William Keyser, February 21, 2007 (view all comments by William Keyser)
This book concerns established businesses, but its message is vital for young enterprises, even startups. Her argument is that successful socially responsible businesses do not have to make a choice between staying small, selling out to bigger enterprises or going for an IPO.
Jill Bamburg is rightly outraged by Milton Friedman's idea that the "social responsibility of business is to increase profits" and she argues that there are other ways to prosper. She describes them in terms of keeping faith with the business mission, making growth organic, bootstrapping financial policies, building values into brands, making sure that change is appropriate and being clear about what sort of scale is appropriate.
The appeal of the book lies in its own easy-to-read style, notwithstanding the fact that Jill is an academic (Dean of the MBA Program at the Bainbridge Graduate Institute)! The fact that it is based on interview/case-studies of a variety of innovative companies means that it is full of very useful and usable material.
What becomes clear as you read the book, is that there is absolutely no need for entrepreneurs to follow 'given management wisdom'. Each of the leaders described in the book creates a destiny uniquely their own. Their business philosophies grow out of the special nature of each enterprise. Not only do they go down a path less traveled, but many innovate in ways which are not in any textbooks.
The stories recounted in the book are frequently inspiring because the businesses break new ground. Traditional management wisdom frequently speaks of trade-offs: trade-offs between cost and quality, or between performance and environment. We now hear less of a clamor for maximizing shareholder value, because people like those in the book have shown that success is not necessarily inimical to meeting the needs for profit, the aspirations of people and the survival of the planet - all at the same time. Indeed the book invites the reader to think very carefully about the definition of success, not in general, but in terms of the specifics of the business in question.
This accessible book makes rewarding reading for anyone contemplating setting up in business, those facing critical questions at the early stage of a business, as well as people in more mature entreprises who question how to get to the next stage of development. If there were a list of five essential texts for business startup, Getting to Scale, would, in my opinion, definitely be one of them.
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