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Michael Gerber and the E-Myth: Entrepreneurial Seizures, The Fatal Assumption, and the Technician’s Nightmare

If you’re building an organisation and haven’t read The E-Myth yet [amazon], here’s a start:

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.”

The Fatal Assumption

In the throes of your Entrepreneurial Seizure, you fell victim to the most disastrous assumption anyone can make about going into business.

It is an assumption made by all technicians who go into business for themselves, one that charts the course of a business—from Grand Opening to Liquidation—the moment it is made.

That Fatal Assumption is: if you understand the technical work of a business, you understand a business that does that technical work.

And the reason it’s fatal is that it just isn’t true.

In fact, it’s the root cause of most small business failures!

The technical work of a business and a business that does that technical work are two totally different things!

But the technician who starts a business fails to see this.

To the technician suffering from an Entrepreneurial Seizure, a business is not a business but a place to go to work.

So the carpenter, or the electrician, or the plumber becomes a contractor.

The barber opens up a barber shop.

The technical writer starts a technical writing business.

The hairdresser starts a beauty salon.

The engineer goes into the semiconductor business.

The musician opens up a music store.

All of them believing that by understanding the technical work of the business they are immediately and eminently qualified to run a business that does that kind of work.

And it’s simply not true!

In fact, rather than being their greatest single asset, knowing the technical work of their business becomes their greatest single liability.

For if the technician didn’t know how to do the technical work of the business, he would have to learn how to get it done. He would be forced to learn how to make the business work, rather than to do the work himself.

The real tragedy is that when the technician falls prey to the Fatal Assumption, the business that was supposed to free him from the limitations of working for somebody else actually enslaves him.

Suddenly the job he knew how to do so well becomes one job he knows how to do plus a dozen others he doesn’t know how to do at all.

Because although the Entrepreneurial Seizure started the business, it’s the technician who goes to work. And suddenly, an entrepreneurial dream turns into a technician’s nightmare.

See the young Woman Baking Pies.
See the Young Woman Start a Business baking Pies.
See the Young Woman Become an Old Woman.

Michael Gerber – The E-Myth Revisited [amazon]

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