I’ve just started reading Linchpin by Seth Godin. It’s an interesting book about how to make yourself into a Linchpin – someone who can “invent, lead (regardless of title), connect others, make things happen, and create order out of chaos.”
I’ve only read a couple of chapters so far, but one part captured my attention.
In the chapter titled “The New World Of Work”, Seth talks about how the work environment has changed over the years. The cost of labourers has become lower – if a company wants to save money, it can find labourers who will work for less than its existing workforce.
He then quotes from Michael Gerber’s book, The E-Myth Revisited. Here’s the section he quotes:
If you haven’t read either of Gerber’s E-Myth books, he talks about building a business model that isn’t key-person dependant i.e. it will function without you needing to do all the work. This is possible through having defined systems and processes that show every employee how to perform their duties. There are standard ways to do all the tasks in a business, and Gerber talks about documenting them and creating a turnkey business.
Seth Godin doesn’t like this approach because it’s quite different to the points he’s making in Linchpin. Here’s what Seth has to say:
Now, it’s been a while since I read the E-Myth Revisited. But I remember a lot of the key concepts that Gerber makes. Whilst I still have a lot of Linchpin left to read, I can see where Seth Godin is going with it. Seth’s book is aimed at helping you become the Linchpin – the person who is indispensable to an organisation or business. Gerber’s book is the complete opposite – it’s about helping business owners who have become slaves to their businesses figure out a way to build their business in a structured way.
So who’s wrong? And who’s right?
Let’s start with Seth Godin. He’s talking about differentiating yourself. Being different to everyone else and providing something that no-one else can, therefore making yourself indispensable. There’s nothing wrong with this – it’s a fantastic goal.
The problem that I can see with this approach is the key-person dependency. It you’re the go-to person in your niche, then in a lot of cases you’re the one who needs to deliver the product or service. I’ve always maintained that the more you can differentiate and personalise your service the more you can charge for it. But the key-person dependency is what concerns me.
Gerber’s approach is about building a business that has a consistent way of doing things. It has staff following the same processes to deliver the same service or product. Think of it like building a franchise. You can have multiple locations of a business, but you know that you’ll get the same thing from each location. In a sense, his idea is that you don’t need brilliant people, just average people following brilliant processes.
Can this approach be easily replicated?
Yes, and no.
The look and feel of it can. You can walk into a McDonalds restaurant today and copy the store layout, the menu, the kitchen layout etc, and build something identical next door. But it won’t be the same. McDonalds is something more than just a restaurant.
Gerber’s point was that you need a point of differentiation in the first place. This is what your business is built on and is what makes it difficult to replicate. It’s about having a vision and some BHAGs. Done well, no-one else can copy them because they’re unique to you. But you don’t need to deliver them all by yourself. That’s where the concept of having defined systems and processes in place helps. You can teach others to produce your product or service that way you want it to be delivered.
In fact, I think Gerber’s last sentence sums it up well when he said “What you need is to create the best system through which good lawyers and doctors can be leveraged to produce excellent results.”
What Can Bloggers Learn from Seth Godin and Michael Gerber?
In business, you’ll soon work out that sometimes things aren’t black and white, but are delightful shades of grey (as opposed to 50 shades of grey).
It’s good to have opinions, and I’m glad that Seth Godin and Michael Gerber have their opinions. But just because I like them as authors doesn’t mean that I have to agree with everything they say.
I’m a guitarist – I have my favourite guitarists and I’ll learn lead lines that they play and incorporate them into my own style, but I won’t play everything they play, just the bits I like.
So it is in the blogging world – everyone has an opinion and some will state theirs more strongly than others.
Analyse everything and sort out what you believe.
I could have read this passage from Linchpin and decided that Michael Gerber’s ideas are now redundant. I’m glad I didn’t. Instead, I’ve though about what both authors are trying to explain, and I’ve decided that the two approaches can co-exist together.
What about you? What’s your opinion on this subject?
Do you agree with me? Or disagree?
Leave a comment below and let’s discuss this some more.
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