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  • Writer's pictureLars Christensen

Success made simple by Erik Wesner

I finished this book in July 2023. I recommend this book 6/10.

A series of interviews of Amish business owners; collecting their insights on how they run their businesses.

Get your copy here.

My notes and thoughts:

  • P6. "People have to be very important to you. You're not in it for the dollar anymore...You're in it to help people. And the profits? They come. People need people that will take the time to make them [feel] important." He sees the people's focus as part of the personal mission. In Jonas's vision, he is a mentor to his employees, an ear for his customers, and a reliable partner for his business peers. He executes in the day-to-day, while the far-horizon focus frames each decision.

  • P60. Abram Gingerich has been honing his marketing for three decades. And like most savvier Amish business people, Abram realizes that advertising alone is just one element of the effective strategy. "We advertise mostly to keep people aware of who we are, where we are," Abram explains. Abram credits the usefulness of well-crafted company literature to an effective marketing plan. His stated goal when advertising is to get people to order his catalog. Catalog in hand, customers either call into the company or Abram or his employees follow up by making contact themselves.

  • P61. The difference between advertising and marketing, according to Glen? "If you advertise, you just tell people it's out there. I can run a newspaper ad, but I never know—that's advertising," Glen explains. "But marketing is following up, talking to customers, [asking] 'What can we do?'

  • P70. Often, the price doesn't affect the final decision as much as the presentation does. "If you can do a super presentation, that $5,000 might not mean anything," Dennis explains, citing "details and information" as key elements of a good presentation.

  • P73. Nine points on sales and marketing:

    • Marketing won't solve the fundamental problem of a subpar product.

    • A business's unique story can form the basis of its marketing approach. Developing or uncovering your story may take work, but it brings rewards.

    • Marketing is relationship building. Those who follow up with a personalized response get noticed.

    • Marketing is a process, whereas advertising is a one-time event. Advertising can comprise a core element of a marketing strategy, but advertising alone is not a marketing strategy.

    • In sales situations, people want to be treated like people. This means questions, dialogue, listening, and an openness to nos. Professionals treat prospects like people, not tools.

    • Conviction in your product, business, or service makes it easier to pleasantly persist.

    • Visual aids, open-ended questions, and presenting in person can all help close sales.

    • Numbers relieve pressure. Knowing you have five, fifteen, or fifty more prospects to see makes the result of any individual sales call diminish greatly in importance.

    • Sales are made easier by well-executed marketing. Sales done in a spirit of respect can be fulfilling and profitable.

  • P76. "Our biggest competitive edge is our relationships with our customers," one entrepreneur explains. "My competition can't take that away from us," he declares, calling it a "personal, emotional" connection. "I'd rather have that than be the cheapest."

  • P78. Deal done, a customer can take one or more of four actions in the future: (1) do business with you again; (2) recommend you to others; (3) choose not to do business with you again; (4) advise others against doing business with you (or worse).

  • P107. If the business goes down in flames, no one remembers all the nice messages over the intercom. It doesn't matter that you scraped ice off the wings, served drinks, and checked the landing gear while it plummeted. The business is dead. No one cares. Delegation is what you should have been doing instead. The hard part of letting go of a piece of something you've invested so much in.

  • P110. As far as placing people in the right roles and developing managers and leaders. Elam says that "You need to meet their skill levels, so you can pay their skill levels—and keep them satisfied. But on the other hand, if you push them too hard—they're out of their comfort zone each and every day—they're not happy either." Elam prefers to err on the side of pushing people forward later than sooner. Oddly, the non-driving, pacifist Amish seem to favor armored forces and automobile metaphors, at least when explaining things to the English world. "It's kind of like the military," summarizes Elam accordingly. "If you don't have the lieutenants and the sergeants and so forth... you can't have privates."

  • P116. Years ago, President Roosevelt had a ranch out west," he begins. "And one day he was out helping his foreman and the cowboys round up calves. And he came to a place where there was a calf in the herd, and it was obvious it was the neighbor's calf. And the foreman told him...we could just brand that, and the neighbors never know it. Then it is ours. "You know what? He fired the man. He said if a man steals for you, he will steal from you. And that is true."

  • P124. Ten points on hiring and firing:

    • At a certain point, trying to do it all yourself is a recipe for disaster. There is one test of success in business—not whether you made all the decisions, but did the company prosper?

    • You create your environment, and your environment creates you. Pick your people with that in mind.

    • When hiring, be clear with yourself on what character traits are most important. How will new people fit in with current employees? With elements of your vision?

    • Know what you need in skills and experience, but don't be afraid to trust intuition.

    • Select the less-skilled person with a desire to do well and who will promote harmony over the ultra-skilled one with a poor attitude. Ability can be acquired, but a sour work environment is tough to fix.

    • Education does not equal character. Your best workers may not necessarily have fancy qualifications. Don't automatically rule out the good person with less-impressive credentials.

    • Your example counts. Like attracts like. If your attitude stinks, don't be surprised if your employee's do too.

    • Conflict can sometimes work itself out on its own. But you may have to step in, be creative, and mix things up.

    • Keep bad apples out. Fire people who poison the work environment.

    • Be fair when giving warnings and second chances. But if you decide to fire someone, don't back down. Your integrity and your employee's respect are on the line.

  • P135. "When I think [of] managing people, I think about helping the workers...make the best of...the ability that God has given them," Ivan explains. "It never pays to manage people just so you look better. But you manage your people [so] that they can move up in life." The amishman warns to "keep knowledge back, 'cause that's controlling people."

  • P162. "I'm a believer that it's the small things that count," says Alvin. "The reason a lot of people fail is because of those small [things]....When things are really going good for you, and you're booming, you miss a lot of small things because you don't worry about them. "But when you start having to sharpen your pencil, then all at once you realize, how did I do this without doing this?"

  • P180. Keeping body and mind in top shape requires active effort. Stress needs to be managed like any other element of business. Moderation, balance, and an orientation of acceptance allow managers to stay fit and approach issues with a more serene mind. Ultimately, a happier, healthier manager is a better manager.

  • P181. On efficiency:

    • Don't get caught up in the trap that says only sweat equals work. Reserve time to figure out how to do things better. Finding efficiencies should be high on the manager's task list.

    • Real growth can come from gains in efficiency. Achieving better returns from an existing arrangement can take the place of physical or personnel expansion.

    • Search out areas to exploit strengths and opportunities. Potential levers are everywhere.

    • Play to strengths. Businesspeople who do so do better and enjoy their businesses more.

    • Actively tend body, mind, and soul. Managing the self is part of managing a business.

  • P205. Ezra knows he has to tend his company. But he realized the importance of his relationships with his employees. Ezra began to delegate more and entrust his men with more responsibility. Superhero businesspeople exist in myth alone. And especially in a growing business, those who try to do it all on their own usually finish quickly.

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