Are We Having Fun Yet?

Shamrock
Today is the traditional day to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.  But since most of us work for a living and don’t have the day off, today’s post is about a different kind of fun.  (What you do after work tonight is up to you.)

I don’t think it’s a stretch to believe that you got into business because you thought you would enjoy "being your own boss".  The question is, are you still enjoying yourself? 

In 1995, Michael Gerber wrote the very popular "The E-Myth Revisited".  The book has sold over 3 million copies, so you may have read it.  If so, consider this a refresher course. 

When Gerber first wrote the book thirteen years ago, beginning a word with "E-" certainly didn’t have the same connotation as it has today.  Many of our sons and daughters might see the book and think it’s about something electronic.  But the "E" in E-Myth stands for "entrepreneur".  And the myth?  According to Gerber, there are two definitions:

  1. The myth that most people who start small businesses are entrepreneurs. 
  2. The fatal assumption that an individual who understands the technical work of a business can successfully run a business that does the technical work.

Not to worry, the E-Myth is not an insurmountable obstacle to achieving success.  Failing to acknowledge it and act accordingly, that’s a different story.

At just over 260 pages, and with a price of $16.00, I’m not going to try to paraphrase Gerber’s words here because you really need to read the whole thing.  I wouldn’t want you to think that by reading a single blog entry, you got the whole premise of the book.  That wouldn’t be fair to Gerber or to you.

What I will say is this, if the business just isn’t fun anymore, don’t panic.  First, get you hands on Gerber’s book and read it.  Second, take his advice.  As he says in the "Afterword" what you must do is take an objective look at the state of your business as it is today.  That’s the first step.  The second step is to decide what your "perfect" business looks like.  The difference between the two is what Gerber calls "the gap". 

As he says frequently in the book, when you buy a franchise you don’t just buy the name, you buy the systems.  Every single french fry at every single McDonald’s in the world is made using exactly the same system.  That’s how you want your business to run.   Set up systems that work every single time, no matter who’s running things.   Do it right and you plug "the gap" and business becomes fun again.

This is the part where I often ask you for your comments.  Regular readers know that these requests often go unfulfilled. Since this is such an important topic for so many of our readers, today I’m offering a bribe.  If you’ve read The E-Myth Revisited, and if you have successfully used it to improve your business, we’d love to hear your story.  Anyone who posts a comment on this post by noon (Central Time) Wednesday will receive a free copy of Gerber’s latest book, "E-Myth Mastery",

That’s it.  It’s very easy.  Share your success story with your fellow readers and receive a free book.  We’re waiting to hear from you.

Oh, and Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

[Full disclosure:  Mine Your Own Business and Tacony Corporation have no connection with Michael Gerber or his publisher.  Your intrepid blogger purchased his own copy of The E-Myth Revisited at full retail.  Prize book will be purchased the same way.}

Doing Well By Doing Good

Yesterday we wrote about the Boy Scouts and concluded that volunteering to be a Merit Badge CounselorOptimists
might be a good use of your time.  Ralph Garcia of Ralph’s Sew and Vac (Palm Desert, CA)  commented that his membership in the Optimist Club, which raises money for youth programs, has been good for him.  This is what Steven Covey would call a win/win.  You help the organization while making contacts with potential customers. 

But, and this is critical, you can’t be seen as someone who’s exploiting an association with an organization for personal profit.  People will see through that in a heartbeat and you’ll create a negative, rather than a positive, impression. 

If you don’t have a sincere desire to help the cause, don’t get involved.  Ask yourself, "Would I do this even if there were no potential gain for me?"  If you can’t answer with a loud "yes!" find something else to do.

Even if your charity of choice doesn’t appear to have anything to do with your business, the value of the time you spend will come back to you, possibly in a very surprising way.  The important thing is to get behind something that you believe in. 

As mentioned here before (5/1/07–Your Chamber of Commerce), your local Chamber of Commerce is an excellent place to offer your services.  After all, you’re asking your neighbors to support your business, it’s not unreasonable for them to expect you to support them.

However you chose to give back to the community, don’t over-commit yourself.  Be sure you have the time to spend.   Just "showing up" won’t help you or the organization.  Get involved.  Share your expertise.  Have some fun.  You’ll be glad you did.

Working Hours

In a telephone survey of 300 leaders of companies with 20 or fewer employees, researchers have learned that small business owners "reported long hours, diminished vacation, and an ever-blurring line separating work from time-off."

The survey was done on behalf of Staples, the office-supply chain.  In a press release, dated today (1/08/07), they breathlessly report that "Time is a critical resource for companies of all sizes, but it’s of even greater importance to small business managers, who possess a larger stake in their company’s success and often lack the support infrastructure of bigger businesses."  That’s according to John Giusti, vice president of Staples Business Delivery, the company’s division which specializes in small business sales.

Here’s a link to the press release that you can read if you have time.  If you don’t have time (and according to the survey you probably don’t), I’ll give you the short version. 

  • You work way more than forty hours per week. 
  • Work intrudes on your "personal" time.
  • The younger you are and the fewer employees you have, the more hours you’re likely to work.

The press release goes on to promote the company as the best place for small businesses to buy their office  products and services.

I hope Staples didn’t spend a ton of money on this survey since the "results" are common knowledge to anyone who owns a small business, who has ever owned or worked in a small business, or who has ever worked with small business.

The irony of the whole thing is that much of the extra time put in by small retail business owners is devoted to competing with big box retailers.  Staples was one of the original big box chains and even brags about it in the press release:  "Staples, Inc. invented the office superstore concept in 1986 and today is the world’s largest office products company."  2005 sales were $16.1 billion.  They operate more than 1,800 stores.

I wonder how many office supply stores were included in the survey?