methodology for “producing their result in their way for their reason” and solving a genuine problem with a genuine solution.
Every year at this time, I have the honor of addressing the outstanding graduates of Webster University’s Walker School of Business. This year, I reminded the Class of 2011 that if they learned anything while at Webster, I hope they learned that learning is not a destination: It’s a lifelong journey. Such is the lesson of The E-Myth Revisited and in the end, what we can learn from it is how to keep learning and wondering, so any of us can achieve the right business attitude needed to succeed. LN
Benjamin Ola. Akande is Dean of the George Herbert Walker School of Business and Technology and chief of corporate partnerships at Webster University. Follow him on Twitter: @Benjamin_Akande