This is how they did it.
These are the strategies that built the biggest companies in the world, and made their owners the richest men in the world. Six hours of essential listening for anyone who is interested in business.
Includes sections on Steve Jobs and Apple; Bill Gates and Microsoft; McDonald’s and Ray Croc; Thomas Edison and General Electric; the Coca Cola Company; the Rockefellers and Standard Oil; the Hershey Chocolate Company; Sam Walton and Walmart; Henry Ford of the Ford Motor Company and Andrew Carnegie of U.S. Steel.
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First off, I appreciate the book- it covered the backgrounds of ten very interesting companies and the author had many insights that I had missed in my own knowledge about them. I enjoyed listening to the book and feel I learned a lot.
That being said, the book had some very odd choices made in the way it was written. It is essentially a corporate history book, covering the very unlikely starts to some massive modern brands. But often the author seems to have simply allowed someone to dump a few dozen pages from the corporate website or wiki page into the book. Random acquisitions or forays into odd markets many years after the start of the corporation are chronicled in a way that suggests that it came straight from a corporate press release.
Fasciniating stories about the companies, such as Coca Cola's efforts during WWII or in their creation of Santa Claus are overshadowed by trivial digressions into later corporate expansions. It felt like padding.
There was a great deal of data, but very little analysis. The author titled the book about how to make money- but it really isn't about that at all... It is about how to grow a brand. Really fascinating insights looking across all ten brands are ignored- the book had everything it needed, but let it go. For example, of the ten powerful brands, how many of them were started by the actual inventor? How often did the inventor actually benefit from their creation?
The moment when each of these companies had to "bet the farm" to transform themselves to the next version is a pretty big deal (some of them had to do it many times of course) but the first time is a big deal. How they each dealt with it is deeply instructive.
The book talks about invention, deals with finance but in the end- it is largely a book about the history of mass marketing. Innovations in some specific product (chocolate, soft drinks, fast food, steel, computers, lighting, retail, cars, gasoline, software) are overshadowed by the brilliant marketing insights of the innovator who grew the business into a global brand.
Sorry for going on at such length being critical- again, it is a good book. I would LOVE to see the author go back through the book and edit out about 1/4 of the digressions and write a unifying set of themes to go back through the book. All the material is already there.
The themes could be;
A great invention does not neccesarily lead to wealth...
An innovative product must be matched by even greater innovations in marketing...
Great wealth rarely leads to great happiness, sadly the opposite. In fact- it would appear that to make your impression upon life, you must not allow life to leave its impression upon you...
- Mike Hart