The E-Myth Revisited by Micheal E. Gerber

May 2024

I recently found myself unmoored from my software engineering job. Despite abundant opportunities for work, I decided to take a break. I have a safe amount of runway and a backlog of projects I’ve wanted to work on. Plus, it felt like a good time to revisit a recurring dream - starting my own business to ‘work for myself’. I’ve had this dream in various forms since high school.

When you work at a large corporation, it’s easy to see inefficiences and ask “How hard could it be to compete?”. I love programming. Surely my software engineering skills and some hard work could form the backbone of a strong business, right?

As I will cover, this thinking could not be more wrong. This aspiration (the vague business vision of a competent employee) could never work. It’s a myth dispelled in the business classic The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It, gifted to me by a wise (and timely!) friend.

I could tell this book was special shortly after I started reading it, and I intend to reread it at least once. Here is brief reflection on the book and my key takeaways.

This is not a full review - I’ll simply omit the annoying, outdated, or contradictory parts, and share the powerful ideas that resonated with me.

Key Takeaways

A few key ideas represent the main drive of the book. For your average Joe thinking of quitting his day job to start a business, they represent an entirely new mindset. A paradigm shift.

The E-Myth is the idea that people who start a business to sell work they know how to do are entrepreneurs. They’re not. Really, they’re Technicians, one of the 3 personalities present in every business. The three personality thing sounds corny at first, but it’s really a powerful and coherent model that describes the types of work that need to happen for a business. The author pegged me: I’m a Technician (for now).

Another key idea is the Business Development process - a crucial set of work and responsibilities that are explicitly separate from the day-to-day work performed by Technicians to produce the Commodity. In other words, work on your business, not in it.

Note the loose definition of ‘Commodity’ here – Whether your business provides a service (like financial advice), or a physical product, think of that deliverable as the commodity. Why? This brings us to the final key idea:

Your business itself is the product. It provides value to customers, of course, but also employees, suppliers, and investors. In particular, your business development should work towards creating a Franchise Prototype - a reproducible model of your business - a proprietary operating system that produces value. This is true whether or not you intend to franchise or scale your business.

Questions and Notes

Software and Internet

As someone interested in the software business, the book leaves me with questions. Since its publication in 1985, the landscape has drastically changed. I’m particularly curious about the latest advances in managing programmers. The book emphasizes designing your business so tasks can be managed by individuals with the minimum required skill level. However, this approach seems to fall short when applied to software engineers. Their work involves managing complexity, and attempting to break down their tasks for multiple developers often leads to decreased productivity (The Mythical Man-Month, etc.). The book’s examples focus primarily on retail sectors such as restaurants, hotels, and physical goods, as well as some services. I would appreciate seeing how these concepts could be adapted for online businesses.


The book mostly describes things that happen after business validation and initial product development. There is a chapter on marketing, but it’s not very actionable and probably covered better in other books. Innovation is not described in great detail. Basically, finding a market and paying customers should always come first, but this book is mostly about what to do after that step. Unfortunately, that initial step is one of the hardest problems! I’m sure there are other books that cover this area well and complement the E-Myth Revisited.

What to Actually Do

More in-depth information about how to prioritize various tasks as an entrepreneur would have been valuable to me. Some of it is common sense, but I would love to have it spelled out. When do you prioritize… marketing? Hiring? Simplification?


The E-Myth

The Three Personalities

Business Development

Comfort Zone

Organizational Strategy

People Strategy