An E-Myth Lesson

In The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It Michael Gerber tells a humorous but informative story that demonstrates how systems solve problems.

Years ago his company regularly used white boards for meetings. At the end of each meeting the leader of the meeting was responsible for cleaning the white board. In their haste to get on to more pleasant tasks, the employee would invariable hit the wall with the eraser, leaving blue marks on the wall. Despite a series of memos, meetings, signs, and other exhortations, the problem continued.

In short, the company had a conflict. Color standards dictated white walls and white boards. Cleanliness standards dictated that the white boards be cleaned promptly. But the result–blue streaks on the walls–was not acceptable. Thus was born a new system within the business.

The story demonstrates how to use systems (no surprise there). When you experience a problem or frustration (bottlenecks) within your business, rather than plead with employees to act differently, develop a system to address the bottleneck. The system will change their behavior without you becoming an ogre who is constantly complaining.

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