Friday, May 14, 2010

CNN: "Why Amish Businesses Don't Fail"

Success Made Simple: An Inside Look at Why Amish Businesses ThriveThis article from CNN is based on the latest book by Erik Wesner entitled, "Success Made Simple: An Inside Look at Why Amish Businesses Thrive." In a comparison of Amish businesses with non-Amish ones, Wesner discovers that Amish businesses register a 95% success rate in terms of a business staying open after 5 years. The survival average for a typical American business is under 50%. This begs the question, why?

Firstly, there is the culture component like 'hard work' and 'cooperation.' Secondly, Amish people stick with their core skills, and play to their strengths. Thirdly, Amish are remarkably humble about their achievements, choosing to focus on others instead of lavishing self-praise. Above all, the work of Amish businesses has an underlying conviction: Faith in God; Faithfulness for God. Eventually, Wesner focuses on the values that Amish people adopt. This is essentially the same management teaching that MBAs and management gurus highlight most of the time. For any business to survive, one cannot afford to surrender core values in exchange for a ravaging win-at-all-costs mindset.

My Comments
If I am Amish, I will be uncomfortable about being given such an attention and the apparent target group for a book like 'success made simple.' In fact, any inside look will be frowned upon, for good reason. People who are faithful in God typically prefer a quiet faith. For any businesses wanting to emulate the Amish style of business, they cannot afford to go alone. They need a corporate network of like-minded cultures. They need to be able to share core values and be prepared to give more than to receive.

As a simple analogy, for businesses trying to surface some 'business gems' from Amish businesses, it is like trying to make processed food by extracting the vitamins and minerals from natural foods. Eventually, we get a cereal-box of management principles, with the values of thrift, hard-work, cooperation and various cultures as a sub-percentage of the overall business in a cereal-like box. As we all know, processed food is no match for natural ones. Wesner's book is helpful to remind any business of the need for core values. However, if one is solely concerned about profits and worldly success, the Amish model is unsuitable simply because, Amish businesses are not conducted purely for profit-making. It is based on a call, a very divine one.


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