Open Michael Gerber's seminal book, The E-Myth Revisited, and the first words you'll read on page one (after the word "Foreword") are these, quoted from Joseph Heller: "I think that maybe inside any business, there is someone slowly going crazy." Gerber has dedicated his career to helping tens of thousands of those "someones" find that elusive sanity, and in the process, create businesses that do work. Gerber founded his company, E-Myth Worldwide, in 1977 and published The E-Myth (original edition) in 1986. By the time he issued the expanded and updated E-Myth Revisited in 1995 (with a still newer edition, including a new Foreword, in 2001), the book had become a runaway bestseller, selling over two million copies in 19 different languages. Gerber's company, E-Myth Worldwide (, which offers an array of small business coaching, training and education, has consulted to over 25,000 clients and produced over 300,000 small-business analyses. If Gerber's numbers are any indication, inside untold numbers of small businesses around the world, perhaps there are a whole lot of someones slowly going sane. -- JDM

Michael, I assume that in your work, you've become familiar with network marketing and network marketers?
Oh, every place I go. In fact, I was once asked to write a white paper on network marketing. I got as far as the title and introduction, and then the formerly enormously enthusiastic party who'd asked me to do it said that something else came up and dropped the project.

You'll understand why when I tell you the title: "Why Most Network Marketing Doesn't Work and What To Do About It." For me, this was one of those lucid moments, coming face to face with the reality that what's true is often not what people want to hear.  

"What's true" is, however, exactly what we want to hear! So, Michael: why don't most network marketers' businesses work?
They don't work because the people who are attracted to them are attracted for the wrong reason. They're attracted to the promise of imminent wealth, of easy income, of the perfect answer to the imperfect world. What they don't hear about is the dark side of the moon that nobody wants to talk about.

What is the dark side of the moon here?
People most often come to the business without a real business sensibility. Because of the promise they're responding to, they bring a work sensibility that says, "I'll get everybody else to do the work!"

Network marketing is based on the mathematical reality of leverage; but too often that reality is combined with the unmathematical promise that it's easy to create that leverage.

Why easy? "Because our product is The One," or "our company is The One." It's almost like we think we're Neo in The Matrix: it's always, "You've got to join us, because we're The One."

However true one may believe that to be, this "We're The One" story generally goes way over the top. There's no rigor in how people approach this promise. In reality it is quite difficult to get people to do something they're unaccustomed to doing, so it becomes a numbers game, with a very small percentage accomplishing great results, and everyone else sort of disappearing. This is rationalized by saying, "Well, they just didn't step up. If they did what the ten percent do, they would have what the ten percent have."

There's some truth to this, though, yes?
Yes, but this isn't what they were told in the beginning! It goes back to telling the truth.

The problem in trying to get to this point is that nobody wants to admit it isn't working! Everyone wants to talk about how network marketing does work--and how you can get on the bandwagon. They say, "Michael, please don't be so negative! Let's put a positive spin on your negative message." But there's so much pain out there! When you see the malaise, the tragedy of people suffering because they're just not getting anywhere, it's too big to simply put a positive spin on it.  

...and the sense that if it's not working, it must just be me that's not working.
Exactly! And that's what's being said. "It's you--you just didn't do what the ten percent do." So we have all these amazing positive stories up on stage; meanwhile, the person sitting down there in the audience gets more and more depressed and eventually dries up and goes away, knowing he was "not good enough."

We speak of duplication, but the examples you're referring to are awfully hard to duplicate.
That's exactly the point: you can't! The most successful network marketers are powerful communicators, they're driven, they do everything a top producer does. The critical fallacy is to point to these people and say, "See? Anybody can be like him or her!" Everybody knows that this simply isn't true.

The idea often given is that they're motivational.
Motivation has nothing to do with it. I don't want to motivate anybody. I want to inspire people to think in an entirely new way. I want to help them have an epiphany, to go, "Oh! I get it! It's not about how bad I am, how passive I am, how incapable I am."

There's nothing wrong with you. It's that there's something wrong with where you are. You can't get there from here. You have to change the way you think. Once you do, the practice becomes completely different.  

