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Book Review: by Lang Reid

The Ten Commandments for Business Failure

With world business having imploded, as banks ‘suddenly’ found they had no liquidity to cover the loans propping up their customers, and then gave themselves big bonuses for presiding over failure, so a book entitled The Ten Commandments for Business Failure (ISBN 978-0-141-03922-0, Penguin Books, 2008) would have to be relevant.
Written by Donald R. Keough, a former president of the Coca-Cola Company, he had some of the world’s gurus in the business field inscribe the cover, such as Rupert Murdoch, “This book is a sustained argument against managerial conceit and complacency. On almost every page he reminds us that when the going gets good, the wise business leader starts worrying.” And Bill Gates, who has presided over a rather successful business I am sure you would agree, writes, “Don’s commandments for failure will teach you more about business success than a whole shelf full of books.”
It is a slim volume of 190 pages, and is printed on that incredibly poor stock that the publisher seems to have made from recycled penguin poo. This is not a book to lay down for future generations, but should be read at one sitting before the words evaporate off the page.
Keough has many pertinent points to make in this book. He shows the ways a company (and those who consult to companies) describe its failure as, “The company did not do this. The company did not do that.” He then explains, “But companies are artificial constructs. A company doesn’t fail to do anything. Individuals do.” He goes on further to lay the blame for failures at the feet of the men at the top. “(Business leaders) are the main actors on the business stage, and when, through one or more personal failings, they take a business in the wrong direction, then the business is headed for failure.”
GM and Ford get their own birching from Keough, “During the 1980’s and the 1990’s both GM and Ford continued to rely on their large, gas eating sports utility vehicles, while the emerging market dominator, Toyota, began to develop their successful high-mileage hybrid cars.” No, quite obviously GM and Ford ignored the direction society was going, and are now in the middle of the mess of their own doing. Or not doing! He even mentions what happened after the death of Walter P Chrysler, where the remaining managers held séances to ask the founder what to do next. “There is no evidence they ever reached him. And had they been successful he likely would have fired them all.” And where is Chrysler now? Standing in front of the US legislature with its corporate begging hand out.
Despite saying that this book has 10 commandments, it actually gives you 11. Value added is a sure way to keep customers!
At B. 495 for a 190 page book, this is expensive; however, for B. 495 to turn your business around, this is a cheap future planner. If you are sure your business doesn’t need this book, be wary of becoming conceited as Rupert Murdoch points out. I liked this book.