Thursday, March 31, 2011

Against the odds

Some say "Manners maketh the man". Others say "Looks maketh the man". But there is yet a third - "Trials maketh the man". Of course in this day and age, the word 'man' includes woman. And this is the subject of the book "Innovate! How great companies get started in terrible times", written by Thomas A. Meyer.

Meyer makes the point that, as the saying goes, 'in tough times, the tough gets going". In his narrative in this book, he documents how some well-known and enduring companies were actually borne during economic recessions. His narrative goes as far back as 1797 and continues right up to 2008, where the phenomenon described in his book continues. The companies that were borned of adversity  are exceptional companies, and the people who founded them are exceptional people - like Thomas A. Edison, Walt Disney, Milton Hershey, Robert W. Johnson, and Mary Kay, right up to Steve Jobs. Meyer believes that much can be learnt from the experiences of these entrepreneurs. He has helpfully organised the book according to the qualities demonstrated by these people who would not give up easily - qualities such as perseverance (Edison), Pain (Walt Disney), Intuition (Steve Jobs), Simplicity (Robert Johnson), Failure (Hershey), Faith (Mary Kay), Insignificance (Lonnie Johnson of Hasbro), Greed (AIG), Integrity (George Foreman) and of course, Luck (William Procter and James Gamble).

Each narrative is short and simple but effective. He states the lessons to be learnt through a narrative of the underlying story that validates the point. For example he illustrates the power of starting from the bottom with the example of how Robert W. Johnson Jr, the son of one of the founders of Johnson & Johnson, chose to begin his career in his father's company by first working as a mill-hand in its factories. 10 years were to pass before he assumed control of the company as its CEO. Meyer showed how asking for help can move a person's passion forward after a series of failures in the example of Milton S. Hershey, the creator of the Hershey empire. And as they say, this book is chock full of similar examples and lessons.

It is a great book to learn how not to give up when everything seem to be working against you.

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