Top positive review
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Work ON your business, not IN it
on 21 November 2002
Essential Reading for anyone running a small business. The author owns a leading business consultancy that specialises in reengineering small businesses to make them work properly.
I've always avoided the idea of running my own business simply because of the pain I've seen almost everyone I know go through when they started one. Every time things get tough, they have only one solution: work harder and put in more hours. Many of those that survive do so only because the owners simply refuse to give up. As a result they, and their families suffer. So many people seem to get swallowed by their business, as if Jaws had come out of the sea and pulled them from their inflatible. Those of us standing at the edge of the water tut tut and think "no way I'm going in there". This book has changed my thinking about all that.
As Mr Gerber says, the problem is very few people have been properly trained in how to run a business. Most small business people start out as technicians who got hit by an entrepreneurial seizure. As a result of their technical background, they have a tragic tendancy to retreat back into the one thing they feel certain they know how to do well: the technical work. This is known as the comfort zone. To be a real business owner, you must move beyond your comfort zone and learn how to think strategically about your business rather than working in it.
The author poses the question: if you were to expand your business to 4 different locations, could you continue to run the 4 the way you do the one you have now? What if you expanded to 1000 locations? If you are doing the usual thing and running around performing every critical function in your business yourself then the answer is obvious: you can't. You should view the one business you have as a prototype for all the others you are going to create and run it accordingly.
The core message is that rather than doing all the work yourself, you should set up business systems. By which he means a documented procedure or checklist for every function that occurs in your business. Once you have a functioning system in place, you can then hire a relatively inexperienced person and meticulously train them to follow the system you have set up. The better the system, the better the employee performs and the better your business performs. Your manager's job is to manage the systems not the people (people are inherently unmanageable), refining and improving the systems. This leaves you free to do the real work of an owner: thinking about how to improve and grow your business.
Another good title for this book would have been "Zen and the Art of Business" since it draws so much on the authors personal philosophy of how a business should be run. He talks about business in an exciting, refreshing way I've never heard before. For example, comparing the prototype business to a martial arts dojo where you practice and practice and practice until you get it right.
You should have your business revolve around your personal life and personal goals rather than the usual scenario of being a slave to your business. The whole point of starting a business is to improve your quality of life, not suck it out of you. To that end he takes you through the steps you should go through when setting up a business to avoid those pitfalls:
- Define your primary aim based on your personal life goals
- Define the strategic objectives that your business has to ultimately do in order to achieve the primary aim
- Have an organisation chart from the very start, even if there's only 1 person in the business. This is so you can start working out what functions to replace with systems
- Realise that what you really need is a Management System, not a Manager
- Make sure your people understand the idea behind the work they do and that the idea is more important than the work itself. In order to generate motivation, encourage them to treat the systems as a game to be played.
- etc, etc.
If you are in any doubt, take a look at his web site. I think there is plenty there to convince you to buy this book. Its certainly been worth my time and I'm seriously considering starting my own business purely as a result of reading this book.