December 13, 2012

Stepping Out

Stepping Out: The Making of Chinese Entrepreneus
Chan Lwok Bun and Claire Chang See Ngoh

These oral histories of Chinese-born Singapore businessmen make interesting reading. The contrast with the values of the current business press, with its obsession with CEO porn on the one hand and with pseudo-mystic formulas (excellence/the gap/moving cheese) on the other. Most of these guys never read a business book, hired a consultant, or believed their own PR; they worked very hard, got everything they could get out of their workers, and kept trying.

Perhaps the most striking emphasis is the amount of business cooperation, even among the illiterate immigrants just off the boat. Bosses, about to lose an ambitious key employee, sometimes provided venture capital for the employee to set up a competing business: better to have a good competitor who owes you than a rival who is merely an ex-employee.

I wish there were fuller narratives and less analysis -- that the raw data were presented better, in other words, because I fear the analysis is already showing some age. But it's an interesting volume.