How ideas set out in the E-myth combined with a wiki can improve your business
Over the summer traveling back and forth to Brussels I read the E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber. It’s one of those books most Entrepreneurs pick up at some point.
One of the core topics in the book is to treat your business as the first of 5,000 franchises. This is the prototype. In developing this prototype you must design, document and continually perfect a central operating manual which details every aspect of how to run the business. This operating manual could actually be a number of manuals for different levels of staff, but the point is that you must have something that describes the procedures and processes for consistently delivering whatever it is you deliver.
One of the examples cited is that of a successful hotel where every detail is managed by such an operations manual. From the way the beds are made, to cleaning checklists, recruitment procedures, how to order supplies, what to say to the guests when they arrive to the phone numbers of local restaurants….it’s all in the manual. The author talks about his delight in how such a consistent and well delivered service is provided every time he stays at the hotel. Every member of staff knows exactly what they are to do and every detail seems to be practiced, refined and perfected on a continual basis.
Documenting procedures and practices is nothing new, and this book has been around for years. What is new is how technology can make this approach easy to apply, and how easy and cheap it would be to maintain. However before I step into the technology, let me give you another example of how successful this approach can be.
A friend and collaborator has recently performed some consultancy for what is now a very successful law firm in the UK. What’s unique about this firm is how they whole heartedly adopted the E-Myth approach as a mechanism for growing the business. Normally for a law firm in this sector the company structure would be something in order of 1 partner to 4 associates. This number is largely dictated by the the amount of management level guidance and oversight required per associate. However, the firm has grown to 5 partners with a total of 40 associates. That’s double the norm. They achieved this by documenting every detail of how the business operates in a series of interconnected Word documents. They used a Word document per process or procedure and hyper linked them together to allow the reader to follow through a set of processes without knowingly seeking out and opening a number of different files. When an update was required, it was simply a matter of opening the relevant document, making the change and saving it back to the central repository. Associates are required to use the ‘manual’ as a first port of call for any procedure or activity they do not know off by heart, thus freeing the partners up to manage more staff and business.
Of course, you can all see where I am going with this. What I’ve just described is a crude wiki. The law firm unknowingly developed a kind of wiki as their E-Myth inspired operations manual.
Doing this in a ‘real’ wiki would be much easier and would allow a greater level of flexibility, accessibility and scalability. In some ways most wikis set out to be a kind of operations manual. Whether it’s for a project, a team, an entire company or your own personal wiki. They are used to store information to guide and help others in the quest for knowledge or to perform a specific task.
During my time with Pfizer we were developing Pfizerpedia, a company wide wiki with very few content limitations. One day this resource could be THE go to guide for achieving anything in the company. Point a user to it and let them learn. At no point has anyone suggested it would facilitate growth similar to that of the law firm, but why not!? Done properly and by the right people, a wiki like this could facilitate many things if not just the ability to distribute knowledge and guidance to those who need it.
So, since the barrier to implementing the ideas put forth in the E-myth have been lowered, why not identify an aspect of your business to ‘franchise’?