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How to think like an Entrepreneur

When I read The E-Myth Revisited for the first time in 1996, one of the quotes that stuck with me most was this:

“How you think about business is how you end up doing business.”

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It sounds simple, but it’s actually quite profound, and it’s the perspective that forms the basis of the EMyth Business Coaching Program. The idea here is that while you’re off “running your business”, you’re carrying around all sorts of beliefs that are actually running you, and they have the power to shape whether or not you succeed. In other words, if you believe your business is dependent on you to run it, you’ll create a business that depends on you to run. By this measure, becoming a successful business owner is actually a matter of thinking more than a matter of doing

So, what kind of thinking makes a great business owner? We call it “entrepreneurial thinking,” which means, yes, thinking like an Entrepreneur. It’s about being able to zoom out and see the big picture.

When most people think of productivity, they think of “doing”—making sales, delivering a product or service, designing an ad campaign, etc. But all of this is what we call Tactical Work, and it’s the job of the Technician, not the Entrepreneur. Despite how it may feel in the moment, this kind of work is never going to help you achieve your long-term business goals. Sure, it feels good to make a sale. But does that one sale help you define a broader vision of your future and identify the steps needed to get there? No. And if you don’t do that work—the big picture work—who will?

So, what does it take to start thinking like an Entrepreneur?

Strategic thinking

Strategic thinking is what fuels Strategic Work, which is the opposite of Tactical Work. It requires that you filter out the immediate issues related to day-to-day business functions—making that sale, calling that customer or designing that ad—and think about your business from a higher level. It's constantly asking yourself questions like:

What’s your vision for your company one year from now? Five years from now? Ten?

What are the steps you need to take to get there?

What projects need to be established to get you from point A to point B?

What organizational structure will best serve those needs?

Strategic Thinking is all about high-level goals and long-term vision.


Systemic thinking

Systemic thinking is about learning to see your business as an interconnected web of systems, rather than as a jumble of separate parts colliding with one another. It’s about understanding the impact that each system has on the others, and learning to see your business frustrations as the resulting symptoms of systemic problems further upstream. 

When you begin to look at your business through this lens, you start solving problems more efficiently. Suddenly, you can see that your issue making sales isn’t that your salespeople are bad at their jobs, but that they don’t have a reliable and repeatable sales process to work from (the intersection of your Management and Sales Systems). Or, maybe they aren’t meeting your sales goals because you haven’t actually defined them in writing (the intersection of your Leadership and Sales Systems). Or, maybe you don’t know what those sales goals even are because you haven’t run the numbers to discover what you need monthly to hit your revenue goals (the intersection of your Finance and Sales Systems).

In other words, systemic thinking requires you to learn how to see every problem as a systems problem.

Systematic thinking

Systematic thinking allows you to look at your business and see the natural patterns required to create consistent and repeatable results. It’s the kind of thinking you use once you’ve recognized the systemic issues in your business and are ready to build the systems needed to solve them. With this type of thinking, you can create clearly designed systems that will deliver your desired results each and every time they’re used properly. In other words, it’s the thinking that allows you to recognize and document the steps needed to make a sale, reply to a customer request or design an ad the way you want these things done.

Each of these modes is crucial to thinking like an Entrepreneur. At the root of all of these types of thinking are the questions, “Why do we do it this way?” and, “How could we do it better?” This type of continual innovation is key to the entrepreneurial spirit and every business owner's success.

Don’t be mistaken—thinking isn’t a substitute for taking action. Rather, it’s meant to be the first step in helping you take the right action—action that will actually get you where you want to go.

So, make sure to carve out time every week for this kind of thinking—for stepping back and looking at the bigger picture of your business. And when you’re done, write down and schedule each of the crucial action items you’ve identified to advance your strategic vision. If you need help getting started, we’re here.

Remy Gervais

Written by Remy Gervais

Remy started working as an EMyth Coach in 1996, and still loves working directly with business owners, as well as serving at EMyth’s Coach Training and Development Manager. As a coach, she relentlessly pursues her clients’ goals, working to help them translate their vision into core standards and systems, while coaching them to become better leaders and guiding them as they move their companies through transformation.