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Published in:
Inc. Magazine, October 2008, pg 20 article "What Books Have Inspired You?"
 
My original submission follows.  Please see the original Inc. magazine article for the actual printed version.
 
 

Dear Ms. Berentson:
 
In response to your editorial in Inc Magazine August 2008 issue I offer:
 
My recommendation as an inspiring book is Phule’s Company by Robert Asprin (ISBN 0-441-66251-X, published July 1990 An Ace Book)
 
Though this book is a comedy Sci-Fi book telling about a fledgling military commander this book could, and probably should be, a business training manual for current and rising business owners and supervisors (and I do intend to use it that way in my business as I grow).
 
The things I found intriguing about this book were how the main character, Willard Phule (aka Captain Jester and prior aka Lieutenant Scaramouche [sic pg 8]) showed respect for his team of ‘employees’ in the following ways:
 
He empowered them
He trained them extensively
He respected them
He got to know them and therefore their strengths and weaknesses
He assigned them to jobs to take advantage of said strengths and weaknesses
He encouraged teamwork
By matching different people with their strengths to compliment the other’s weaknesses built two separate weak people into one strong unit
He encouraged them to think outside of the box
He backed them in times of trouble
 
Willard Phule, along with his personal assistant Beeker, also took the time to organize properly and research the projects they were about to embark on.  This forethought and planning was crucial to their successes and moving them forward in their business endeavors.
 
Willard Phule was also very good on the human relations aspect of his assignment.  To wit, in a meeting with his officers:
 
- - - - - (quote)
“Proceeding on that basis, the one I personally have the biggest problem getting a fix on is one of the wimps. She has--
“One of the what?”
The words burst from Phule’s lips before he actually had time to think. Both the lieutenants started visibly, and the commander mentally cursed himself. So much for a relaxed meeting.
“The . . the wimps, sir. That’s how Brandy refers to them, anyway. When we were talking, she separated the problem Legionnaires into two groups: the wimps and the hard cases.”
“I see.”
The commander seesawed mentally for a few moments as the lieutenants watched him in silence. Finally he shook his head and sighed.
“It’s tempting to let it go to keep the meeting relaxed,” he said, “and I do want you both to feel comfortable speaking freely. You touched a nerve, though, Rembrandt, and I can’t just ignore it. I don’t want any of the company’s leadership, officer or noncom, to fall into the habit of referring to the company or any subgroup in it by derogatory terms. It tends to influence our own views and attitudes, and even if we manage to resist that trap ourselves, anyone overhearing us will think, with some justification, that we hold the Legionnaires in contempt. I want you—both of you—to actively resist the temptation of forming that habit and to work at breaking whatever habits along those lines you’ve gotten into. Everyone in the company deserves our respect, and if we have trouble giving it, it’s because we haven’t studied them long enough, not because there’s something wrong with them. Agreed?”
The lieutenants nodded slowly.
“Good.
- - - - - (end quote)
(Phule’s Company, Robert Asprin, pg 90)
 
 
And near the end of the book in a bout with a competitor, Phule chooses not to ‘best’ his adversary, but to leave him with dignity and ultimately end up combining their forces and each company’s strengths to move forward as more of a joint venture.  This could be a useful technique in our small business world also – rather than force our competitor to the mat, find that we could benefit from our combined strengths by joining forces.
 
So, that is my choice for an inspiring book.  I’ve often wondered if Robert Asprin actually meant this book to be a business training manual and/or if he drew his plot line from his prior working experiences.  I, myself, have actually purchased this book about 4 times over the years now because when I lend it out, I never get it back!
 

 
 
 
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