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.
I 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.