How so?
The minute we stop focusing on the effort to grow and shift to an effort to get it right, we come face to face with the core principle, which is to look at what it is our business actually does. We realize that in fact, this principle is the solution: not the system per se, but the epiphany and self-examination that leads to the development of systems.

The first step is to buy into the efficacy of and absolute need for a turnkey system. It's about the single operating unit. Get that little sucker right, and you can replicate it.

As an individual network marketer, having no control over how the company is run, how can I have and then implement that epiphany?

It's truly quite simple. There are three essential systems or functions in an individual's own network marketing business: lead generation, lead conversion and client fulfillment. I have to attract them to me, convert them, and sustain them.

How do I do it? I need to build that operating unit at the smallest level, practice that system and get it right. In this case, a system is a script. What do I say and how do I say it?

Which you term a "franchise prototype."
Exactly. Your practice has to successfully accomplish three things: it has to generate leads, convert leads, and grow relationships, also called client fulfillment. It's that simple.

The first benchmark in this process is your answer to the question, "Am I willing to do this?"

You have to show up for work.
Right: I'm either going to make the 32 calls a day, or I'm not. If I'm not, then I'm outta here. I can save myself the time and heartache. The problem is, nobody wants to say, "You're outta here." Instead, people say, "If you only sell three...." and we're back to the mythology of numbers.

The truth is, you need to face the realization that you're going to have to do work you don't like to do. For some it's handling the money, for others it's making sales calls. Whatever it is, you need to be willing to do those things that are least comfortable for you--for the sake of the higher good.

What, in this case, is the "higher good"?
That's an excellent question. In fact, it's your first question. What is the higher good here for you? What is your primary aim? This is not about your network marketing company or your sponsor--it's about you and your life.

What do you want your life to be like when you're finally done? Is this the means through which you're going to do it? And if it is, then what are the absolutely essential tasks you need to work on in your practice?

And "your practice" is...?
This is what I call the first stage: the practice, not "the business." The practice is the small, insular, singular unit which serves as the DNA for the enterprise.

I hear you saying that you have to show up for work--but also that the work you need to do is not necessarily extraordinary work.
No, nor is it extraordinarily difficult. It's only difficult for you.

How do you mean?
The very first time I picked up the saxophone, it was horrible. I felt like a complete idiot. My saxophone teacher told me, "I only teach people who want to become the very best saxophone player in the world."

That's what you have to tell your network. "I only want to teach people who want to become the very best network marketers in the world."

You're not going to get 3000 people. You're going to get two, or eight, or eleven. As you build that core of true believers who are willing to learn how to do what they don't know how to do, over time something miraculous happens.

It takes time to build a core that leads to solid growth. Unfortunately, network marketers tend to say the exact opposite: "We'll do this overnight!" Federal Express took 14 years before it became an "overnight success."

You're saying I need to work on my prototype, but I also have upline leaders telling me I need to work on myself, on my leadership and people skills. Is there a place in your model for that work as well?
Absolutely--every place. In my new book, E-Myth Mastery: The Seven Essential Disciplines for Building a World-Class Company, I talk about five essential skills: concentration, how to focus my attention; discrimination, choosing where to focus my attention; organization, to convert chaos into order; innovation, to constantly seek a better way of doing things; and communication, the ability to tell a story and deal effectively with people's responses to that story.

Every human being on the face of the earth will be stunningly successful--or not--to the degree that he or she has developed these five abilities. So, yes: skill is critical. But without a system, skills are random and discretionary: they can't be replicated.

So, commitment to personal self-examination married to practical work on the specific core how-to strategies, that's the formula for success?
That's the formula for the business to work--but be careful of "success." Success is a myth. I meet successful people all the time who are miserable. From the outside, everyone says, "Look at him!" But nobody knows the existential reality of what's really going on in his life.

A book just came out called The Masters of Success; it's number one on the Wall Street Journal list at the moment. I was asked to write for it, so I guess I must be a master of success. My article is called, "The Failure of Success." Success doesn't exist; it's a relative term.

Then what are we modeling ourselves on?
Isn't that a great question? When I get caught up in the passion of the promise that somebody else is making to me, I'm being motivated by his passion to pursue his purpose. I've borrowed his suit. It's not me at all. That's the problem: I'm wearin' somebody else's suit, and it doesn't fit!

