I loved this book. The subtitle is "How America's Best Performing Companies Keep the Start-up Spirit Alive." I found it through a book review in FastCompany magazine, which often profiles excellent new books. The beginning of the book speaks immediately to those who have experience with a "start-up." Although our company was a start-up over thirty years ago, there is still a very strong entreprenurial spirit in our company culture. We also know our start-up story well, which makes these other companies' stories seem very familiar. But as the book moves on, there are divergent paths chosen by these companies that produced a result that is remarkable. All of the companies profiled have a fascinating story to tell. How they have tackled problems of growth and profitability speak to anyone who deals with those issues every day.
For me, the profile of Koch Industries and the CEO Charles G. Koch was a revelation. I had never heard of either one, and yet that particular story is amazing. What struck me most profoundly is the degree to which Charles Koch reads, and how he has incorporated all that he has read into developing management systems and methods for his company that have contributed to what can only be described as stellar success in a variety of industries. His whole philosophy regarding how he creates, runs, and ultimately sells off various enterprises is a study unto itself. If it sounds like I am gushing - I am. Under "bibliophile" in the dictionary it should say "see Charles G. Koch." For a special thrill, Google him. He is just amazing. He is also actively involved with the Institute for Humane Studies at George Mason University (my alma mater) which wasn't even mentioned in the book.
I will confess that I wrote the first fan letter of my 40-something life to this man. I never before felt compelled to write a fan letter (the very idea!) until I discovered Charles G. Koch. The good news is that apparently he didn't think I was either insane or dangerous, because he wrote me back! I keep the letter in its envelope on my desk and occasionally take it out to look at it. It is very inspiring to me personally to know that someone as successful as Charles Koch feels the same way I do about the quest for life long learning and the impact it can have, for real, in being successful in business.