Ten commandments for business failure

I was at the library the other day looking for books about how to start a business and consulting and stuff like that, and Kelsey found this book:

The Ten Commandments for Business Failure” by Donald Keough.

I thought I might as well figure out how to do it right, so I added the book to the stack.

Don was the president of Coca-Cola in the 1980s and is probably most famous for heading the company while Coke was losing the cola wars to Pepsi, and especially for the New Coke debacle (that some say was a just brilliant marketing ploy.) The reintroduction of Coke Classic was probably the tipping point of the reversal, to where Coca-Cola once again enjoys a dominant position worldwide in the fizzy, sweet, caffeinated beverage business.

It was an interesting read, though the author didn’t dwell too much on New Coke, he does mention it, and accept at least partial blame. The moral of that particular story is “Don’t listen to consultants” — or rather “Listen to consultants if you want to fail.” Good advice, for my clients that is.

The whole book is written with that somewhat gimmicky formula: “Do X if you want to fail”, meaning “don’t do X if you want to succeed.”

It isn’t specifically about his leadership at Coca-Cola, but rather general business advice. The most profound point is probably in the introduction where he says he doesn’t have the formula for success but that he does know 10 rules (actually 11, there’s a bonus chapter) that are almost guaranteed to help you fail.

I don’t want to give away the rest of the commandments, because it might hurt book sales, and the 10 (11) commandments are really just pithy, common sense advice, but worth reiterating. The book is actually quite an enjoyable read, moreso for the interesting, optimistic tone of a successful man who may have made mistakes, but was definitely not a failure.

I thought he was surprisingly “with it” and his advice relevant to the times and up with technology and the current business climate. I particularly enjoyed his chapter on pessimism and how he skewered the Global Warming doomsayers without mentioning it or them by name (except for Paul R. Ehrlich, one of the leaders of the global warming movement, and then only in the context of his malthusian claims as recently as 20 years ago about the impending new ice age.)

Despite a few “Norman Einstein” moments (such as claiming India acquired nukes in the 1970s) and a slight tone of the born privileged, I enjoyed the book and appreciated the advice. I found myself liking and wishing to meet Don Keough long before the end of the book, and not changing that opinion by the time I was done.

Unfortunately, though, I plan on ignoring the 10 commandments, and finding a way to fail on my own merits.

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