E-Myth vs Good to Great: It’s about the people

What do you think is more effective? Having a business completely run by a set of well defined processes or having the right people on the bus and no process?

If you’re going to read E-Myth then you also have to read Good to Great. On Principal, I completely disagree with some of the ideas E-Myth presents. While it’s handy and you can learn a lot, the basic premise of E-Myth is that people don’t matter and process is the thing that does matter. I disagree with that 100%.

I agree with E-Myth in its description of the typical business (managers, technicians, entrepreneurs). It’s the solution to the problem I disagree with. And that solution is process, process, process. Not just some process, all process and the extensive documentation of process. With E-Myth everything is documented down to the detail and the idea is that once something is documented you can hire anybody to do that job. E-Myth rides on the premise that people are robots and lack creativity to do their jobs.

Good to Great is the exact opposite and is guiding readers in the right direction. It says you should think about who is on the bus first, before you even figure out what you’re going to do in your business. It argues that a good team can do almost anything and we’ve seen that over and over again with businesses that succeed wildly. They just go out there and do awesome stuff again and again.

I see very little process at most of these companies. I can even think of a number of web startups that appear to have no process from the outside, and have eschewed process.

Now let me sidetrack just a moment and say I’ve spent more time with E-Myth than I care to admit. I spent months working with an E-Myth consultant working through their course a few years ago. I found it disgusting how focused it was on process. Everything was packaged up really nicely and the gist was that I could become a success if I just stuck with the multi-year program.

In all reality I think the most you can learn from E-Myth is this simple fact. There are three types of people and you shouldn’t try to do all of them yourself.

  1. Entrepreneurs (who are the dreamers, focused on the future)
  2. Managers (who are the organizers, focused on how to do things efficiently)
  3. Technicians (who are the “do-ers” focused on what’s to be done)

I invite the authors of these books to defend their positions.

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22 responses to “E-Myth vs Good to Great: It’s about the people”

  1. I have to admit that I started the e-myth and never got around to finishing it. Perhaps I read it with more of an intellectual screen than I realized, but I didn’t notice the emphasis on process nearly as much as I noticed the emphasis on ‘do what you are good at and be flexible.’

    What I got out of it is that when starting a business there are tasks which will have to get done that you may not be great at doing, and a successful business will recognize those tasks as the business grows, ensuring that they get done even though it’s not in their nature.

    I wasn’t all that impressed by the book though.

  2. I havent read E-Myth, but have read Good to Great and several other well known business books. I think the case typical of all business books is that they shouldn’t be looked at (as in the case of your e-myth consultant) as the end all be all of how to run, start or end an organization.

    Case in point, it could be argued that most people consider Tom Peters and Jim Collins about 180 degrees apart in their ideologies. However, if you really look at it, they are the same — equal parts solid business approach and BS.

    I’ve been working on a post along these lines. Not regarding books, but business and hiring practices. For instance, why do you see so many job ads asking that only the “best” apply? Why? Why do so many companies need the “best” on their teams only to continue pumping out a mediocre product and / or service?

    A favored blog of mine, Businesspundit
    adresses some good (in my opinion) arguments against Good to Great, if you’re interested.

  3. I forgot to mention that my favorite common sense and practical business book (with minimal BS marketese) is “Six Disciplines for Ecellence”

  4. Is anybody else just completely burned out on business books? I am. I haven’t read a business book in about 3 years. Sounds silly but I read these books way long ago and here I am reviewing them. Take my advice for what it’s worth! 🙂

  5. Where do you way in on six sigma? It is heavy on process for managing a project, and can sometimes prevent creativity and instead be more of a tool for getting sign off on prebaked solutions. Often team members feel like they should have been able to choose a project management style to approach a problem and that six sigma was chosen for them. That said, under the six sigma umbrella there are some great frameworks /tools for managing a project and for buidling a team.

  6. Rob – I’ve read a book or two on Six Sigma but it was a long time ago. I don’t have a position on it right now. Since it’s heavy on process like ISO standardization I’ll likely pass it up.

  7. I would tend to think that a process exists at any level of business. For example, just the simple act of deliberating work to different people is a process because without it there would be redundancy,miscommunication, and most likely no progress. So as much as people like to say that they do not use a process, that in itself is a process. 🙂

    What I’ve seen in the corporate world of company XYZ regarding the right people and the right process, one cannot exist without the other. Yet if the right people come first, then you get the right process and not vice versa.

  8. I have to say, the comparison is apples to oranges here. These books both cover business but from different perspectives entirely.

    Emyth is a prescriptive book and it’s audience is a small business that’s wants to get off of the ground. I think that may be why the emphasis is on process so strongly.

    Good To Great is a descriptive book that discusses why some companies do better than others in similar markets. GTG assumes the business reviewed is a publicly traded, long-established company and mostly anylizes upper management and how their descisions effect growth.

    My thoughts are that there really is no comparison between the two. I think GTG emphasises people more and process less because in businesses that large, processes are already in place whereas the startup has none and is usually in need of processes to get off the ground.

  9. I read both books… each twice. I implemented the guidelines in E-Myth. My business tripled in gross commission income the first year. I was spending most of my time in “Orchestration” of the business (tactical work). Onced I hired employees and properly trained them do to the tactical work, I concentrated in the “Innovation” and “Quantification.” That’s when the business took off. For a small business, the E-Myth is one answer.

  10. Thanks for the tip,

    I have never read E-Myth as a success coach I wouldn’t take advice from anyone who puts process before people it will end in tears and we all know processes don’t have feelings. So thanks again that’s one business book I won’t need to worry about.

