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The Ten Commandments of Business and How to Break Them

Updated: Jul 23, 2023

Book Corner: Ten Commandments of Business and How to Break Them, written by Bill Fromm

When Fromm wrote this book in the early 1990s, he was the president of Barkley and Evergreen (now Barkley), a Kansas City-based advertising agency and was a known and respected veteran in the advertising field. The book describes his personal philosophy of managing employees and dealing with customers, which, according to this book, breaks the mold of standard - and sometimes stodgy - corporate culture. Fromm provides a quick and interesting read, (the book clocks in at a tight 170 pages) with each “commandment”, or rather lesson, backed up with snippets from his personal experience.

Fromm writes about eliminating the tendency to hide behind memos and reports, calling it the "CYO" (cover your ass) culture. He states that the most effective form of communication is face-to-face. Same for suggestion boxes – he says to get rid of them. If your employees cannot comfortably speak their minds, then your company has a serious communication problem that must be dealt with on its own before you start taking suggestions. Fromm also tackles the modern management culture: when you separate the company into "officers" and "enlisted men" with layers of bureaucracy, perks, privileges (such as reserved parking for management) and physical barriers, you end up instead with an "us vs. them" attitude where the company is two teams, not one. And, as Fromm says, the company must be one team, not two.

Overall, Fromm places a heavy emphasis on treating employees with respect and class, resulting in what he says are happier and more productive workers. The most memorable example is his insistence that business cards be given to everyone, regardless of position - even the custodian. It makes the employees feel special and provides great advertising for the company. He gives the example of summer interns who were given business cards, and when polled later about their experience at the company, all the interns listed the cards as one of the most memorable experiences there. Fromm also stresses the importance of company events and fun meetings as enjoyable means to build and maintain morale.

In addition to culture and morale, Fromm writes about profits, marketing, customers, and more. Not every one of Fromm's commandments is applicable to every company, and not every company needs to adhere to every commandment to be successful. But in a world where the successful reach their achievements by putting radical spins on standard thinking, Fromm's book has much food for thought.


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