Book review: The E-Myth Revisited, by Michael E. Gerber

My good friend and financial advisor, David Benning, recently loaned me The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to do About It, by Michael E. Gerber. David is a small business owner, like me, and he said The E-Myth Revisited had changed the way he approached developing his business.

Let me get this out of the way first: the writing is bad. At times, painfully bad. Like this choice passage:

Tears were streaming down Sarah’s cheeks. Tears of something precious lost and then found. There was a radiant smile on her face. The tears also welled up in my eyes, watching her, understanding what this meant to her, and understanding at the same time what this meant to me.

One has to wonder whether Gerber really wanted to write pulp romance novels.

Despite this, I can see why Dave said it changed the way he approached his own business development. Gerber preaches what he calls the “franchise prototype” model of small business. What he means is this: build your business as if you were building the prototype for a franchise, a packaged business model you could sell repeatedly, whether or not you actually intend to do so.

It is an attractive idea. Script every aspect of your business, from the color of your stationery to the sales floor “pickup lines” to the bookkeeping. Create an organizational chart, even if you are fulfilling all the roles. Build an operations manual for everything you do.

But will it work for a law firm? In particular, will it work for a solo practitioner or small law firm?

Yes, if your goal is to grow into a small (or large) firm. No if you want to stay solo. Gerber points out that a sole proprietorship is a recipe for exhaustion and burnout. And I think he is probably right when it comes to “regular” businesses. Professional businesses are a bit different, and I think we can “stay small” without going insane. If you do want to grow, however, there is a lot to learn from the franchise model. Even if you do not want to grow, there is a lot you can learn from this book.

In either case, The E-Myth Revisited is worth reading. It will change the way you think about your business, and it will fill your head with ideas for streamlining and improving your business. That along is worth the cover price.

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