A former pharmacy CEO asks 39 successful business executives to reflect on their careers and recall the defining moment of their careers.
With the exceptions of famed restaurateur Danny Meyer, ESPN founder Bill Rasmussen and game-show host/creator Monty Hall, most of those interviewed here are little known outside business circles. The other participants in Steinbaum’s exercise are all decidedly less glamorous, but all have achieved wealth or eminence directing major enterprises, selling everything from bread to airplanes, vitamins, shoes, dolls, newspapers, commercial furniture, real estate, cars, chemicals and candy. They have run insurance companies, health programs, advertising outfits and architectural firms. All appear delighted to assess their business lives. Steinbaum offers a brief, folksy introduction to each of his interviewees and, then, permits them to speak in their own words. He divides the answers into chapters that correspond roughly to predictable passages in many business lives: the initial choice to enter a particular field, become an entrepreneur, find the right partners and abandon the wrong ones, reshape the corporate culture, change a company’s business model, reposition or renew a business and, finally, decide when to leave. Unsurprisingly, the answers are as varied as the individuals and the specific challenges they’ve confronted. For this reason, apart from an appendix, in which Steinbaum assembles some words of advice and wisdom also gleaned from his subjects, nothing here can be read strictly as a success manual. In fact, many of Steinbaum’s respondents readily acknowledge the degree to which luck, accident or emergency shaped their choices. One person’s decision to stay and transform a business is not inherently smarter than another’s call to strike out on her own. One maxim cautions a man to look before leaping, while another warns that he who hesitates is lost. Which to follow? Well, these judgments are labeled “tough calls” for a reason. Other companies represented include Monsanto, Verizon, Time Inc., Enterprise Rent-A-Car, United Airlines and Chrysler Corporation (both represented by one executive, Gerald Greenwald).
Comfort food for business enthusiasts.