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Using EMyth to grow your business? What story are you telling?

You can learn a lot about your business through market research and customer feedback. But if you're building a brand for the long term, there's a deeper story that isn't so easily quantified. It's the more personal story you're telling yourself and then to your customers that keeps people coming back. And after the early stages of a business, one of the biggest challenges isn't just staying true to that story, it's refining it, and staying relevant to both existing customers and new ones.

The EMyth Revisited, first published in 1995, told the world an incredibly compelling story of 'why most small businesses don't work and what to do about it.' Sarah's journey hit home; her 'pain points' were so universal that they resonated with millions around the world. And of course, there's a big difference between relating to her story and going through your own real-life version, and seeing how those universal themes apply to your specific situation - to your business, and your life. How would you tell that story in your own words?

In addition to the idea of 'working On it, not In it,' the book made famous the notion of the three personalities of a small business owner: the Entrepreneur, the Manager and the Technician. They're, of course, the three hats you as an owner have to learn to put on (or take off) in the right moments and in some very specific ways to create a business that truly works. And, as profound as that idea was and is, being too rigid about the specific words risks missing a much bigger opportunity. And that opportunity, for all of us in the EMyth community, is to find ways to express what owning and operating a business means in ever more true and personal ways.

The work of the Technician in Craftsman mode is like a jazz musician who has internalized the ‘rules and the theory’ so well that they know exactly when to improvise.

It's what drives us to keep refining our story, in ways that are just as true and potentially more challenging and rewarding, at the same time honoring the essence of the original ideas.

An 'Entrepreneur' is a Visionary, someone who knows how to actually make dreams come true for themselves and their business. In this Visionary expression, Entrepreneurs have incredible strengths and equally significant blind spots. They are great at envisioning the future, which often makes it harder for them to be 'real' in the present. They are highly creative, and equally prone to distraction.

A 'Manager' is a Designer, someone who knows how to manifest the vision of the Entrepreneur in real time in the real world. As Designers, Managers are the lynchpin of your organization in their ability to translate and express (i.e. design) a vision into delightful and repeatable customer experiences. On the flip-side, they're often too risk-averse, and struggle to stay connected to their passion. The work of the Manager as a Designer is like conducting an orchestra, balancing discipline and creativity in present time.

A 'Technician' is a Craftsman. He or she knows how to interpret the vision and the design aspects of the company and reflect them in creative applications. Your Craftsmen are the lifeblood of your business. If you look with the right eyes, you'll start seeing them as artists-in-disguise, from marketing and sales through to finance and operations; they aren't really working in strictly confined boxes and lines. The work of the Technician in Craftsman mode is like a jazz musician who has internalized the 'rules and the theory' so well that they know exactly when to improvise. And, in the modern world, what could be more important than that?

Feel into these words as they'd apply to your business. Imagine the people on your team and ask yourself which words better describe how you feel about them. Maybe you have other words to describe these three roles that fit your vision and culture more accurately. The important thing is to choose the words you use with the same care, from your own values, as you do with everything else.

The words you use to describe the roles you and the members of your team perform and the work everyone does isn't a philosophical exercise. It has a huge impact on how you and your people feel about their work, the experience your customers have as a result, and, in the end, whether your business delivers on your vision and your story.

EMyth is a 'big' word with a lot of history, depth of meaning and potential for impact. The key is to make it your own.

Jonathan Raymond

Written by Jonathan Raymond

Jonathan was a frequent contributor to the EMyth blog from 2011-2015. His articles focus on marketing, branding, and organizational culture.