THE SOUL OF A BUSINESS by Tom Chappell

THE SOUL OF A BUSINESS

Managing for Profit and the Common Good
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A down-east entrepreneur's slick and assured account of how he brought his company into the light, thereby showing the way for less advanced enterprises. In a narrative dense with buzzwords and bywords (``authenticity,'' ``community,'' ``cultural diversity,'' ``mission statements,'' ``social responsibility,'' etc.), Chappell recounts how he founded Tom's of Maine in 1970 with the help of his wife, Kate. At first, the Kennebunk-based concern prospered modestly by vending--originally through health-food stores--toothpaste and other personal-care products made from natural ingredients (with due care for the environment). But despite the firm's success in niche markets and subsequent acceptance by mainstream retailers, the author became vaguely discontented during the mid-1980's. In search of ease, he enrolled (at fortysomething) at the Harvard Divinity School, running the company part time; upon graduating in 1990, he returned to Tom's of Maine with a host of ideas about how to live up to the Quaker maxim of doing well by doing good. Here- -with as much piety as wit--he offers short-take briefings on how he managed to apply in a commercial setting insights gained during his protracted epiphany. On the basis of the evidence here, however, Chappell hasn't always been consistent in acting on his professed convictions: In attempting to comply with an arguably sanctimonious corporate credo, for example, he doesn't shy from reverse discrimination against other white males. Nor does he pay even lip service to the existence of putatively kindred spirits like Anita Roddick (of Body Shop fame) or the PC proprietors of Ben & Jerry's Homemade Inc. But Chappell understands that involvement in worthy causes can benefit a business, and he appreciates that his company must be profitable if it's to contribute to the common weal. A generally--and ironically--self-centered exercise in the economics of meaning, whose appeal seems limited largely to true believers.

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 1993
ISBN: 0-553-09423-8
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Bantam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1993




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