Test of a True Entrepreneur: Can You Step Away?

Can your business run indefinitely without you at the helm? Michael E. Gerber, author of The E-Myth, outlines the steps you need to take to get there.

Business owners, especially those just starting out, often make the mistake of getting caught up in the day-to-day operations of their business—the work of running the business—so much so that they don’t take time to consider how the business runs.

Are you guilty of putting your nose to the grindstone and forgetting to come up for a look around? If so, it is critical that you understand the point I’m about to make. For if you do, neither your business nor your life will ever be the same.

Your business is not your life.

Your business and your life are two totally separate things.

At its best, your business is something apart from you, rather than a part of you, with its own rules and its own purposes. An organism, you might say, that will live or die according to how well it performs its sole function: to find and keep customers.

Once you recognize that the purpose of your life is not to serve your business, but that the primary purpose of your business is to serve your life, you can then go to work on your business, rather than in it, with a full understanding of why it is absolutely necessary for you to do so.

This is where you can put the model of the Franchise Prototype to work for you.

Working on your business rather than in your business will become the central theme of your daily activity, the prime catalyst for everything you do from this moment forward.

How do you work on your business?

Pretend that the business you own—or want to own—is the prototype, or will be the prototype, for 5,000 more just like it.

Not almost like it, but just like it. Perfect replicates. Clones.

In other words, pretend that you are going to franchise your business.

And if you are going to set up a model that is the prototype, there are rules you must follow:

  • The model will provide consistent value to your customers, employees, suppliers, and lenders, beyond what they expect.
  • The model will be operated by people with the lowest possible level of skill.
  • The model will stand out as a place of impeccable order.
  • All work in the model will be documented in Operations Manuals.
  • The model will provide a uniformly predictable service to the customer.
  • The model will utilize a uniform color, dress, and facilities code.

If you are going to create a business that serves your life, you must create an organization that will stand on its own. You need a model that is systematized so that it functions the same way every time, and can be run by people with the lowest skill level. Then, you can step away. And that is the mark of a true business owner—the ability to enjoy the freedom of owning a business, without the requirement of doing work in the business everyday.

Look at your business – Can it function in your absence? If not, what would it take to get it there? Get to work on your business today.

This article was adapted from an excerpt of The E-Myth Revisited.


Michael E. Gerber is a true legend in entrepreneurship, helping transform 70,000+ businesses in 145 countries over the past 25 years. Michael’s New York Times best-selling book, The E-Myth Revisited, has sold over 5,000,000 copies in 29 languages, and E-Myth methodology is taught in 118 universities. @MichaelEGerber

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