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The Ten Commandments for Business Failure Hardcover – Bargain Price, July 24, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A former president of the Coca-Cola Company, Keough has assembled an enviable Rolodex in his 81 years, and his book counts Bill Gates, Jack Welch and Warren Buffett among its champions. His lessons draw upon his long and varied career—from his early days as a philosophy major to his first job as a TV sports announcer and employment at Butternut Coffee and Coca-Cola—and comprise a list of tongue-in-cheek rules guaranteed to make the follower a true loser in business: from quit taking risks and be inflexible to don't take time to think and be afraid of the future. Keough supports his commandments with stories of business mistakes and failures, both his own—the roll-out of New Coke, for example—and those of others—namely, Schlitz beer and IBM. While the author's clear and encouraging tone and renown within the business community will likely garner his effort publicity, the unoriginality of the material—all standard business-book fare simply phrased in the negative—keeps this well-meaning book from standing out or offering original advice to business leaders in the market for a little self-improvement. (Aug.) ""
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved."

From Booklist

Keough, a distinguished corporate executive, offers a perspective on failure that is especially applicable to leaders who have attained some degree of success. With a foreword by his longtime friend and associate Warren Buffett, the renowned investor, the author presents a chapter on each of his 10 commandments for failure and adds a bonus chapter about how losing passion for work and for life is a certain route to disaster. His failure commandments include stop taking risks; be inflexible; isolate yourself; assume infallibility; play the game close to the foul line (which offers thoughtful commentary on ethics); don’t take time to think; put all your faith in outside consultants; love your bureaucracy; send mixed messages; and be afraid of the future. Keough’s book is rich with examples of failure, and he gives advice on how to recover from mistakes while learning from them and moving ahead. This is an excellent book with valuable insight for corporate executives and those aspiring to corporate leadership. --Mary Whaley

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Portfolio (July 24, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591842344
  • ASIN: B001LF4AS6
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.8 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #926,580 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
One of the fantasy dinners I occasionally think about would include several CEOs and one of them would definitely be Donald Keough. I tracked his career at Coca-Cola and then his association with Allen & Company as its chairman of the board. Regrettably, I never had the chance to meet him (much less dine with him) but was not surprised by the intelligence and sensitivity as well as circumspection that are revealed in his book. Keough is principled but he also possesses what Ernest Hemingway once characterized as "a built-in, shock-proof crap detector." He confirms a suspicion I have had for years: there are many different paths to business success but all business failures share common causes. Keough discusses ten of them, identifying each (with tongue somewhat in cheek) as a "commandment." He candidly acknowledges that throughout his career, he has broken (or at least bent) several of them when making a bad or at least ill-advised decision, notably the one he and former Coca-Cola CEO Roberto Goizueta made involving New Coke. He draws heavily upon his years at that company (1981-1993), citing real-world examples of business failure at a wide variety of companies, some of them otherwise quite successful and highly reputable.

No good purpose would be served if I merely listed the ten "commandments." Keough devotes a separate chapter to each and his insights are best revealed in context. However, I will provide a representative selection of brief excerpts to indicate the thrust and flavor of Keough's narrative, adding a comment or two of my own.

Excerpt: "A company doesn't fail to do anything.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Viriya Taecharungroj on May 7, 2009
Format: Hardcover
"While no company can ever embrace all of the world and all of mankind, Coca-Cola comes about as close as any."

"The Ten Commandment for Business Failure" by Donald R. Keough, a former president of the Coca-Cola company, is a small book that, if you follow the instructions, will guide you to be a very successful loser. If you do not want to be one, this book is a must read and take those lessons as a cautionary tale.

Coca-Cola is one of the most recognisable brands on the planet but it was still vulnerable to failures. In this book, Keough tells you stories of Coca-Cola, among other companies, on how it became successful and how it failed at times. When you read the words "failure" and "Coca-Cola", I bet the word "New Coke" sprang to your mind. Despite all the stories from any business book or textbook, in this book, you will have a chance to know it from the former president of Coca-Cola himself.


Commandment One: Quit Taking Risks
"It's reasonable to think that because when you achieve something, even very little, there is the great temptation to quit taking risks." Apart from telling you the reason that quit taking risk is a sure way to failure, Keough wrote briefly about Xerox and how they quited taking risk.

Commandment Two: Be Inflexible
Keough started this chapter with a story of Coca-Cola bottlers in 1940s-1950s and how they almost brought the company down because of the inflexible practice. This chapter also has the examples of IBM and Ford. All in all, "when the conditions around you change, remain inflexible. Keep on keeping on. Stand firm, You will fail.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Bill Gossett on August 12, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Anyone reading Donald Keough's book would do well to first review books like How to Measure Anything: Finding the Value of "Intangibles" in Business and The Halo Effect: ... and the Eight Other Business Delusions That Deceive Managers just to keep things in perspective. Both of these authors explain why would should temper "expert opinion" even when it's presented as entertainingly as in Keough's book.

As someone who has been reading case studies and "the world as I see it" books by top executives for years, I find that many of the examples Keough lists are very familiar. Of course, the New Coke example has been around since I was in business school but, since he was there, Keough gets a special "insider's" pass and does provide some useful new insight. The other cases are also a little worn, but I don't think I've every been this entertained reading those cases.

The Ten Commandments themselves are also individually familiar. Does an exhortation to keep one's passion and to remember to take risks really ring that profound? No, but, come to think of it, I haven't found them all in one place nor do I think I found them as engaging as you will find in this book.

Keough will also get extra credit for a convincing appeal to authority. Authors which much more mediocre careers have written books with similar observations but Keough comes off as knowing what he is talking about - and still manages some self-deprecating humor.

This was a quick and delightful read and I found myself laughing out loud, pointing out paragraphs in the book to my friends, and email quotes from the book. I plan to anonymously deliver this book to a couple of people who need it most (they may not get the joke, but I will).
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