am 14. Januar 2006
Ben Cohen & Jerry Greenfield introduce their concept of a "values-led business" in a well-balanced combination of story-telling and business philosophy outline. On the one hand, concise presentations explain the underlying business principles based on ethics, corporate responsibility, and a strong commitment to community, as well as how these principles have been put into practice. On the other hand, this book reveals biographical elements of the two entrepreneurs sharing very personal thoughts and motivations.
The reader gains wonderful insight into the authors' mindset, and the story unfolds following the entrepreneurs' major steps from the naive opening of a hardly viable ice cream parlor at an old Vermont gas station to the establishing of franchises of a multi-million dollar business model abroad. It is great to grow with the authors and their icecream venture along the read, as one follows them how they learn from early mistakes, and how they find sometimes unconventional solutions to the arising challenges.
This book can be used as a handbook and reference manual for like-minded business people with a focus on values and corporate responsibility, but just as well it can be enjoyed as an entertaining read about two impressive characters coined by the society of the United States still offering astonishing opportunities. Due to this dual function, neither area is fully covered by this book, and, as a result of the implicit compromise of losing some aspects of interest in both fields, my rating loses one star of the possible five.
Yet, I would like to point out that it is a great read thanks to its accessible style avoiding blown-up business jargon or insignificant personal matters. Also, with their very open and honest approach perfectly in line with their successful business, Ben & Jerry make it apparent how they live their dream, their business, and their values.
This book should encourage entrepreneurs and business people committed to similar values to pursue their vision consequently, as it shows how idealistic principles translate into potentially very powerful and profitable business plans and sustainable company structures fluently and logically. All of a sudden one wonders why not more businesses follow the values-led path, as all views trying to disqualify the values-led approach as unprofitable or just phantastic are ultimately proven to be invalid. While others lacking a strong vision struggle to find answers to business questions, Ben & Jerry enjoy their "double-dip" of being meaningful as well as profitable.
Today's business world is undergoing rapid transition, and in our era of globalization, manifold challenges, and an ever increasing pressure on businesses and its human stakeholders alike the business scene has become yet again tougher since Ben & Jerry's start. Exactly in this environment, their values-led approach is gaining more and more validity, as increasing proportions of the population are getting tired of ever worse corporate scandals, managers' ruthlessness and growing ehtical detereoration. So, although this book was certainly not written as a moral guide, maybe its greatest asset is the growing importance of its inherent message that values-led businesses can be the answer to many business-related troubles today, and that no excuses for inhumane business practices can stay alive if challenged with the values-led approach and its very professional incarnation at Ben & Jerry's.