• February 2012

Dispelling the E-Myth: My Life as an Entrepreneur

By Andrea Keating
Founder and CEO
Crews Control

I have been a fan of Michael Gerber’s “E-Myth” since reading it in 1995, a few years after starting my company.

It was a dream of mine to found a corporate video company that provides camera crews for video shoots and production at locations around the world. And since 1988, my team has successfully been fulfilling that dream.

It hasn’t always been easy.

That’s why Gerber’s book resonates with me. In talking about “the myth of the entrepreneur,” his bestseller dispels the commonplace assumptions surrounding starting and running a successful small business.

In fact, Gerber practically tells the story of the challenges I faced as an new business owner.

“Picture the typical entrepreneur and Herculean pictures come to mind: a man or woman standing alone, wind-blown against the elements, bravely defying insurmountable odds, climbing sheer faces of treacherous rock—all to realize the dream of creating a business of one’s own,” he writes. “The legend reeks of nobility, of lofty, extra-human efforts, of a prodigious commitment to larger-than-life ideals. Well, while there are such people, my experience tells me they are rare.

“Of the thousands of businesspeople that I have had the opportunity to know and work with over the past two decades, few were real entrepreneurs when I met them,” he continues. “The vision was all but gone in most. The zest for the climb had turned into a terror of heights. Exhaustion was common, exhilaration rare.

“But hadn’t all of them once been entrepreneurs? After all, they had started their own business. There must have been some dream that drove them to take such a risk.”

Does this sound familiar to you, too?

To me, one of Gerber’s most incisive observations is that many entrepreneurs know considerably more about producing what they sell than about operating their business.

I also appreciate his second key point: To be effective, the entrepreneur must work on his or her business, not in their business.

In fact, after 24 years of owning my own video company, I believe that this is the biggest challenge for anyone working in a creative field.

Too many entrepreneurs—especially those who are highly creative and very good at art, writing, cooking, videography, photography, and other right-brain endeavors—too often don’t have enough of the logic-oriented business skills they need to successfully promote their talents.

So what’s the solution?

As a business owner, you have to find a way to hire others who will complement your skills so you can make a living doing what you love.

For example, if I were a great artist, but knew that I wasn’t an expert at managing the business end of things, I’d hire a rep. If I was a great chef, but didn’t know enough to manage the restaurant and create fabulous food, I’d hire a great manager.

Likewise, if I was a great manager, but didn’t have a flair for skillfully managing the creative end of a business, I’d partner with someone who had passion and brilliance in their specific industry—and we’d be a wonderful team.

There’s another benefit to forming these types of strategic collaborations.

If you create a company that is bigger than just you, it gives you the opportunity to take a break.

Don’t underestimate the power of this, because for a business owner, burnout is a very real possibility. If the entire success of the company rests on your shoulders alone, the odds of you burning the candle at both ends is not just likely—it’s what will happen. And that’s not good for you or your business.

The good news for me is that I never wanted to be involved in every transaction, or every meeting, because then I knew Crews Control would never be bigger than what I had the capacity to handle.

Because I set out in the beginning to make my business a company, rather than a consulting practice, I put the people and processes in place to make it happen. It didn’t happen overnight, but it did happen. And I now have a company where I can step away, work on an area of focus that I love, and take time off. Most importantly, I know that even when I am not in the room, the city, or the country—the company will go on without me.

If this appeals to you, I am confident that you can do the same. It just takes forethought, persistence, and personality—and clarity of your goals.

Here are three ways to dispel the E-myth.

1. Hire people who are very different than you. More specifically, make sure that they have different skill sets than you. To do this, start by identifying what you like to do, what your strengths are, what you aren’t very good at, or just don’t like to do. Then hire people who can do those things well. Believe me, I know that this step sounds easier than it is to do because such brutal honesty is tough for most entrepreneurs. After all, we think we can do everything better and faster than everyone else. But to build a business, it’s critical to be able to step back and look at the situation objectively.

2. Don’t be afraid to hire people who are smarter than you. For me, social media is a mystery. Yet, I knew that I needed to incorporate this new technology into our PR and marketing plan. So rather than spend hours and hours learning everything I knew I’d need to know about this emerging media, I hired a full-time social media expert to run the department. In one year, we have seen the positive results of her hard work and expertise. We are booking jobs on Facebook. People are going to our YouTube channel, where they are seeing for themselves the industry experts that we are. And that experience is also turning the viewers into customers. It has been great.

3. Never say no when, with a little creative thinking, you can say yes. Say you are a public speaker working nationally, and suddenly get requests to go international. But you just had a baby, and can’t figure out how you’ll balance international travel with motherhood. How can you solve the problem, short of turning down the opportunity? Consider hiring someone in another country, and training him or her to do what you do. Then expand that option and develop a program to train dozens of others, who will all pay you to teach them, and pay you royalties as they grow their own businesses. Sounds like a good solution, right?

The Bottom Line

If you don’t fall into the entrepreneurial trap of thinking you need to do everything yourself, be the smartest person in the room, or reflexively say “no” to every opportunity that pushes you beyond your boundaries, you’ll grow even faster and become even more successful.

About Andrea Keating

Andrea Keating founded Crews Control in 1988 as the first film-and-video-crew staffing agency. Since then, the company’s focus has been to match each client with the perfect local crew for each specific shoot.

“That means we can offer our clients the quickest response time when they need to book a crew, and then provide the most dedicated customer service in the business,” she says.

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