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The Benevolent Dictator: Empower Your Employees, Build Your Business, and Outwit the Competition
Michael Feuer with Dustin Klein

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Format: Hardcover, 288pp.
ISBN: 9781118003916
Publisher: Wiley
Pub. Date: June 7, 2011

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Description and Reviews
From The Publisher:

An unconventional philosophy for starting and building a business that exceeds your own expectations

What does it require to take a concept rapidly and effectively from mind to market? The Benevolent Dictator recognizes that entrepreneurship is a gauntlet. Those who succeed are benevolent dictators—able to make the intricate process happen in days, weeks and months to win.

The Benevolent Dictator gives you no-nonsense how-to advice and examples that have worked. This non-traditional, gung-ho guide is not afraid to lay out the leadership methods that can effectively get a new business off the ground, and through the requisite fast-track growth phases that produce tangible success measured by your bottom line and your wallet.
  • Learn critical specifics on how to move from idea development to build-out, through steps for continuous improvement, and on to the big cash out
  • Features proven tools, strategies, and tactics that will help you bottle entrepreneurial lightning over and over again
  • As the cofounder of office retail giant OfficeMax, the author turned a $3 million investment into a $1.5 billion sale in his 16 years as CEO
Beating the competition is never easy. For those times when you need an iron hand, then you also need the wisdom to know when and how to use it. Whether you're a business student, aspiring entrepreneur, or a practicing executive, you need to discover the winning ways of The Benevolent Dictator.

When you're running the gauntlet of building a business, you can't keep stopping to ask for consensus. You can't hold a protracted debate about strategy while your competition passes you by. At some point, you—the entrepreneur with everything at stake—must embrace your role as the benevolent dictator.

Great companies that made it to the top survived the daunting start-up phase by possessing a singular idea and one individual willing to take the chance and pull the trigger. The Benevolent Dictator recognizes that entrepreneurs have to possess the courage to lead and the good sense to always put the entity—its employees, investors, and customers—way ahead of themselves. In scores of specific leadership lessons, this gung-ho guide lays out the leadership methods that can effectively launch a new business and navigate it through fast-track growth phases. It delivers no-nonsense lessons and real-world examples, including:
  • The Law of Other People's Money, the easiest path to hyper-growth
  • The power of focus, discipline, and follow-u
  • Look at an idea through a customer's eyes—not just from an operator's perspective
  • Always play by the "Mother Rule": If you don't want your mother to know about it, don't do it—because it is probably wrong
  • Know when to pull the plug
  • How to put lightning back in the bottle again and again
Success comes from a combination of focus, determination, diligence, pure grit, luck, and chutzpah—and knowing when to be an autocrat. Now that you know what you are, learn how to make it work for your current or next big idea.


"Michael stands out as one of those rare entrepreneurs who started with a blank piece of paper and built a national brand in a crowded field. His book chronicles the seldom discussed aspects of the how-tos of doing it and doing it big, fast."
—CHRISTOPHER CONNOR, Chairman and CEO, Sherwin-Williams Company

"In this book, Michael reveals step-by-step how an entrepreneur can navigate the twists and turns of building an enterprise. Expect the unexpected in this narrative, which provides 'the best of the best' reading on how he did it, and how his experiences can help the reader do it, too."
—MORRY WEISS, Chairman, American Greetings Corp.

"Sitting through business lectures can be boring at times. Reading The Benevolent Dictator is anything but with its fast-paced prose, punctuated with dry humor. This book uncorks the unique methods that the author used to create huge success by empowering his team and outwitting the competition. Read this book once and it's guaranteed you'll refer to it time and time again."
—FELIX ZULAUF, twenty-year member of the Barron's Roundtable, The Dow Jones Business and Financial Weekly

"Using his unorthodox teaching style, Michael keeps my high-potential students on the edge of their seats. He guides readers, too, down the path to accelerated success. His secret is a preoccupation with achieving results; his gift is teaching others how to do it."
—RICHARD L. OSBORNE, Theodore M. Alfred Professor of Management, Weatherhead School of Management, Case Western Reserve University

"Michael Feuer isn't only 'benevolent,' he's also quick, insightful, experienced, and engaging. His lessons and manner of communicating have produced profound benefits to all who serve with him as he advises our board and leadership team. And that's exactly what readers will find when they learn from this vital, no-nonsense, no-holds-barred book."
—ALLEN WEISS, MD, MBA, President and CEO, NCH Healthcare System

"The difference between Michael and many other successful CEOs is that he can explain how to replicate his success with his entertaining, yet insightful, and finely honed words. His book accentuates the obvious and unlocks the obscure to help put readers on their own fast track."
—JACQUELINE WOODS, Chair, Kent State University; retired president, AT&T Ohio

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About the Authors

Michael Feuer cofounded OfficeMax in 1988 starting with one store and $20,000 of his own money, a partner, and a small group of investors. As CEO, he grew it to more than one thousand stores worldwide with annual sales topping $5 billion. He is also CEO of Max-Ventures, a venture capital and retail consulting firm, and cofounder and CEO of Max-Wellness, a comprehensive health and wellness retail chain that launched in 2010. After opening initial laboratory test stores in Florida and Ohio, a national roll-out is now underway.

