Masters of Enterprise

Masters of Enterprise

Posted by jack_miller | Published a year ago

With 16 ratings

By: H.W. Brands

Purchased At: $23.95

From the early years of fur trading to today's Silicon Valley empires, America has proved to be an extraordinarily fertile land for the creation of enormous fortunes. Each generation has produced one or two phenomenally successful leaders, often in new industries that caught contemporaries by surprise, and each of these new fortunes reconfirmed the power of fanatically single-minded visionaries. John Jacob Astor and Cornelius Vanderbilt were the first American moguls; John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, and J. P. Morgan were kingpins of the Gilded Age; David Sarnoff, Walt Disney, Ray Kroc, and Sam Walton were masters of mass culture. Today Oprah Winfrey, Andy Grove, and Bill Gates are giants of the Information Age. America has again and again been the land of dizzying mountains of wealth.

Here, in a wittily told and deeply insightful history, is a complete set of portraits of America's greatest generators of wealth. Only such a collective study allows us to appreciate what makes the great entrepreneurs really tick. As H. W. Brands shows, these men and women are driven, they are focused, they deeply identify with the businesses they create, and they possess the charisma necessary to persuade other talented people to join them. They do it partly for the money, but mostly for the thrill of creation.

The stories told here -- including how Nike got its start as a business-school project for Phil Knight; how Robert Woodruff almost refused to take control of Coca-Cola to spite his father; how Thomas Watson saved himself from prison by rescuing Dayton, Ohio, from a flood; how Jay Gould nearly cornered the gold market; how H. L. Hunt went from gambling at cards to gambling with oil leases -- make for a narrative that is always lively and revealing and often astonishing. An observer in 1850, studying John Jacob Astor, would not have predicted the rise of Henry Ford and the auto industry. Nor would a student of Ford in 1950 have anticipated the takeoff of direct marketing that made Mary Kay Ash a trusted guide for millions of American women. Full of surprising insights, written with H. W. Brands's trademark flair, the stories in Masters of Enterprise are must reading for all students of American business history.
H.W. Brands' Masters of Enterprises devotes each of his 25 brief, but enjoyable chapters to a successful entrepreneur. I particularly like this book because the author recognizes the importance of the individual in building a business dynasty. Tragically, this recognition is very rare from many business historians today who seem more interested in focusing on the post-retirement philanthropic activities of many great industrialists as opposed to the prodigious effort which was required to first accumulate the wealth.

This book contains great chapters on all of the well known productive geniuses of the U.S. Industrial Revolution, including the following: John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, J. P. Morgan, Henry Ford and Cornelius Vanderbilt.

One of the great values from this book is that it contains a satisfying amount of material on several important and often unsung heroes in business history. This includes, but is not limited to:

* Ray Kroc: The man who turned the McDonalds' franchise into the world's most recognizable fast food empire.

* Robert Woodruff: The man who made the Coca-Cola logo the world's most recognizable logo.

* Alfred Sloan: The man who built up General Motors to defeat the Ford Motor Company as the most dominant automobile manufacturer in the United States.

* Sam Walton: The man who turned Walmart into the retail giant that it is today.

* Andy Grove: The man who made Intel.

* Henry Kaiser: A true renaissance industrialist. He built the Hoover dam, the Bonneville Dam, innovated cement manufacturing, reduced the construction time of cargo ships during WWII to five days (when they previously required 30 days!), and even developed Waikiki beach into a resort.

* H. L. Hunt: discoverer and innovator of oil drilling in East Texas. Unfortunately, he also crippled the industry by lobbying for more government regulation.

The main downside of this book is that I think the mix of entrepreneurs covered could have been more interesting. For one, James J. Hill, the great empire builder of the Northwestern Railroads, is conspicuously absent. For example, if it were up to me, I would have added chapters on James J. Hill, E. H. Harriman*, Warren Buffett, Herbert Dow and C.J. Walker** and removed the chapters on Berry Gordy, Oprah Winfrey, Phil Knight, Ted Turner and Liz Claiborne.

If you enjoy books about great individuals in business history, then I also recommend Andrew Bernstein's The Capitalist Manifesto, Burton Folsom's The Myth of the Robber Barons and Burton Folsom's Empire Builders.

* The turnaround genius who converted the struggling Union Pacific Railroad into a transportation empire.

** She is probably the most under appreciated businesswoman in history. She not only is the first black woman to be a self-made millionaire, she is the first woman to do so. She made a fortune in designing and marketing beauty products for black women at the beginning of the 20th century, when the U.S. was unfortunately still plagued with discrimination.

- teagan_howard

In Masters of Enterprise, the author about twenty-five individuals who are or were the most influential people in their respective fields. Each chapter reads like a Reader's Digest condensed version story running some ten to twenty pages in length with enough detail leave the reader satisfied without overcoming them with information.

- ariah_thompson

 Larisa Akah's review was made as part of a critical review assignment for the Fall 2012 Economics of Entrepreneurship seminar at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, taught by Art Diamond. (The course syllabus stated that part of the critical review assignment consisted of the making of a video recording of the review, and the posting of the review to Amazon.)

- jason_alvarez

This is a superb book. It charts the lives of the business people who built American industry and shows how they did it. Well worth keeping as a reference book as well as reading.

- sawyer_patel

Bought for my child. Very good book to inspire the next generation.

- keira_walker

Common beliefs shattered by uncommon men- Henry Kaiser would have taken on the challenge to build Rome in a day!
"Rags to riches" is another common adage; but the route to getting there is what distinguishes the daring from the rest. But the most important factor that has made these great achievers who changed and paved the course of business history is the strong desire to excel against all odds. What else can explain the rise of Andrew Carnegie from the drudgery of working in a dirty shop floor to being the master of one of America's greatest steel company.
Do not read this book in a hurry. Brands has an excellent command on the English language and his style of narration matches the true values that one can derive from the 25 great persons described in this book.
I have recommended this book as the first assignment to my daughter during her summer vacation.
Your search for human excellence ends here.

- enrique_gray

When I got done reading this, I sent an email to the author:
I just wanted to drop you a line to thank you for an excellent read, Masters of Enterprise. Reading these biographies made me contemplate my own future, and how I can improve the lives of my family and others.
I kept thinking to myself, "Gee, I wish that this book was used as a class textbook when I was in high school." If it did gain mass acceptance for that purpose,I believe that it could cause a revolution in America.
______ If you do read this, feel free to email me. I would welcome correspondence with a group of people who have enjoyed this book.

- violet_mitchell

Happy with purchase and would recommend it to others.

- gia_johnson

I loved this book, it gives good overview of each of the people. I have read of a number of detailed biographies which provide many more details.
If you want a quick and dirty overview of who each is and what they accomplished, this is the book for you. Great biblography at the end to delve into each person farther.

- vivaan_hall

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