Has anyone out there read the book ‘The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It’ by Michael Gerber? The “E” stands for Entrepreneur, and the book examines who is likely to start a company, why/how some companies become successful and why most don’t. I highly recommend it, whether you own a small business, are thinking about starting a company, or just like business stuff. It touches on so many aspects of not just starting a business, but what is necessary to sustain & grow the business into a healthy viable enterprise.
I always knew I liked being in a kitchen, but does that qualify me to own a business? According to this book, not necessarily. It’s an interesting concept to think about, because it doesn’t seem that far off to try to turn something you love doing into your career. Everyone is born with their own unique set of strengths, talents and weaknesses. The question is not so much whether you have the talent, but if you can take this skill and make it a successful business.. There is no doubt that my strength is baking. Baking very rarely feels like work to me. That’s not to say it isn’t stressful…it often is. But standing in the kitchen packed with ingredients, rolling cookie dough, decorating cakes or testing a new recipe gives me a true sense of joy and peace. But running the business? Reading and understanding profit & loss reports, forecasting sales, keeping a close eye on the cost of goods sold, keeping my employees happy, making sure I have enough insurance and proper licensing? It’s safe to say that this is not my number one strength.
All of this said, I never expected to start and run my own company. It wasn’t part of a well-researched plan, or even a plan of any kind. If asked, I never would have said that I wanted to run a business when I grew up. People wanted treats, I made them. More people wanted treats, I made more. Even more people wanted stuff, I couldn’t do it all by myself, I hired my first employee, purchased a bigger mixer, and slowly but surely, I found myself running a business.
What I can tell you is that the business grew a lot more quickly than my learning curve as an owner, and that’s a hard thing to admit. I had old ways of ‘doing things’ that worked when I was solo, but which came close to collapsing as soon as one or two employees joined Team Babycakes. It felt like everyone else around me was much more qualified to run the company, and I frequently (still do it to this day) question if I am good enough for this job.
Here’s what I’ve learned: I don’t have to be good enough. I just have to be willing to try. Just because something is not your strength does NOT mean that you cannot try your hardest to understand, experiment, try, fail, and try again. This is not easy stuff…it’s humbling, embarrassing, frustrating and at times, highly discouraging. And, it’s public. If you own a business, you (hopefully) have customers as well as employees, and everyone is waiting for you to perform. To be ‘The Boss’. To be the first person to have the right answer, to offer the best solution to the problem, to know which products have the highest margins and the most efficient way to run the company. The concept in ‘The E-Myth’ that hit home the most for me was this question: ‘are you working on your business, or are you working in your business?’ It seems like a fairly benign question, but it requires a lot of self-reflection, honesty, and the ability to truly assess your situation.
And perhaps, that is the key to being able to being a successful business owner: to fully understand your weaknesses and figure out how to make them less of a liability within your company. To feel comfortable acknowledging that not only are you not perfect, you may in fact be just mediocre at more than a handful of key aspects required to run a business. Discovering my weaknesses does not scare me; I think I have a pretty good grasp on that long list. What frightens me the most is letting go of control. It’s forcing myself to ask a team member to take over managing the kitchen because she does it better than I do. It’s recognizing the skills in others, and instead of holding them back, offering them the reigns and encouraging them to go as far as they can. It’s being ok not being the hero. I don’t know if this will make me a better business owner, or my business more successful – only time will tell. What I do know, however, is that there is a very rewarding feeling that results from letting go, empowering those around you, and watching what unfolds.
Curious about Michael Gerber, author of ‘The E-Myth’? Find out more about Michael and his teachings here.