The Entrepreneurial Myth
They intoxicate themselves with work so they won't see how
they really are. -Aldous Huxley
The E-Myth is the myth of the entrepreneur. It runs deep in this country
and rings of the heroic.
Picture the typical entrepreneur and Herculean pictures come to mind: a
man or woman standing alone, wind-blown against the elements, bravely
defying insurmountable odds, climbing sheer faces of treacherous
rock-all to realize the dream of creating a business of one's own.
The legend reeks of nobility, of lofty, extra-human efforts, of a
prodigious commitment to larger-than-life ideals.
Well, while there are such people, my experience tells me they are rare.
Of the thousands of businesspeople I have had the opportunity to know
and work with over the past two decades, few were real entrepreneurs
when I met them.
The vision was all but gone in most.
The zest for the climb had turned into a terror of heights.
The face of the rock had become something to cling to rather than to
Exhaustion was common, exhilaration rare.
But hadn't all of them once been entrepreneurs? After all, they had
started their own business. There must have been some dream that drove
them to take such a risk.
But, if so, where was the dream now? Why had it faded?
Where was the entrepreneur who had started the business?
The answer is simple: the entrepreneur had only existed for a moment.
A fleeting second in time.
And then it was gone. In most cases, forever.
If the entrepreneur survived at all, it was only as a myth that grew out
of a misunderstanding about who goes into business and why.
A misunderstanding that has cost us dearly in this country-more than we
can possibly imagine-in lost resources, lost opportunities, and wasted
That myth, that misunderstanding, I call the E-Myth, the myth of the
And it finds its roots in this country in a romantic belief that small
businesses are started by entrepreneurs, when, in fact, most are not.
Then who does start small businesses in America?
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
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."
And the moment you paid attention to what you were saying and really
took it to heart, your fate was sealed.
The excitement of cutting the cord became your constant companion.
The thought of independence followed you everywhere.
The idea of being your own boss, doing your own thing, singing your own
song, became obsessively irresistible.
Once you were stricken with an Entrepreneurial Seizure, there was no
You couldn't get rid of it.
You had to start your own business.
Excerpted from "The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It" by Michael E. Gerber. Copyright © 1995 by Michael E. Gerber. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.