I’ve been reading “Work the System – The Simple Mechanics of Working Less and Making More," by Sam Carpenter. Sam is now a successful entrepreneur, but was once a struggling entrepreneur. In this book, he shares some of the war stories, revelations, and techniques he’s used to go from a frustrated, overworked business owner to one that works a lot less but still gets more done.
The book is interesting in its style, in that Sam takes you through his learning process and thoughts by reliving key moments in his business and personal life. I can definitely identify with some of the painful experiences he relates – and his description of the business equivalent of the game “Whack-a-Mole.”
Along the way, he presents some common sense techniques that will help small business owners build foundational capabilities that will keep their businesses on the rails and enable a continuous improvement approach. If you’re already successful in your business, you probably have some of this nailed already. Even so, it’s interesting to “try on” Sam’s perspective of dealing with the business as a set of “black boxes” that can be managed and improved in a compartmentalized fashion. Though this notion is presented as a profound shift in thinking, I believe it is an accepted, proven model (of course, that may be because I already see the world through a “systems thinking” lens).
This book will be useful for new entrepreneurs and business owners who feel they are stuck on the “work harder, work faster” treadmill and who feel like they just can’t get ahead in spite of a solid business idea.
Bonus: There is a free Work The System quiz you can take after reading the book to ensure that you grok the critical concepts.
Additional resources to add more value
Beyond the book, I discovered a number of complementary – and very useful - blog posts on on Sam Carpenter's section of the "Startup Nation" blog. There are also some free teleseminar replays that will give you more information on Sam’s views of working the system.