I need to find my own promise to myself.
To myself! Yes! So: first me, then it.

What does a network marketing business look like when someone has had this epiphany?
The consciousness of the organization is alive; it knows that it lives for a higher purpose--not just a higher rhetoric.

Alcoholics Anonymous has that kind of consciousness. AA is imbued with a culture that says, "You can't do anything by yourself, you have to submit to a higher power."

That's a helluva system, isn't it?
It's the most extraordinary system ever created, be it for alcohol, overeating, drugs, gambling--it's the 12-step consciousness. First thing you have to do is stand up and say, "I'm a drunk. I have absolutely no discipline."

Overheard at the next network marketing opportunity meeting: "Hi, my name is Bill, and I'm broke..." "Welcome, Bill..."
Right! "I've never been able to make money and every dime I've ever made I've pissed away." Think about the power of that!

And because they have that higher-purpose consciousness, they completely submit to the wisdom of the turnkey system. "This is how we do it; this is exactly how we do it. I can't do it for you. If I could, I would, but that's not the way it works."

That's a mouthful, in the context of network marketing!
Yes. And suddenly, you have true higher passion. Understand, nobody in AA makes a dime on this. The guy who founded AA is still anonymous. It's stunning. Think about all the drunks whose lives have been saved, whose families have been saved, and nobody even knows who he is!

At the Ritz Carlton, they call themselves, "Ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen." What is a lady? What is a gentleman? They have to define exactly what that means, what it looks like in everything they do. Suddenly you have a distinct culture, a distinct consciousness in that organization.

That's what's missing in so much of network marketing. What does exist is rhetoric and motivation. And we often have a system of sorts, but there's nothing that gets down to the nitty gritty and says, "Let me hear how you say, not like that, like this." There's no rigor in the practice.

How do you create this kind of culture in a company?
You create it by coming to terms with what's missing. It's really pretty easy. You say, I'd like to build an organization like that. Great, let's get started.

The problem is that in most network marketing companies, just as in most any kind of business, we're in a car on a freeway going 70 miles an hour with four flat tires, and we can't stop to change them, so we just keep doing it the same way.

But the beauty of being an independent network marketer is that we actually can stop and change our tires.
That's true, any individual can: that is the beauty of it. An individual who decides, "I'm going to do my life differently," can immediately come face to face with this exciting, living, truly inspiring question.

And it's not just personal-growth rhetoric. What do I want? I don't know! What a great realization!

Passion is a permanent part of us; we're born with it, that's what gets us up every day. But there are lower passions and higher passions. How can we pursue the higher ones, as opposed to being distracted by the lower ones? This is really a calling to your life, not to any particular opportunity.

You've been preaching this message for over two decades. Are people getting it? Are you an optimistic man?
Oh, I'm enormously optimistic. And because of that I'm also enormously pessimistic!

Let's face it, there's a dark side of the moon to everything, and nobody really wants to hear it or look at it. But then, E-Myth has sold over two million copies.

Of course, everybody uses it for their own purpose. They'll say, "Like Gerber says, it's McDonald's--we're the McDonald's of..." fill in the blank. But nobody really talks about what the McDonald's system actually requires: these people have to learn exactly how to do this and exactly how to do that. They have to keep the promise of cleanliness, sanctity, and efficiency in a way that very few people are ever required to do.

Like professional athletes.
Exactly. You don't get to win at the Olympics without the years of grueling, exacting, rigorous work.

So if I just set up a great presentation booklet or web site, and say, "This is my version of 'the fries are over on the left,'" that's not necessarily going to cut it?
No. It's about personal commitment to the higher good, however you understand that higher good.

Take the Navy Seals. They say to the new guys in training: "Look at the guy on your left; look at the guy on your right. A year from now, he won't be here."

Who does that in a network marketing organization? It's true, yet nobody says that. What they say is, "Look at the guy on your left, now look at the guy on your right--they're both going to be making a fortune, how about you?"

Do you think people in network marketing are going to get this message?
Oh, sure, some will. You know, "Transforming small business worldwide, one small business at a time!" This is not something that everybody gets. This is something that someone gets. And when one person gets it, his or her life is transformed. That's all I'm here to do.