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The Benevolent Dictator: Empower Your Employees, Build Your Business, and Outwit the Competition Hardcover

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (June 7, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1118003918
  • ISBN-13: 978-1118003916
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #974,307 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

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.

From the Back Cover


"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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Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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See all 7 customer reviews
This book is about -- and for people who want to have -- a better life, and a road map on how to get there!
Dr. Rae Associates
I've read a lot of business books, and while most of them are usually at least entertaining, they are always lacking in content and in clear advice.
Nathan Hangen
Before I share how much I like this book, let's talk about the title first, because you might be thinking the same thing I was.
Eleanor Biddulph

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Danilo Vargas on June 5, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Michael Feuer's new book, The Benevolent Dictator landed on my desk at exactly the right moment--two months into the launch of my own business enterprise! So as you can imagine, I dove into the book eager to mine some valuable nuggets of wisdom from the mind of a talented entrepreneur who was able to take OfficeMax from very humble beginnings up to its sales in 2003 for $1.5 billion.

Although the book is full of great insights worthy of study and application, the most important take-away for me relates to the role of the entrepreneur as a Benevolent Dictator. Feuer makes it clear that there is no secret sauce; no magic recipe; nor any single piece of sexy advice guaranteed to take your business to dizzying heights of success. Instead, Feuer insists that it comes down to something really simple (though not easy): devising a smart and detailed strategy, and executing that strategy relentlessly.

Execution, however, requires discipline and a stubborn focus on setting goals and minding the details. The occasional cracking of the whip comes with the territory. But that doesn't make Feuer a bad guy at all. His heavy hand is always guided by a benevolent sense of service, to customers and employees alike, and by the humility to recognize that he doesn't have all the answers and that the people in his organization are partners who deserve a say in how things are run.

For me, it's great to see a CEO who is at once strong and assertive, but humble enough to encourage his people to come up with ideas, and to challenge his own when they disagree.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Eleanor Biddulph on June 1, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Before I share how much I like this book, let's talk about the title first, because you might be thinking the same thing I was. From day one, I was not crazy about the title of Feuer's book. Anything related to dictatorship runs counter to my view of business leadership. However, I thought there had to be a reason this title was chosen, and why it made it past the publicist, so I did a little research. Here is what I found:

"A benevolent dictatorship is a form of government in which an authoritarian leader exercises political power for the benefit of the whole population... A benevolent dictator may allow for some democratic decision-making to exist..."

If we take that definition and apply it to business, we have an idea of what this book is about. How can an entrepreneur get an idea to market quickly and successfully? How can a business owner beat the competition? How can you manage a business through fast-track growth?

A benevolent dictator knows what this book tells readers. You need a little leadership for the whole group, a little dictatorship when things just need to get done, a little wisdom based in experience, and a little bit of luck for good measure.

Feuer guides the read through the four phases of a business or product life cycle: idea development, build out, continuous improvements, and cash out. These phases are shared through 40 lessons based on Feuer's personal experience as co-founder of Office Max, and Dustin Klein's experience as publisher and executive director of the Smart Business network.

A sampling of the chapter titles reveals the type of information shared. Lesson #9 is "Business is a series of "go" and "no-go" decisions. Lesson 16, "Managing people is about achieving objectives.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Geoff Garland on June 4, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Rarely does a CEO grant access inside his/her mind, sharing perceptions, insights, styles, and business practices. Michael Feuer, founder and former CEO of OfficeMax, opens the floodgates of how he took OfficeMax from a three-store startup in Cleveland to a one thousand store enterprise with five billion dollars in annual revenue.

The Benevolent Dictator ("TBD") is defined as the entrepreneur, manager, or CEO who puts everyone ahead of himself/herself, but is the one who makes the important decisions and knows when to say stop.

TBD has four segments: 1. Start-up; 2. Build out and put the idea to the test; 3. Constant reinvention; and, 4. The Payday. These themes not only track the progression of fifteen years of OfficeMax; they also include Mr. Feuer's latest venture, Max-Wellness. However, the forty "lessons", i.e. chapters, are topical, permitting the reader to easily search for a particular subject. Have a great idea for a business? Take a look at Lesson # 10: Treat an Idea like Clay. You will find several golden nuggets of business wisdom there.

I found Mr. Feuer's understanding of employees' and customers' psychological actions and characteristics fascinating. His knowledge is beyond textbook, gathered from years of first-hand observation and analysis. This is business human behavior on steroids.

While Mr. Feuer's business background is retail, TBD is applicable to any type of business, even non-profits. It is a primer for current and aspiring CEO's and Entrepreneurs. It should also be a required reading for business graduate students. The contents apply to marketing, human relations in organizations, leadership, and strategy--among others.

Mr. Feuer's last name is the German word for "Fire". After reading The Benevolent Dictator, a fire will be lit under you.

Now GOYA(Lesson #6)!
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