Small Businesses Advice from Sacramento Area Accountants
Michael Gerber is a business consulting “guru” whose observations concerning small businesses have had a profound impact on how his students see their businesses and their role as a business owner.
Gerber observed that most people go into business for the wrong reason. They are skilled technicians. They do a good job of what the business provides to the customer. They believe they can earn more by doing it in their own business than for someone else. They leave and open their own shop. This is what Gerber calls an “entrepreneurial seizure.”
These technicians believe they will find more freedom in their business but they discover it is the hardest job in the world. There is no escape. 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 only created a job for themselves!
According to Gerber, the role of the owner is quite different. The role of the business owner is to create a business that works independently of him or herself. There is an “end point” where the business functions independently of the owner. At this point, the business owner may choose to sell it or not. By then, he or she will have created a ready-to-sell “money making machine” and may choose whether to devote effort to it or not. The business can also be duplicated from place to place.
The model for this effort is the “turnkey franchise,” such as McDonalds. The franchise creator, by establishing, documenting, and testing detailed systems, Ray Kroc made a uniform business with a certain look, providing a consistent experience to the customer. Ray controlled the design of the restaurant, sold uniformly made food and equipment, and provided the “scripts” for the service people. These scripts contained detailed procedures for preparing the food.
Likewise, the business owner should start with an idea of what this business should look like. This includes an organizational chart that could start with the business owner in each box. The chart documents the organization with responsibilities for chief executive, marketing, accounting, finance, and production employees. Gradually, the business owner tests, measures, and documents procedures for each position then replaces them with others until he or she isn’t needed at all.
The shorthand phrase for the business systems could be “Here’s how we do it here.”
The business becomes a learning place where each person finds satisfaction in performing their parts to the best of their abilities.
Small business owners should be grateful to Michael Gerber for his profound observations and the challenge he has presented to us. Each morning, we should ask ourselves: “Am I going to a business, or am I going to a job?” If we are going to a job, we have Gerber’s model for change.
Employees must think in order to provide outstanding service. Gerber’s approach can sometimes be inflexible when dealing with changes we deal with today.
More important than “Here’s how we do it here,” we need to know “What’s important here.” We need to define the values of our business. People need to be more important than the systems that are supposed to serve them. Systems shouldn’t override common sense.