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Shelf Life: How an Unlikely Entrepreneur Turned $500 into $65 Million in the Grocery Industry Hardcover – December 12, 2005
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From the Inside Flap
Shelf Life is the unforgettable story of A.J. Scribante, who founded MAJERS, a revolutionary company whose cutting-edge information and marketing systems helped manufacturers and grocers move their products through American supermarket shelves. Before being sold to the A.C. Nielsen division of Dun and Bradstreet Corporation for $65 million in December 1986, MAJERS had six hundred employees, seven offices, and three hundred-fifty clients. But A.J. Scribantes success story had very humble roots. Growing up in a succession of small Midwestern towns, he served in the navy, graduated from Kansas State University, and moved to Omaha, Nebraska, where as a young chemical salesman for Union Carbide he was soon distracted by a need for a lifes mission, manifested by a desire to fill shelves. He began with a process for freezing ice cream with liquid nitrogen (one of the chemicals he was selling). But his first entrepreneurial enterprise only got him fired. So he struck out on his own, selling almost everything that crossed his path before finding what he was certain would be his goldmine: bleach. Seeking to discover how to best market his Brite*Eyes bleach in various markets, Scribante began clipping grocery store ads from newspaper around the Midwest, and, in a flash of entrepreneurial inspirationwhich practically everyone around him took as a crazy ideabegan compiling the ads in a booklet to show fellow suppliers, grocers, and manufacturers the price differences for products in far-flung markets. The booklet of ads evolved into MAJERS, a full service computerized marketing information company whose clients included Pepsi, Coca-Cola, General Foods, and Pillsbury.
About the Author
A.J. Scribante lives with his wife Sunny in Sanibel Island, Florida, and Snowmass, Colorado.
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I once read another similar book, "Who Says Elephants Can't Dance" by Louis Gerstner. In this book Lou tries to justify his raping and pillaging of a once great IBM, eventually pulling out more wealth (legally) than the crooks of Enron combined. All in the name of saving the company, but in reality, leaving just a shell of the once great company behind him. Will this be another "justify what I did" book. Why would a multi millionaire write a book? Not for the money.
Having invested a large portion of my career at IBM, it was interesting that AJ used IBM (The Watson one) as a model for his own company. Ah, the golden days between WW2 and desktop computers. Great people, great companies. Those were the days, and as AJ would eventually learn, those days left us all in the mid 80s.
This book is a terrific read, and indeed, should be read by anyone just starting out, as there are many valuable lessons to be learned from AJ. The book reads like you are sitting down with a mentor over dinner or drinks, and each chapter provides at least one item you want to hilite as your lesson for the day. The first is that how you are brought up makes a difference. This should be read by anyone about to raise a family. It might just reduce the chance you grow a future basement living welfare muncher rather than a self starter with a hunger for success. For AJ, a lifelong drive to reach his goals and and unbridled persistence allowed that to happen. The goals were met, but at what cost? There is nary a mention of anything but his company Majers. No hobbies, interests, family. Did he ever go boating, or fishing? It doesn't seem like it. What was the money for anyway? Well, it seemed to be for the sake of money. Reach the goal. He did that and now has a wonderful place on the beach. In the end, I was looking for the crime, but it seems that the crime was against him and all the people he brought along. His big big mistake as a grand finale when he sold the company, and did not realize what was going to happen to his life's work, and all his dedicated employees. So sitting in that big beach mansion, I guess he felt he had to let everyone know how that happened, thus this book was written. And indeed, the copy I got for 1 cent plus $3.99 shipping cost had a signed complimentary copy card and a personal note from AJ to one of his valued employees. Looks like it has been donated to Goodwill or something. Strangely enough, working for IBM, a company that was a key factor in AJ success, I once had a job where we were going to collect massive amounts of grocery store marketing data and feed that into an expert system to provide modeling information for various promotions. This was in the 90s, long after AJ sold Majers. It was a complete bust. Non-mainframe computers were to be used, and in short, there was no chance of pulling this off with the desktop technology of the day. AJ was able to pull this off decades before that by inventing systems that worked, hiring the right people, taking advise from others, and integrated the technology of the day as it evolved. But mostly, by never saying never. But eventually, the technology changes make it apparent that his system would have to change to continue, and the right move, for AJ. maybe not knowing exactly why, was to throw in the towel. So AJ, If you are still around, thanks for the read. I enjoyed sitting down with you, for the friendly chat and great advise, and seeing once again how one thing leads to another. What a strange coincidence I stumbled upon you, and found how our paths have indirectly crossed over the years. I regret not finding out if you reached your non-Majers goals, as I know not what they are. And I wonder if 65 Milliion dollars was able to buy them all. So AJ, 1 star off for that.
Net, net -- selecting talented people is the key to building a dynamic company.
A.J. Scribante story is an example of what makes our country great. Loyalty to ones self, family, company and country -- hard work and a determation to succeed spells success.