A Review of The E-Myth Revisited

The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It
– Michael E. Gerber

This book is the most recommended business book.  If you only read one business book in a year then this should be the one.  I’m not overly excited by the format of the book but it’s the content that blew me away.

The book consists of the author having a discussion with a business owner.  Listening to her woes and hearing how tired she is, Gerber then tells her what her problem really is and how she can fix things.  He tells her what problems she’s encountered in the past, how she mismanaged her solutions to these problems and how she could have managed things better to enable her to have a fully functioning business where she’s able to work fewer hours and take time off.  I dislike this format, despite the effectiveness, I feel patronized.  The trick with this book is to look past the conversational tone and the patronizing tone and to look at the content.

review of e-myth revisitedIn this book Gerber details the way you can make any small business into a larger business and then make it run without you.  He basically helps you become a supervisor.  He starts out by making you look at your business in a different way, as if it’s not your business but someone else’s.  That’s an interesting technique in itself and it’s meant to make the reader feel as if she is having a discussion with the actual author and not just reading a book.  He also details the things you need to do to make things run better.

There are two things he talks about.  He talks about the three types of personality a person really is: The Entrepreneur; The Manager and; The Technician.  Gerber takes us through the need to balance these three personality types.  It’s all very well in a company where you have multiple people, but in a sole trader with no employees you only have yourself and you have to have all these three character traits and learn to balance them properly.  When you start employing people you then need to know how to supervise them, that’s part of The Manager trait.

He endeavours to make us look at the business in a whole new light, to divide the duties of the business into different jobs, pretend you are allocating them to different people and then write down the job descriptions for each one.  Once this is done Gerber suggests you actually sign each one to make a contract to the business.  While I like the idea of writing down different job descriptions I don’t feel the need the actually sign each individual contract, he does this to enable the business owner to pretend they are setting up the business for a franchise and there’s no way I’d be franchising my business.  I am my business and you can’t franchise a personality.

Let’s just take a look at franchising for a second as that’s what Gerber is talking about.  Take your regular hamburger place that has crisscrossed the world, McDonalds, there’s one at the end of my street that I haven’t been into.  A franchise has a head office that has set up all the systems and support network for each individual shop.  Someone has actually run the hamburger place and figured out the best way of making a hamburger and the best way to run each and every system in the shop, they have documented every single system in such a way that it can be followed by the lowest common denominator which is why McDonalds employ fairly young people in their front of house, they don’t need people who are already trained as they’ve made things so simple and well documented that almost everyone can walk in and start work with minimal training.  Once they had one shop set up and documented it was a simple matter to then apply those principles to another shop and another and then forever.  Why do I use McDonalds as my example?  Because Gerber uses them too, he talks about the origins of the company and how the McDonald brothers used this technique in their company before being talked into making their company a franchise and then being bought out by Ray Kroc.

Gerber is not saying you need to franchise every company but merely to set down the guiding principles as if you are franchising.  He’s suggesting this is a good business model as it means if/when you expand you then have all the paperwork in place to be able to fit someone else into the mix.  I like this for two reasons.  The first is that if you’re sick and someone needs to take over at short notice then you have everything documented and it’s easy enough for absolutely anyone to walk in and take over.  The second reason is that it helps to distance you emotionally from the business and that makes it easier to work.  If you’re like me then you really don’t like promoting yourself and marketing becomes very challenging as I am my business, setting youself up as if to franchise helps to distance yourself emotionally and make it easier to focus on marketing the business as if it’s someone else’s.  I wrote earlier this year about the need for social media and how I was going to do so much, I haven’t managed to do this as I’m still not happy with marketing myself and I need to distance myself from the business enough to be able to do so.

At this point I’m sure you’re expecting some details on how to apply this to a bookshop but I think I’ve written far too much so that will have to wait for another article.  When I do write it will be more of a guide than the definitive as I’m no expert, just someone who doesn’t always know when to shut up.


Suzie Eisfelder
Suz’s Space
Your online home for pre-loved books and part-work magazines
Twitter:  twitter.com/SuzsSpace

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  • Please do write an article about applying this to a bookshop.

    My business coach had me read The E-Myth first thing when he started coaching me. Reading the E-Myth opened my eyes to the origin of so many of the problems that beset the book business I had recently bought. I’ve been very slowly, but steadily, applying the ideas I encountered in the book and our bookstore is financially doing better than when I first bought it. We’re moving forward.

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  • Hi Suzie,
    about 20 years ago I wrote a review of one of his E-myth books for a small business magazine. I don’t remember much about it.
    I do remember that I found it very interesting and readable, especially for a business book, but I couldn’t help noticing that this was a guy who spent a lot of time talking about the business owner taking responsibility for everything, and also spending quite a bit of time telling about how he got ripped off by his business partner, resulting in his bankruptcy. Never was there any hint that he had any responsibility for accepting this guy as a partner, or that he should have kept a closer eye on things. That made me feel a little doubtful about the guy.

    The other thing (and I have to confess I’m not absolutely sure it was the same book! lol) was the part about how you have to be absolutely focused on the business ahead of all other things – family, friends, whatever. Seemed to me to be a recipe for (maybe) a successful business owner, but a complete failure as a human being. Definitely not where I wanted to go.

    But it was an interesting and thought provoking read.

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  • I agree it is an important book but I still feel Think & Grow Rich is the most essential book for any person to study.
    Both books provide a foundation enabling you to get your head on straight and develop a more sensible idea of what operating a business is really all about.
    I think the E-Myth, The Magic of Thinking Big by Schwartz and the Courage to be Rich by Haroldsen (which is almost impossible to find) should be on the reading list of all entrepeneurs.

    • Thanks George,
      The first time I read E-Myth was right after you recommended it here..must have been at least 3 years ago. Time flies..

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  • Hi Suzie,

    Thanks for this in-depth review! I’m always looking for great business books and this really looks like it’ll be a worth-while read.

    One thing that I’m not sure that I fully agree with is distancing yourself from your business. I like the idea, but it’s also flawed. You started your business for a reason and if you lose that passion, then what’s left?

    My marketing is actually fueled by my passion. I market in a way that I feel would be attractive to others.

    If the people at Starbucks didn’t have passion for what they do, they wouldn’t be as big as they are now.

    You can’t totally dissociate yourself with your business, unless you truly plan on making it a franchise. If not, then until you think it’s time to let go and give it up to someone else, there’s really no reason to lose that passion for your business.

    Thanks for the review!

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