If you’ve ever read the celebrated ‘E-myth’ book by Michael Gerber, you’ll know instantly where this phrase comes from.
For those that have never read the book, the ‘e-myth’ refers to the tendency for people who are good at what they do (for instance plumbers, programmers and poodle-clippers) to think (or be encouraged) they should run a business that does those things. The myth is that because you’re an expert poodle-clipper, obviously you’ll be an expert at running a business that does poodle-clipping. Wrong! In fact, if you’re an expert poodle-clipper, you’d probably be better setting up a business in computer programming.
Working on your business
Because when things get tough (as they will do) we tend to retreat to the technical part of the business – ie the bit that we do well, and can do standing on our head. That’s the technician in us, and it’s called “working in your business”. And that’s very rarely what the business needs in times of stress. What it actually needs is sales & marketing skills or financial nous, or HR skills to sort out a troublesome employee relationship. Most importantly, the business needs someone with a slight sense of detachment; someone who can see the big picture.
As an expert poodle-clipper running a programming business, the first thing you’d need to do would be to hire an expert programmer; ideally one without huge entrepreneurial aspirations. That person would then focus totally on programming, leaving you free to oversee the principle functions of business, ie selling & marketing, finance and HR issues. That’s “working on your business”
Of course, it’s essential that as the boss of a software company you have some knowledge of how your customers benefit from what you do. But that’s not the same as you needing to know how every line of code works. In fact, the customer rarely cares, and those that do are rarely the people with the buying decision.
But let’s get back to reality. As an expert poodle-clipper you’ve decided that you really do want to build a business in poodle-clipping. Here are four areas you could work on to make sure your business does not entirely depend on you:
Recruit the right people.
That usually means people who are smarter than you, and are better poodle-clippers. Preferably those who have had the entrepreneurial spirit knocked out of them, and who now want a nice reliable job. And please remember that recruiting the right people also means releasing the wrong people.
Make sure that all staff can cover all aspects of the daily running of the business. Once you have trained your staff, delegate to them. You might want a holiday one day
Systems and processes.
Have a ‘this is how we do things here’ manual, and stick to it. Staff need to refer to you less often.
Finally and most importantly, it’s all about you. You have to want to get out of the daily mechanics of the business. There’s nothing wrong with a small business. However, a small business with massive growing pains and an owner who is frustrated and stressed will never be a happy place to work.