Why Amish Businesses Thrive

About a month ago I received an email from Erik Wesner asking me to review his new book “Success Made Simple: An Inside Look at Why Amish Businesses Thrive.”  I said “Yes” because I was completely intrigued by the topic.  This is about the second time in as many months as I’ve seen Amish and business success linked together. And I couldn’t wait to receive the review copy of the book and see what all the chatter was about.

Success Made SimpleI wondered what it was about Amish simplicity that called to Erik Wesner over the siren song of technology, social media-driven relationships and mobile apps that the rest of us have been following.

Erik Wesner Was Inspired By The Amish

After getting about a hundred pages into the book, my curiosity got the best of me.  So I reached out with an e-mail and asked Erik Wesner what inspired him to become an expert on the Amish and to write this book.  Here’s what he said:

“I was really impressed by the caliber of Amish companies.  All the informal indicators were there; these small shops were very busy, they were getting a lot of outside attention, and even in plain Amish society you could see indicators of financial success among the businesspeople.

I ran my own business in Amish  communities.   After selling in non-Amish communities, you see certain cultural contrasts.  And that is what intrigued me.  This includes everything from an appreciation for books, to an inherent anti-waste mentality, to an emphasis on relationships.  For instance, I found Amish always know their neighbors, something I found a lot less likely in “English” communities (and I’m guilty of this myself).  Not to “nostalgize” the Amish too much, but I feel a lot of these traits are things we once “knew” as a society but have maybe lost touch with a bit. “

Everything Old is New Again

This is a wonderful book given the volatile state of the business climate these days.  There’s nothing like going back to basics when the world around you is changing.  And that’s exactly what “Success Made Simple” does. This book is really multi-functional depending on how you choose to read it.

You can read it as a research report.  Erik Wesner interviewed dozens of Amish business owners and entrepreneurs.  You really get an appreciation of Wesner’s relationship skills when you learn how humble these Amish entrepreneurs are.  Unlike today’s titans of industry, these low-key business heroes are authentically surprised at why we should think that what they’re doing is all that special.  In fact, they shy away from taking any personal credit or pride in their success.  Instead, choosing to put the focus where it belongs – in the hands of God.

You can read it as a story or a real-life novel.  Erik does a masterful job of weaving an engaging story around his experiences within the Amish business community.   You’ll meet dozens of Amish business owners who quietly share their “secrets” to running a business, growing a business, hiring people and building lasting and profitable relationships with their customers.  You’ll find yourself getting close to these admirable characters.

And when you DO read this, here are just a few of the principles you’ll learn:

  • The two “F-words” Amish businesses deal with: Fear and Faith.  They don’t pretend to know everything.  In fact, they acknowledge that fear of the unknown is real.  But then they lean on their faith to get through it.
  • Relationships are everything.  It starts with their relationship with God, then with their family, their community and their customers.  Each one is a natural and authentic part of their daily lives.  In a conversation with Jonas, Werner learns that “If you’re a servant-leader, that means other people are gonna come first.  People have to be very important to youyou’re not in it for the dollar anymore, you’re in it to help people.  And the profits?  They come.”

At the end of each chapter, Wesner pulls together a simple summary that pulls all the interviews together into a summary of core principles.  Here is an example of some points from the sales and marketing chapter:

  • Marketing won’t solve the fundamental problem of a subpar product.
  • A businesses unique story can form the basis of its marketing approach.
  • Marketing is relationship building.  Those who follow-up with a personalized response get noticed.

Here is my favorite point from the “Doing Unto Others” chapter.

  • The customer is always right – even when he’s wrong.  But only to a point.  He stops being right when you have to compromise your integrity or sacrifice your resources beyond a predetermined acceptable level.

The recent economic meltdown has made me a big fan of a “back to basics” strategy.   And now you have a book that gives you everything you’ll need to help you take a fresh new look at your core business.


Ivana Taylor Ivana Taylor is the Book Editor for Small Business Trends. She is responsible for directing the site’s book review program and manages the team of professional book reviewers. She also spearheads the annual Small Business Book Awards. Ivana publishes DIYMarketers, where she shares daily do-it-yourself marketing tips, and is co-author of "Excel for Marketing Managers."

14 Reactions
  1. Amish Market At The Mill

    We have an Amish Market and find that people look for healty products in this day and age. Our market provides produce, meats, deli meats and cheese. We have tons of jams and baked goods.
    We’re in a community that there are no amish. Its a truck to get the products, but thats what makes the market what it is.

    Our markets in the Historic Feed MIll In Nolensville Tennessee.

    It’s one thing to have good healthy food choices for our shoppers, but our old mill is also a draw. I’m not sure if our business would work well in a strip mall. when you mix the good foods with a fun old style general store, people love it.

    The Amish and Mennonites are great people do deal with.
    I’ve made a lot of friends over the last couple of years and am honored to know them on a personal level.
    Hard working people for sure. Old school farming.

  2. Thank you for another stellar book review.

    A little bit of “back to the basics,” may do us all some good.

    The Franchise King

  3. Appreciate the kind review of my book Ivana!

    Glad you found the narrative enjoyable as well as the business ideas.

    In the book I change the names of the Amish contributors out of respect for the Amish emphasis on individual humility. But I’ve found that Amish who’ve read it have had a lot of fun trying to guess exactly who is who!

    But the idea of humility, as you point out, is very important to Amish. A humble leadership that says “I’d never ask you to do something I wouldn’t do myself” means Amish bosses aren’t afraid to do the dirty jobs. And employees tend to notice.

  4. Simple truths, universal and timeless – how quickly we forget. Thanks for posting.

  5. I like this going back to the basics. The present economic situation has hit many of us hard, and one thing it should do is help us appreciate what we have. It seems the Amish people never got away from that as I feel many of us have. I feel like there is a lot to be said for keeping things simple, and focus on the task at hand. That just may translate into successful business advice.

    Right now I am a strong believer that no matter what position you have in your career, or if you have lost your job, it is important to start some kind of small business. You can build it in whatever time your life allows, and you will be building something for yourself. Recently I was introduced to the concept of taking knowledge that you have and using it to develop a business. That is probably exactly what the Amish people do: what they ‘know’.

  6. Ivana,

    I saw Amish people during my time in Ohio. I think that they are great woodworkers and farmers, but I would never subscribe to their faith. The good thing is that they don’t force it on other people. It is a true separation of church and state and I hope that America will stay in this way.

    The real back to basics is if we understand the trader principle. It is a voluntarily exchange of ideas and material stuff. It could only work on a free market – based on a rational philosophy – that is protecting the rights of the individual.

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