The Benevolent Dictator is the new book by Michael Feuer, who was the founder and CEO of OfficeMax until it was sold to Boise Cascade in 2003. Feuer now runs Max-Wellness, a company that sells medical and personal care supplies. The company has 4 stores but Feuer has plans to grow it into a national retailer.
This book is not a biography. It does not tell the tale of the founding and building of OfficeMax in its entirety. Instead, Feuer uses examples from his personal experience to illustrate 40 lessons for entrepreneurs. He sorts these 40 lessons into 4 phases:
- Build Out And Put The Idea To The Test
- Constant Reinvention
- The Payday
Although the latter two phases cover areas of importance to large corporations, this book is really written for entrepreneurs. Feuer is one of the rare people who has the ability to found, build and manage a company as a large enterprise. From reading the book, it is evident that he maintained an entrepreneurial mindset throughout his journey.
One of the more interesting insights into Feuer’s process of building businesses was that a significant amount of research and planning was undertaken before making major decisions. He cautions not to become paralyzed by endless analysis but he credits a lot of his success to having a methodical approach to building businesses. This flies in the face of those who believe that an entrepreneur is a modern day gunslinger who makes decisions with his gut without regard for the risks involved. Feuer takes risks but they are calculated risks.
Another insight was how much time Feuer spends on the floor of his own stores and those of his competitors. He makes a big effort to make sure that he is getting information directly from customer facing employees. I am always amazed at how the bosses in the TV show Undercover Boss don’t seem to know what their own organizations do. I doubt Feuer has this issue.
There is a lot of good advice in this book. Some of the writing was a little rough in spots but I think reading the book is worthwhile. You may not have an interest in starting or building a national retailer but I think there is a lot that can be learned from entrepreneurs outside of your own industry.
In the interest of full disclosure, we received an advance copy of the book, free of charge. We were asked to give it an honest review, which we have.