"Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life." -- 1 Timothy 6:17-19 (NKJV)
In Pursuit of the Common Good details the almost accidental development of the Newman's Own line of foods, its eventual success, and how the founders, Paul Newman and A.E. Hotchner, developed a new kind of charity to allow seriously ill children to attend summer camp. The book is filled with humor, good-hearted fun and a will to do good. Most people will find the overall effect to be heart-warming . . . except for the tendency to self-congratulation.
The book's is one part self-deprecating personal narrative, one part "advanced moving and shaking", one part "legend-making" tales, one part "I told you so" to the corporate "experts", one part funny stories from customers and one part business history mixed with two parts serious stories about young peoples' illnesses, three parts lessons about establishing a new charity, with a dash of recipes and cartoons for final humor. The mixture, while quite unusual, has a zestful freshness that leaves a taste for more.
If you are like me, you've never quite understood how Newman's Own came into existence and became a big success. I've tasted some of the products and find them to be of good quality. But there must be something more than that to it.
I was even more surprised to read in past news articles that all profits are distributed to charity annually. "Where in the world did the company get the working capital to stay in business?" was the question on my mind.
I also wondered how anyone would decide which charities to support and which to shun.
In Pursuit of the Common Good answered all those questions and more for me.
I was deeply moved by the tale of starting up and running the Hole in the Wall camps for seriously ill youngsters, and intend to tell others about this good work.
What intrigued me most about the book was that it showed that doing the right thing could be amazingly commonsensical. The products are good because Paul Newman would not be satisfied until he thought they were. The packaging copy and promotional activities are zany, and reflect the good humor of the authors . . . not some copywriter. Profits and cash flow are good because the authors paid attention to setting up their business model so the company would need very little capital. Making the profits go to charity allowed the authors to have fun with the business in a way they could not have done if they had been trying to line their own pockets. The psychic and emotional satisfaction of establishing the camps and helping other charities are probably worth much more than any money can buy.
I hope that other talented people, whether they are prominent or not, will consider how they could follow some parts of what the authors did with their business or their charity. I thank them both for sharing the story in this entertaining book.