What to Expect When Your Business Succeeds
This morning I decided to treat myself to a Starbucks vanilla latte and a delicious ham, swiss & egg breakfast sandwich. (Yum, yum!) Most days I eat on the go, but today I grabbed the stack of mail lying undisturbed on the kitchen counter. An oddly shaped rectangular magazine (or so I thought) slid out and grabbed my attention. It looked like a catalog, but it didn’t have the words “catalog” written on it. A quick flip through the pages revealed that unlike typical catalogs, this one had realistic product drawings with lengthy, story-like product descriptions and looked like it came from a different era all together. This was my introduction to the J. Peterman Company and their Owner’s Manual catalog.
It’s in my nature to research, to dig in when something catches my attention and to learn more. A simple perusing of the catalog then led to an online search where I found an article in the Harvard Business Review written by John Peterman himself in 1999 after his catalog business failed and was sold to another business man.
Mr. Peterman had an idea that grew from one item that he loved – his cowboy duster. I flipped through the catalog to see what this the coat was all about and must admit that I personally haven’t seen anything else like it. I’d never seen a catalog with drawings instead of real pictures.
In the article, he thoughtfully shared about the The J. Peterman Company’s ascent, issues they faced, mistakes they made, and the lessons he learned.
As a 38 year old African-American female (and a self-proclaimed entrepreneur), I didn’t expect his story to resonate so strongly, but it did.
J. Peterman said,
“Managing managers wasn’t something I set out to do; it was a job requirement that was incorporated by default into my position because my original idea for a business was a good one.”
This quote brought to mind another book that I read last year, “The E-Myth” by Michael E. Gerber. In case you’re wondering. . . the “E” in E-myth stands for “Entrepreneurial.”
I remember feeling a growing sense of relief with every chapter as Gerber put into words what I was only beginning to see in my own experience as an entrepreneur.
The greatest takeaway from “The E-Myth” for me was this (in my own words):
Having talent and a strong desire to pursue a specific passion or activity often leads us to believe that we should start a business. We dream of days when work no longer feels like work, and we can do this thing we love to do 24/7. The irony is that as your business grows, with each success you’ll find there is less time to do what you love to do.
This takeaway is meant as an encouragement, a caution to avoid the idealistic myths surrounding the entrepreneurial life.
One of my mantras is that life is a series of choices. As entrepreneurs today, we have an advantage because so much information is readily available to us and we can easily look at the examples of others, ask for help when we need it, learn from our own failures and, when we’re ready, share our failures so that others can learn from them too. Although I’ve never met either of these men, I’m glad they decided to share their own stories of success and failure.
I highly recommend The E-Myth book to anyone who wants to start, or who has started their own business. It gives practical advice on how to avoid the traps many entrepreneurs face during the various life stages of their business. And just for fun, check out the online J. Peterman catalog and be amazed by the illustrations and unique product descriptions.