The McDonaldization Of Business

In business, everyone has a role… or at least they ought to.

A few years ago, I was working as a sub-contractor with a Virtual Bookkeeping company and I was searching for some deeper understanding of our respective roles. I discovered a great little book by Michael Gerber – The E-Myth.

The E-Myth is an easy read and yet the information that Gerber shares is pivotal to anyone who runs a business. In the book Gerber explains why so many small businesses fail to grow, and where they stumble when they try to grow. Gerber explains that for your business to grow you need to have three essential roles filled – that of a technician, a manager, and an entrepreneur. Most small business owners attempt to fill each of those roles themselves. The trouble is, many small business owners are not capable of being all three – in fact, few people are.

The challenge then is recognizing which of the three you are and bringing in people to your team who can fill the other roles.

Let’s quickly define each role:

The technician is the doer and builder in the business. The one who performs the tasks that are laid out by others. Most often, this is the role that can easily be outsourced.

The manager is the one who keeps track of people (the technicians), projects and details. They are typically extraordinarily good with people and exceptional planners. They don’t perform the tasks of the business, they manage the people that do and keep them on track and on project.

And finally, the entrepreneur is the one who always has his / her eye on the future. They are the ones who dictate the growth and direction of the business. They are the visionaries and the dreamers. They constantly live 3-6 months in the future – always a step or two ahead of the day-to-day operations.

Every business owner starts in the technician’s phase in the infancy of their business. They wear all the hats. They are the ones who are doing the work! They are the “business!” But if they are the business, they haven’t really created a business at all, they have created a job for themselves!

According to Gerber, the role of the business owner is really quite different. Gerber’s thesis is that every business owner should move from the role of technician to that of manager (getting some help in the adolescence of their business growth) and maturing to that of entrepreneur – the visionary. The role of the business owner is to create a business that works independently of himself or herself.

The key to successful growth and the creation of a business rather than a job is systemizing the business. Gerber uses the model of the McDonald’s franchise to illustrate his strategies.

There are three kinds of systems in a business: the hard systems, the soft systems and the information systems. The hard systems refer to all those in your business that are inanimate and has no life. The soft systems refer to all those that could be living or inanimate. The information systems are everything else in the business that provides you with data relating to how the two earlier systems interact.

Systems are key to being able to fill the different roles in the business and replicating the knowledge and expertise of the business owner so that consistent quality and delivery of service is offered once the business runs independently of the active involvement of the business owner.

Gerber’s book goes into much greater depth than the brief synopsis provided here. If you are struggling to get your business off the ground – or you are on track for growth and not struggling yet – I strongly recommend The E-Myth.

Advantage Exercise: Find Your Primary Aim

In The E-Myth, Michael Gerber encourages everyone to define their Primary Aim. Gerber believes (as do I) that you need to think of your business as a way of getting more from your life. Obviously in order to do that you need to know the purpose of your life, or have a vision of who you want to be and the kind of life you want to lead. Gerber describes this as your primary aim.

The Primary Aim statement is a short, concise description of that state of being, which you can reference as a benchmark when you are at your best and when you are not quite where you need to be.

In other words, once you’ve established your primary aim, you can then ask yourself whether your business’ aim serves your aim, whether the work you’re currently doing allows you to fulfill your aim, whether your company is a place where you can grow and experience yourself becoming the person you want to be.

Answering these questions will help you determine your Primary Aim:

What Don’t I Want? — Make a list of all the things (material & emotional) that you don’t want in your life. This could be anything from stress and a negative environment to an office in a cubbyhole.

What Do I Want? — Make a list of all the things (material, monetary, and emotional) that you do want in your life. Create a picture of your ideal life.

What’s Most Important To Me? — Prioritize the items you placed on both lists above. Identify the top five items on each list.

Create Your Primary Aim — Summarize what you want your life to be about. If you’re having trouble creating a statement that resonates with you, imagine the end of your rich and fulfilling life. What do you hope people will say about you as they eulogize you. This exercise, though difficult, will help you find a single sentence or a few words that describes how you’d like your life to be.

Pop on over to the My Virtual Partner blog ( and share your primary aim with others.