  11. I read the post of 11-17 at 1:49 am. Is there any way I can find out who that “success coach” is that is so smart he just listens to the opinions of others instead of forming his own? I would really like to be able to steer people away from someone that thinks in the “one size fits all mentiality”. I’ve read both books and have been able to glean good useable material from both. I am not a success coach, however, I am a veteran of 35 years of straight commission sales, currently have an organization of over 1,000 in more than 40 states. I like “doing it” mush better than telling someone else to, or coaching.

  12. Both are excellent books! It takes wisdom and experience to know when to apply each approach and to what degree. I am a consultant and these books are and will always be in my library!

  13. I am sorry for all the peeps that dizz the EMyth book. Chapter two emphasizes on the most important focus. “the individual”. The process begins with us. Each one of us need to come to a balance with ourselves first.I believe we all need to come to point where we need to realize what we are. Are we an Entrepreneur (dreamer), Manager (Maintaining) or a Technician (fix it baby)? This is the constant struggle, in not just in a work arena but also at home, church etc. I belive that these three crucial personalities need to arrive at a balance and co-exist. If not I believe it is disaster. Like the present situation, George W. Bush (Entrepreneur), Congress (Manager), Iraq (Technician). We as a country have not arrived at success in Iraq is because we do not know how to co-exist to spread freedom in Iraq. I do not know if this is a good example. But I can somehow apply the EMyth chapter 2 to the war scenario. I hope you read chapter 2 before you give up on EMyth. God bless you all. Peace outt peeps.

  14. I don’t think the e-myth was anti-people. Michael Gerber talked about having systems in place to reward the staff. If people aren’t happy then the job will be done poorly. So you must have a system to make sure people are happy. You don’t need to be crazily systematic but it is beneficial to have them around and documented so that you have a guideline and some consistency in what happens. From an entrepreneurs perspective and being self employed at the moment I think its a good book. It shows a more efficient way for things to be done. Everything runs in continuous cycles and systems anyway. Your body, nature, and your subconcious mind that will run by its own processes even if they’re not written out on paper. Another thing to do is allow the processes in your business to evolve. If something doesn’t work, then make a new system, don’t keep the old manual just for the sake of it.

  15. I am intimately familiar with the Emyth philosophy and have been a member of the Emyth Mastery course for 2+ years. It has revolutionized my company. I absolutely disagree with the premise that Emyth suggests process can replace good people. What the Emyth has done in my company is this: established clear roles, responsibilities, and processes so the “good” people we hire can produce consistant and predictable results. I can see how someone might get the impression that it suggests process can replace the people, but only if that person didn’t read the book or finish the Mastery Course.
    The module on the recruiting/hiring process goes into great detail as to how to develop a system for finding and hiring the right people, not robots. There are actually many similarities in terms of philosophy and approach to the ideas in Good to Great and Top Grading, when hiring. The difference is Michael Gerber believes there ought to be a clear understanding of what the position and results a position should produce before you hire someone to fill it.
    As I said the Emyth Mastery course has revolutionized my company of 21 full time employees. Just one example of how, is that last year I took a two week vacation, something I had NEVER been able to do since starting my company 9 years ago. I did not make or recieve a single work related phone call and came back to a company that was working just fine in my absense.
    Good to Great is great, but DO NOT dismiss the power of the Emyth if you own a small business and want to have a life outside of it.

  16. I have had an interesting read viewing the many opinions of Emyth & Good To Great. I have decided to purchase and implement the knowledge offered in both books. As one of many business owners in this world (currently small business)I believe no mater what knowledge we think we may have & practice we should still remain open to experience anothers opinion, perception, or suggestion.They may just reveal some wisdom that another has required to make great change, or at least propel them forward by influencing to making it a smoother journey, rather than living as a closed book. We are all significant people in this world that offer the right mix to someone else . So, I say do what suits you. If you dont get the results you want the first one to review is yourself and the choices you have made…..Attitude is a great attractor or deflector… Best of luck people…..Stay positive….

  17. I have seen companies with great people go out of business because the lack of systems created “crisis mode” in the corporation.

    To say that hiring a great salesperson will bring lots of sales is a misnomer. Creat a great sales process and then hire a salesperson works better everytime. With the right process you can hire a less expensive salesperson.


  18. the main idea I received from E-myth is that with predictable systems the “E” may look for the correct person for the needed position,however that person need not be a particular genius (what are the chances?).Meanwhile,Love your associates & match them to your mission.Slow down,think, then communicate.Don’t outgrow your predictable systems or things will backfire. Grow with Quality.

  19. I have not read Good to Great, i have read E myth though and as an entrepreneur for over 12 years i could see why the company is not yet dead and at the same time I could see why it has not achieved freedom for us the business drivers, and the kind of personal income & profit we desire.

    I will start to implement some of the ideas in January, I will be back to give you feedback in 3 months time.

  20. Hey Chris,

    Great post and discussion.

    It’s pretty clear to see the distinction between the logical, left brained systematic approach of Michael Gerber and the more creative, imaginative, freeform right brained approach of Jim Collins. Is one way right and the other wrong?

    Probably not, and in fact, more than likely they both have some of the opposite sides in their philosophies. For example, I know that Michael Gerber is fanatical about always looking for ways to IMPROVE the system. That requires something more than a robotic mindset.

    Myself, I’m a systems guy once I’ve come up with the creative idea. The best way I know of to grow and expand any business is to systemize and duplicate. It’s the way that the largest and most successful companies in the world have done it.

    Just my 2 cents worth.

    All the best,


  21. Totally agree with comment posted by Don May 10, 2006.
    That’s exactly what i always say.
    E-Myth meant for Small Business and Startups
    Good to Great meant for big companies who already have their processes, or would be for small biz after putting system and processes.

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