Today we bring you back writer Dave Baldwin who chose The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber as our featured book review. If you’re thinking about taking that entrepreneurial leap, get this book before you do so! Thank you, Dave, for sharing your time and talents on Write from the Inside Out. We look forward to more wisdom from you in 2012!



Bringing this year of writing book reviews to a close, I realized that I wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t touch on one of the most influential volumes I’ve read since 2007. The E-Myth Revisited, by Michael Gerber, is a must-read business book for any entrepreneur in any season of business. It’s also a great read for an employee looking for a promotion at work. If you’re working at a dissatisfying job, thinking of starting your own business as a ticket to freedom from your dreaded boss, read this book twice before you make the leap.


Gerber says that most small businesses don’t work simply because their owners are not really entrepreneurs. They are “technicians” who have had an “entrepreneurial seizure.” A “technician,” by Gerber’s definition, is one of the three fundamental personalities required to operate a business, and the technician is the one who does the actual work, skilled or otherwise. The other two personalities are the entrepreneur and the manager. The entrepreneur is the visionary and the living force behind the business, while the manager is the problem-solver who makes sure that everything gets done and that the details get handled.


I had my entrepreneurial seizure in 2007 on a Friday morning, and I left my notice with my employer on Monday. The catalyst was burnout. I was driven to red-hot rage by the incompetence of my superiors, who called my cell-phone repeatedly on my day off, demanding that I immediately clean up the mess they had made. After calming down, I came to the conclusion that I didn’t need my job. I decided that I would start my own business. With chest puffed out and full of bravado, I charged forward, praising myself in advance for my anticipated success. To make a long story short, let’s just say that things didn’t work out nearly as well as I’d envisioned.


Gerber doesn’t try to exhaustively spell out every single thing there is to know about running a business; rather, he illustrates, from a bird’s eye view, the fundamental competencies that a successful business owner needs to develop. He uses a fictitious pie store as an illustrative example. The store owner is fed up with baking pies, even though she used to love it. Gerber says that this happens often, because of the false assumption that startup business owners nearly always make. People assume that if they are good at doing a particular thing, they will succeed in building a business that does that same thing. In Gerber’s example, the pie store owner loved baking pies, but didn’t appreciate the universal set of required business ownership skills – most of which has nothing to do with baking pies.


I wish I had read The E-Myth Revisited before I decided to work for myself. What I had failed to understand at the time – what I couldn’t possibly have understood – is that the transition to entrepreneurial life requires a fundamental shift in the way one thinks and operates. That shift does not happen overnight. I naïvely expected that I could teach myself to operate a business with the training I had, and a few other tricks that I would surely learn along the way. I didn’t realize that, because I had just spent thirty years being conditioned to think like a cog in the machine, it would probably take another thirty years to reverse that conditioning. At first, I took this as bad news, but soon, I realized that it was a perfect opportunity.


I thought that I would succeed at starting my own writing business, because I love to write and have been told by many that I am good at it. What I came to understand, after three years of marketing myself as a freelance writer, is that owning a writing business has nothing to do with writing. Owning a business is about engineering a brand, identifying a set of market segments, and developing a systematic methodology for reliably delivering a customer experience consistent with the values of the brand. It takes a true entrepreneur, combined with a skilled manager and a methodology for training writer-technicians, to make this happen.


I came to the conclusion that the enterprise I’d envisioned would indeed happen, and that I would create it just like I envisioned. It was just going to take a lot longer than I thought. Contrary to what I had believed previously, I would not have to spend thirty years suffering through unpleasant jobs in exchange for the promise of “someday” getting to build the enterprise. In fact, there was only one way the idea would stand a chance of working—I would have to evaluate every decision I made in light of my vision. This past October, for example, I went to work as a writer for a local marketing firm in Raleigh. When I initially received the offer, I asked myself if this position would truly train me in the skills I would need to build my vision. Would this employer support my journey at each step? Would they encourage me to do what I knew was my calling, or would they put roadblocks in my path? I came to believe that they would be active supporters, and they haven’t let me down so far.


Gerber’s message has really come alive for me in recent months. I’ve begun to experience his words at a deeper level. Becoming a successful entrepreneur is not about having an “entrepreneurial seizure” and becoming an overnight success. It’s about nurturing and cultivating the traits which we all have inside us, one day at a time.


If you’re thinking of starting your own business, The E-Myth Revisited would be a great place to start. Read it before you quit your day job.


About Dave:

Dave Baldwin is a writer who has lived and worked in Raleigh, NC since 2007. He has self-published two books: Pied Piper Entrepreneurship (2009) and Get That Book Out of Your Head! (2009).


Your Turn:
What are your entrepreneurial traits? If you are an entrepreneur, how do you think others view your skills and talents? If you’re in a traditional job, what do you think you’ll need to take that entrepreneurial leap?