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Book reviews: Enterprise Rules; The “I” of Leadership and Strategies for Longevity in Family Firms

Read CampdenFB’s reviews of the latest books aiming to help you navigate the modern business world.

Enterprise Rules: The Foundations of High Achievement – and How to Build on Them
Don Young
Profile Books; 288

How do you build an organisation that prospers? According to the author of this book – a veteran executive and business psychologist – it’s all about three things: giving customers what they want, contributing to society and giving employees meaningful work.
Young is also good on the importance of institutional memory, and the ability to learn from the past. The implication is businesses with more past know more – if they can access the memories. Sustainability, then, ought to be easier for family firms. Maybe granddad’s war stories are useful after all.

The “I” of Leadership: Strategies for Seeing, Being and Doing
Nigel Nicholson

With quotations from Genghis Khan and Woody Allen and reflections on Andre Agassi and the Arab Spring, VIP leadership and “zemblanity”, this risks becoming a parody of a management book. At times it becomes breathless: “Let’s go for it and try to save the world!” But it’s saved by the central theme that “self-management” and introspection are the key to good leadership. Particularly interesting is the idea that family businesses often have a chief emotional officer who connects the business to wider aims – an easy read and worthwhile.

Strategies for Longevity in Family Firms: A European Perspective
By Guido Corbetta and Carlo Salvato
Bocconi University Press; 208 pages

You could hardly ask for a more detailed analysis of family businesses than this informed and compelling book by a pair of academics from Milan’s Bocconi University.
It sets out by dryly destroying some of the myths about family firms (they are damaged by nepotism, they are always small, and so on) and goes on to analyse in forensic detail what makes them tick. Unlike those business books in which rhetoric overwhelms facts, this is an impressively scientific study – a “genogram” of a family looks like the blueprint for a nuclear submarine.

The authors treat all sizes and shapes of family firms with respect and sensitivity for their problems. Chapters address issues such as organisational strategy, how to diversify the family estate, non-family management and generational change – and all in just over 200 pages. A punchy, smart and thoughtful book.

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