E-Myth author Michael E. Gerber says that starting a business is like writing a book, because you must create a business that says something important about you.
I've spent most of my life working with small-business owners. And what I've learned is that most small-business owners don't truly understand how to think like an entrepreneur. And, because of that, the vast majority of small businesses--and the people who create them--remain today what they were when they were started: jobs for the people who created them. They aren't entrepreneurs at all, but are instead what I call "technicians suffering from an entrepreneurial seizure."
Seventy percent of all small businesses are sole proprietorships, meaning that their owners are self-employed. They have created a job for themselves, but have not learned how to create a business, meaning they could step away and still have the thing run.
Please don't misunderstand me; I am not negative about small business. To the contrary, I have worked with more small businesses over the past 50 years of my life than anyone I know. Tens of thousands of them. My problem is that I am simply shocked again and again at how little most small-business owners seem to understand about what it truly takes to invent, design, build, grow, and maintain a thriving company. Even those who consider themselves to be information junkies seem to miss the point by a wide margin.
In short, entrepreneurship is not about information; it's about perspective.
Some call it "mindset."
What is a truly entrepreneurial mindset?
In order to develop a truly entrepreneurial perspective, you must begin again. No matter how long you've been in business, it's important that you take on the perspective that you're starting it anew today.
So, when you start your company, you must think of it as though you were about to write a book. What would that book of yours say? What would you, as the author of your book, wish to impart to your reader that would hopefully transform the way they think about their life, about their success, about their future?
That's the point of your business, isn't it?
Your business is a product of how you, its creator, think about it: what it sells, what it does, how it does it, who your people are, and how you help them grow.
It's why Starbucks is such a wonderful example of an entrepreneurially designed company. Look at how the founder of Starbucks has made its mission, to expand the economic viability of small family growers throughout the world, a part of everything Starbucks does.
It's why causes are important to entrepreneurs in this Age of the New Entrepreneur. Causes add dimensionality to your business. Causes add meaning to your business, beyond simply making money. Which is not a cause in itself but a necessity. A necessity doesn't need to be stressed every day. But a cause must be.
As you go to work on your business, you must think beyond what the day-to-day reality of your business calls you to do. As an entrepreneur, you must rise above the stuff of doing it, doing it, doing it. It means you must ask meaningful questions about your role in the world, your community, and how you can institutionalize your new-found perspective into the genes of your company, so that it lives, speaks, and demonstrates it in every action your company takes.
Which means that every single entrepreneur on the face of this earth, in this Age of the New Entrepreneur, is actually writing a book. If he or she is truly determined to create a great company, that is.
And the nature of that book must begin right now. Where you are. With the question: What do I wish to say?
MICHAEL E. GERBER is a true legend in entrepreneurship, helping transform 70,000+ businesses in 145 countries over the past 25 years. Michael’s New York Times best-selling book, The E-Myth Revisited, has sold over 5,000,000 copies. @MichaelEGerber