From one of America's foremost business historians, a penetrating and engaging look at the qualities that create great entrepreneurs
Entrepreneurs, even more than inventors, are essential to American business. While inventors produce ideas, entrepreneurs get things done, build the markets, make ideas reality. But what creative talents do the legendary American entrepreneurs share, and what can you learn from them about business success?
Using lively character sketches and company stories, University of Rhode Island professor and author Maury Klein analyzes how innovators from Andrew Carnegie to Bill Gates triumphed over perennial challenges in planning and strategy, production, operations, staffing, and sales--and transformed entire industries. Comparing the retailing acumen of J.C. Penney and Wal-Mart's Sam Walton, the organizational ingenuity of Standard Oil's John D. Rockefeller and Citigroup's Sandy Weill, the imaginative marketing of General Motors' Alfred Sloan and MacDonald's Ray Kroc, Klein reveals the art and archetype of successful entrepreneurialism. Moving beyond the clichés, he describes the artistry of great businessmen who build empires and dreams as well as fortunes, in The Change Makers.
"The watershed event in American history is not the Civil War but the industrial and managerial revolutions of the late nineteenth century," asserts Klein (Rainbow's End) in this lively survey of influential American entrepreneurs. He draws a clear distinction between such entrepreneurs and robber barons who left no concrete legacy and argues that the 26 men (yes, they're all men) he celebrates here share more qualities with artists committed to creating something new and valuable than with their more notoriously rapacious commercial brethren. Drawing on a vast store of vivid anecdotes, Klein shows that his subjects, including Cornelius Vanderbilt and John Wanamaker, are as idiosyncratic as many artists are; a comparison of Klein's profiles of Henry Ford and Warren Buffett defines the extremes of the personality spectrum from curmudgeonly to congenial. The artistic metaphor fades, however, once the focus shifts to the men's work as innovative producers, organizers, merchandisers, technologists and investors: all were driven to succeed with a decidedly nonbohemian dedication to business epitomized by Thomas Edison, who worked so much that his daughter Madeleine first realized she had a father on a family trip to an ore-separating mine. While many of these men became philanthropists to share the fruits of their success, others kept their fortunes to themselves. For those following the Microsoft antitrust case, Klein's discussion of his entrepreneurs' run-ins with the law (nine have butted up against the Sherman Antitrust Act) will illuminate the shifts in government policy toward entrepreneurship and competition over the last century.