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March 21, 2013

News & Opinion: Business Brilliant

By: Dylan Schleicher @ 3:39 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

In general, we assume that the great business leaders came from well-to-do-families, were sent to the best schools, continued their education and started practicing business at a young age. Yet in fact, many of the CEOs of familiar brands did not follow that route. For some of them, high school was their highest academic standing, some can't read a financial statement, and some of them failed miserably before they became the people we know. Clearly, what we assume is not necessarily the correct path toward success.

This is what Lewis Schiff's new book, Business Brilliant: How to Build Wealth, Manage Your Career & Take Risks is about. Schiff did a national survey of middle-class workers and self-made millionaires, the results of which revealed many inconsistent beliefs and facts into how people become successful. Here's a quote from the book that explains:
For instance, most middle-class respondents believed that if you, "do what you love, the money will follow," but only 2 percent of self-made millionaires felt the same. Likewise, the importance of "cutting back on little expenditures" was embraced by the middle class, but totally rejected by self-made millionaires. The vast majority of the middle class agreed that "putting your own capital at risk," "diversifying the ways you make money," having a "success attitude," and "thinking like a millionaire" are all important ways to attain financial success. And to each of these statements, the middle-class millionaires said: Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

Instead, we discovered that the self-made millionaires subscribed to a completely different set of priorities. Most overwhelmingly agreed that, among other things, if you want to succeed you should obtain an ownership stake in your work, persuade others to invest with you, get to know a lot of people, and learn from your bad business decisions. And yet, the importance of each of these ideas was rejected by the vast majority of the middle class!

The book is filled with interesting and insightful stories about CEOs from Richard Branson to Charles Schwab, and some lesser known individuals who run very familiar brands. What's striking about a book like this is that it's a collection of truths, not theories. In some cases, the profiled CEOs success contradicts the theories that they themselves have taught! Part character study, part business text, this book is great for those new to business, veterans with constant challenges, and perhaps even those who are self-made. In each case, it's reading that can resonate on different levels of experience, showing validity or hope for each reader. The title fits.

About Dylan Schleicher


Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.