I have just read an interesting article on the E Myth blog - Imitation: Flattery or Theft - which deals with the situation where you systemise your business, have it working very smoothly and then an employee gets the entrepreneurial seizure and decides to start a business based on your proven systems.
Now to some extent I feel like saying:
"That's life. Get over it."
It is a problem about taking tacit knowledge (what people know how to do but can't explain) and turning it into systems and explicit knowledge which others can use.
You get big benefits by systemising and you carry big risks that key knowledge will be lost, if you don't systemise.
But business owners do worry but it should not be used as an excuse for not doing what is right. Fail to systemise and you become trapped in your business which becomes a regular under-performer.
A business is much more than a set of recorded systems.
The team is established and has found the best way to work the systems - and even the most careful recording won't capture every nuance - and the leader has established a culture or business personality that is very difficult to replicate.
Business ideas are transferred and I remember the success of the Japanese management systems in the eighties and the attempt to transfer these ideas to Western companies.
It was shown that you could teach the basics of total quality management and just in time production, but it was a much more difficult task to create the right mindset that was needed to make collaborative ideas like Quality Circles work.
Your Protection Against Imitation Is Continued Innovation
Your job is to keep moving forward by finding better ways to make the business systems work more effectively (by producing better outputs) and efficiently (by using less inputs).
When you are moving forward, you don't need to worry about a competitor who is six months behind but following in your tracks. They will stay behind you, waiting to see what you do and copying you.
The problems come not from followers but from innovators who may jump over you and create something really new and special.
E Myth Is Imitated
One other aspect of the E Myth blog was the comment that;
"We have many admirers, many advocates and yes, some who claim to do what we do. There are consultants and "coaches" out there that claim to use our methods or attempt to use a distant association with us as credibility to deliver their own programs."
It is true.
I have always seen Michael Gerber's work as one of the foundation stones for business coaching and his ideas have influenced the way a majority of business coaches think and work.
But the systemisation idea isn't an E Myth original - remember Michael Gerber saw how McDonalds worked by having systems so that the same result could be created in every fast food store.
And the other driver for systemisation is back to the quality movement and the need to reduce variations in the process before you could start to improve the overall performance which is embodied in ISO 9000 and earlier ideas (in the UK it used to be called BS 5750).