With an endorsement from Bill Gates that this was his “favorite business book,” I didn’t see how in good conscience, anyone striving to be successful in business could avoid reading it.
Some of the financial terminology and references to past events were a bit over my head, but I found that the lessons weaved through the narratives in this book are timeless, and are most likely, unique to the reader based on his or her own experiences.
From the rise of Xerox, to analysis of major stock market anomalies, to a hilarious description of corporate corruption and miscommunication in one of the world’s most dominant corporations at the time — John Brooks has a way of putting us into the situation as if we were personally there.
Here are some of quotes I found interesting:
Asked by Senator Kefauver how long he had been aware that orders issued at G.E. were sometimes accompanied by winks, Paxton replied that he had first observed the practice way back in 1935, when his boss had given him an instruction along with a wink or its equivalent, and that when, some time later, the significance of the gesture dawned on him, he had become so incensed that he had with difficulty restrained himself from jeopardizing his career by punching the boss in the nose. Paxton went on to say that his objections to the practice of winking had been so strong as to earn him a reputation in the company for being an antiwink man, and that he for his part, had never winked.
— On Robert Paxton, former President of General Electric, on the 1961 price-fixing scandal.
“I wanted an entrepreneurial experience,” he said. “I found a great appeal in the idea of taking a small and quite crippled company and trying to make something of it. Building. That kind of building, I thought, is the central thing in American free enterprise, and something I’d missed in all my government work.”
— David Lilienthal, former chairman of the United States Atomic Energy Commission and founder of the Development and Resources Corporation, on switching from government regulation to business
…over the years, as both scientific research and industrial organization have become infinitely more complex, so have the questions of what, exactly, constitutes a trade secret, and what constitutes stealing it.
— The main issue of the legal case, The B.F. Goodrich Co. v. Wohlgemuth, regarding Donald Wohlgemuth’s acceptance of a job offer working for Goodrich’s competitor, Latex, who then was assigned a government contract in creating the next space suit for the Apollo project.
When I tell people about some of my business aspirations, the first thing they ask me is if I have a business degree. Technically, yes, I do. I have a bachelor’s degree with the word “business” in it. But, I’m always quick to add, I learned everything I know from personal experience and books I’ve read outside of course curriculum.
It’s books like Business Adventures that provide us an opportunity to live vicariously through stories of some of history’s most major successes and catastrophic failures of prominent people and companies who held a worldwide audience at the time.
As current and future influencers, thought leaders, financial powerhouses, or simply stewards of small businesses, jobs, or families, it is worth exploring the experiences of those who have paid the price (sometimes with their entire lives) to apply lessons to our own for our betterment and for the people and purposes entrusted to our care.