Starting my first business was mostly an accident.
Without much professional experience, we began with few side projects to build our portfolio. It evolved into an organization building websites and apps for early stage businesses and ideas. As the software engineer, most of the early days were spent working with clients and writing code. I’d randomly pay bills, send invoices, and schedule meetings.
As the business grew, things changed. More and more time was required on business needs. Things like developing community relationships, sales, support, hiring, and operating the business were a majority of daily life. Very little time writing code.
“Doing the work” conflicted with making sure there was enough work to do. What I enjoyed took a back seat. It was frustrating. It was not what I expected.
The tension is not unique.
It is known as the Entrepreneurs Myth. My low-brow interpretation of the Entrepreneurs Myth : Doing the thing is different than a business that does the thing.
We get into business because we love doing the thing, but quickly become torn between working IN the business and working ON the business. It took me a while to accept this and even longer to make meaningful progress toward fixing it.
The E-myth Revisited by Michael Gerber is an incredible book on the topic. I like my summary, but he gives more convincing examples.
Imagine you are an excellent pie marker. You know how to select the best ingredients, mix the right recipes, bake like a boss, and polish the presentation. You enjoy spending hours in the kitchen. You love pies and people love the pies you make.
Making great pies is different than running a business that makes great pies. Having a technical skill doesn’t translate to running a business that does that.
- In a pie business, pies must be sold. The captive audience you once had at Thanksgiving dinner quickly becomes something you must now create.
- In a pie business, ingredients must be bought, waste reduced, and inventory stored. It’s unlikely your household kitchen meets food safety standards.
- In a pie business, customers must be charged. Expenses must be tracked. Vendors paid.
The entrepreneur is quickly pulled from the work they want, into the work that’s required. This can lead to feelings of stress, frustration, or burnout.
We are either wrestling that tension or seeking a solution.
Some founders want someone else to run the business so they can spend more time ‘creating’. Others choose to become the operator and hire people to produce the deliverable.
The only wrong answer is not deciding.
For more on the topic and why it’s so challenging, here are helpful resources:
- Maker’s Schedule & Manager’s Schedule by Paul Graham (Article)
- Genius with a Thousand Helpers (Concept by Jim Collins)
- Company of One by Paul Jarvis (Book)
- The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande (Book)
PS. Most businesses fail. Understanding the e-myth is one of the most important learnings that contributes to being one of the few who survive and thrive. I also joined an accelerator program of founders and entrepreneurs who constantly reinforced this struggle. It was priceless.
Morgan J Lopes
Acknowledgements and gratitude for these learnings. A special thanks to…
- Craig, for replying to my first random email, regularly helping me find my way, and recommending EOA. You helped me find my people.
- John Lee Dumas, for not editing out the constant references to E-myth and beating listens over the head with Jim Rohn. If you ever read this, holy shit!
- Brian, for giving me a chance to try things, make mistakes, and learn.