The Benevolent Dictator

I just received an advance copy of Michael Feuer’s book The Benevolent Dictator. Feuer is the founder and former CEO of OfficeMax, and the book is largely based on his experiences and learnings as he took that company from 0 to 1000 stores in about 15 years.

The subtitle is “empower your employees, build your business, and outwit the competition,” and I found the book intriguing primarily because I’m so immersed in the online/electronic world, and this book is by a guy who’s so bricks-and-mortar.

A couple insights I liked were an emphasis on the mucky side of business success … “discipline and process is the secret.” It’s not attractive – who doesn’t want instant gold – but it’s true. Another was his very kaizen way of boots-on-the-ground managing, leading to almost instant process improvements.

As the saying goes, you don’t make omelets without breaking a few eggs, and I’m sure Feuer broke more than his share along the way. People who say things like “whenever I asked for anything it should be inferred that I said please,” and when he received something “it should be implied that I said thank you” are probably not the easiest people in the world to work for or with.

Feuer is best when he’s recounting a business story that illustrates a point … and weaker when he’s making abstract generalities.

Overall: 7 out of 10.