The Billionaires' Book Club: Business Adventures

Friday, September 26, 2014

Earlier this year, a little-known, long out-of-print book with the title Business Adventures made the news.

So, what exactly is noteworthy about this book, which originally carried the ungainly title Business Adventures: Twelve Classic Tales from the World of Wall Street? The book was brought back into print in July 2014 through the efforts of Bill Gates and Warren Buffet.

On his blog, Bill Gates tells the story of how he found the book:

Not long after I first met Warren Buffett back in 1991, I asked him to recommend his favorite book about business. He didn’t miss a beat: "It’s Business Adventures, by John Brooks," he said. "I’ll send you my copy." I was intrigued: I had never heard of Business Adventures or John Brooks. 

Today, more than two decades after Warren lent it to me—and more than four decades after it was first published—Business Adventures remains the best business book I’ve ever read. John Brooks is still my favorite business writer.

As the original title alludes, Business Adventures has twelve short tales from the business world of the 1960s. Looking at the conclusions, it's not hard to see why Bill Gates and Steve Jobs admire Business Adventures. For the lessons of author John Brooks are still applicable over half a century later.

One example is Gates’ favorite story from the book: The tale of Xerox. Xerox once held a dominant market position, however, it was a position they would soon lose. Xerox was so focused on their core business that they ignored the possibilities being created by their own R&D team. Any business leader today can learn from Xerox’s mistake, in the same way that Gates and Steve Jobs would both eventually copy from Xerox's research and development when creating their successful operating systems.

Business Adventures was re-published earlier this year as an electronic book on Amazon, and it quickly hit #2 on the non-fiction electronic book best-seller list. In addition, in August, the book came back into print.

Business Adventures offers advice and encouragement for innovators and entrepreneurs, and shines a spotlight on the fact that a strong management team can turn a setback into an opportunity. Highlighting the importance of a strong management team, the book is obviously still on Gates' mind. He says:

For one thing, there’s an essential human factor in every business endeavor. It doesn’t matter if you have a perfect product, production plan, and marketing pitch; you’ll still need the right people to lead and implement those plans. That is a lesson you learn quickly in business, and I’ve been reminded of it at every step of my career, first at Microsoft and now at the foundation. Which people are you going to back? Do their roles fit their abilities? Do they have both the IQ and EQ to succeed? 

If you want to get into the minds of Buffet and Gates, reading Business Adventures will give you some keen insight into their roadmap for success, whether as an entrepreneur or an executive. 


photo credit: Koshyk via photopin cc

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