Dustin S. Klein is the Publisher and Executive Editor of Smart Business Network, publishers of Smart Business, the nation's second-largest chain of regional business publications. He has interviewed thousands of senior executives and civic leaders across America. He is a regular presenter on business-related issues for public and private business audiences and is a frequent guest on television, radio, and Internet programs.

Table of Contents

Author’s Note.

Phase One Start-Up.

1. Lesson #1: To Successfully Launch a Start-Up, There Must Be a Benevolent Dictator.

2. Lesson #2: The Best Ideas Can Come from What’s Right in Front of Your Nose.

3. Lesson #3: How to Find the Money to Make Big Money.

4. Lesson #4: Once an Entrepreneur, Always an Entrepreneur.

5. Lesson #5: It’s Better to Be Lucky Than Just Good.

6. Lesson #6: ‘‘GOYA’’—The Only Way to Really Test an Idea.

7. Lesson #7: Don’t Underestimate the Power of Focus, Discipline, and Follow-Up.

8. Lesson #8: Competition Stinks.

Phase Two Build Out and Put the Idea to the Test.

9. Lesson #9: Business Is a Series of ‘‘Go’’ and ‘‘No-Go’’ Decisions.

10. Lesson #10: Treat an Idea Like Clay.

11. Lesson #11: Always Be Prepared with Plan B . . . And Sometimes C and D.

12. Lesson #12: You’ll Never Reach Critical Goals without a Definitive Timetable.

13. Lesson #13: Never Be as Weak as Your Weakest Link.

14. Lesson #14: Raising Additional Capital Requires Creating Demand.

15. Lesson #15: Everything You Wanted to Know about the ‘‘D’’ Word but Were Afraid to Ask.

16. Lesson #16: Managing People Is about Achieving Objectives through Others.

17. Lesson #17: Good Intentions Will Get You Only So Far.

18. Lesson #18: Don’t Open the Doors until the Start-Up Passes the Smell Test—And Don’t Be Afraid to Call Time-Out Just to Be Sure.

Phase Three Constant Reinvention.

19. Lesson #19: Pot Stirring 101—The Key to Continuous Reinvention.

20. Lesson #20: Is Perception Reality? How to Manage Risk, Take Chances, and Remain Standing.

21. Lesson #21: How to Keep Lethargy at Bay . . . Or Why Time Is Your Most Precious Resource.

22. Lesson #22: How to Avoid Analysis Paralysis by Learning When to Make ‘‘Battlefield’’ Decisions.

23. Lesson #23: Don’t Drink Your Own Bathwater—You Could Choke 135

24. Lesson #24: When the Wolf’s at the Door, What You Do Can Make the Difference between Living to Fight Another Day and Going Down for the Count.

25. Lesson #25: Using the ‘‘Mother Rule’’ Can Help You Avoid Costly Hiring Mistakes.

26. Lesson #26: When Communicating, Cut to the Chase.

27. Lesson #27: Survival Math—Business Is Not a Zero-Sum Game 160

28. Lesson #28: Manage by the Three Ps—Persistence, Perspiration, and Performance.

29. Lesson #29: You Can’t Live with ’Em—How to Manage Prima Donnas, Employees Who Think ‘‘It’s Not Their Job,’’ and the Perfectionists.

30. Lesson #30: The Golden Rule of Trust and Respect: You’ve Got to Give to Get.

31. Lesson #31: Why You Must Look at Business through the Customer’s Eyes, Not Just from an Operator’s Perspective.

32. Lesson #32: When It’s Time to Pull the Trigger and Fire a Customer or a Vendor.

33. Lesson #33: Spurring Growth—How to Eat an Elephant One Bite at a Time.

34. Lesson #34: If You Don’t Like the Competition . . . Buy Them If You Can.

35. Lesson #35: The Easiest Path to Hypergrowth Is with Other People’s Money.

36. Lesson #36: Beating the Competition Requires That You Know More about Their Vulnerabilities Than They Know about Themselves . . . And Knowing Yourself Better Than They Know You.

37. Lesson #37: If You Negotiate with Yourself, You Have a Fool for an Opponent.

Phase Four The Payday.

38. Lesson #38: Payday . . . And Lessons from the IPO Road Show.

39. Lesson #39: If the Flame Starts Flickering: How to Tell If the Fat Lady Is About to Sing.

40. Lesson #40: How to Put Lightning Back in the Bottle Again and Again—Many Entrepreneurs Are Serial Entrepreneurs.



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