At my job I get to talk to all kinds of interesting people from all over North America and on Tuesday (2/5/08) I spoke with a gentleman in NY who used to be a consultant with 300 clients in NYC.
At one point I made the comment that, “one of the problems I see in businesses is that people who can install water softeners think that means they’re going to be good at running a water softening business – and that’s just not true.”
The consultant said “That’s exactly right!”
Me: “It’s just like Michael Gerber talks about in the The E-Myth”
Consultant: “What book? by who?”
After giving him a brief explanation of the book, the author, and emailing him a list of 12 books I recommend for improving profits, he begins to tell me a story.
He said that he had a consulting business in New York City with 300 clients who all eventually failed because not one of them would take the time to make a simple business plan. He talked about one client in particular who had a great business of singing telegrams (I believe that’s what he said) that was growing fast and she wanted to expand to other cities. However she refused to make a business plan so the consultant did for her. He showed her that she would never make money at her current prices and needed to increase them. She claimed she knew her costs and could make money and stayed in business for quite a while out of sheer determination. She eventually folded, has a “normal” job, and is in a huge amount of debt because of that business venture.
The fact that 300 out of 300 business owners were “technicians” in their start-up businesses and they all failed because they didn’t know how to work on their businesses instead of just in them is no real surprise. After all, Gerber told us all about that.
What shocked me was that a business consultant hadn’t read a single book out of my varied list of 12 recommended business books. The list included at least 4 best sellers and the The E-Myth Revisited in particular was rated as the #1 business book by Inc. 500 CEOs.
Granted, this consultant turned businessman seems to be doing very well with his current venture and must have an amazing sales presentation as he sells his equipment for at least 50% more than any other similar business that I’ve encountered in all of North America. That takes at least a little skill.
The other thing that strikes me as funny is that a good mechanical engineer friend from college decided to get a MBA. I obviously chose to dive head-first into the business world to learn instead. He claims that the primary goal of a business is to acquire customers – I argued that the primary goal of a business is to make a profit. Sounds like that lady might have gone through the same business classes since she had plenty of customers – and seemed to forget about profit…
What do you think about the consultant? About MBA programs teaching that customers are the primary goal of every business? Of my crazy affinity for books? lol
To your success, Bryan
BTW – I’ve since changed my opinion on the primary goals of a business with some insights from Built to Last.