Book Review of Ben Franklin: America’s Original Entrepreneur

Review of Blaine McCormick’s BEN FRANKLIN: AMERICA’S ORIGINAL ENTREPRENEUR,  taken from his own words, adapted for today’s business reader.

By Blaine McCormick
Reviewed by: Patricia Schaefer
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“Sometime during the last 50 years most of us stopped reading The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin even though it’s one of the greatest success stories in American history.

“Contrary to perceptions people might have of him, Franklin fully expected his autobiography to be more useful to young businesspeople than to, say, budding diplomats or scientists. Franklin clearly wanted the book to be useful to those interested in a career in business, and it is in this spirit that I have modernized his original text.”

So says Blaine McCormick in his Introduction to Ben Franklin: America’s Original Entrepreneur, and McCormick does indeed achieve his objective in this splendid and spellbinding adaptation.

McCormick, Ph.D., and nationally recognized scholar on the business practices of Benjamin Franklin, seamlessly applies and joins together Franklin’s eighteenth century business principles to our twenty-first century business world. In addition to the written word, the book itself draws you in with its “weathered” pages and shadow image of Franklin himself gazing upon you from many of its pages.

A Business Know-How poll of a small number of modern day entrepreneurs found that nine out of ten have never read the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. Knowledge of Franklin — one of our greatest Americans — was often limited to “signer of the Declaration of Independence, the ‘face’ on the 100-dollar bill, and the discoverer of electricity with the famous key on the string of a kite.” In McCormick’s pages, Franklin’s actual accomplishments and beliefs leave one awed and inspired.

Although Franklin’s most celebrated achievements came after he had already established himself as a successful businessman, it is his early years of poverty, struggle and strife — and Franklin’s impressive self-made journey to success — that leap out of the pages and stir one’s soul.

Considering our recent corporate scandals rife with dishonesty, greed and negligible regard for the “little guy,” every business person today would do well to read about Franklin’s personally crafted self-improvement program which he claimed “contributed more to the quality and happiness of my life than anything else I tried.” For years, he kept a daily record of his success and failure in developing habits of 13 moral virtues.

According to McCormick’s Franklin, “Wrongdoing is not harmful to yourself and others because it’s forbidden; it’s forbidden because it’s harmful. As such, it’s in everybody’s best interest to live a virtuous life if they want to be happy and successful. This is the way the world works. The young people reading this should take special note: nothing will make a person’s fortune like simple goodness and honesty.”

Surely, certain Enron executives would have benefited had they heeded this advice.

Franklin himself was not without faults, but masterfully used his mistakes and failings — particularly in his younger years – as a true learning tool and stepping stone to greatness. At the age of ten, young Franklin led a group of friends in the building of a fishing pier along with the pilfering of a considerable amount of stones to build their pier. Their wrongdoing was soon discovered and, through the wise and convincing words of his father, Franklin cemented his belief in the necessity for honesty in all endeavors.

Possessing an affinity for universal truths and wisdom-guided beliefs, Franklin — at the age of 26 — created the character and witty sayings of “Poor Richard” Saunders in his Poor Richard Almanacks. McCormick cleverly sprinkles throughout the margins of his book many of the still-famous sayings and proverbs of Franklin’s Poor Richard; things like, “Eat to live, and not live to eat” and “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”

It is no accident that Benjamin Franklin is on the top of virtually every list of any poll showing this country’s greatest Americans. After reading “Franklin’s autobiography for modern times,” it becomes evident that this great statesman, inventor, scientist, printer, musician, economist and philosopher possessed a unique brand of intelligence that resonates and relates to the common man.

Every business student, every business owner, every corporate giant would be well served to read and explore the pages of Ben Franklin: America’s Original Entrepreneur. Here they will witness — in Franklin’s challenging struggle from poverty to the fulfillment of the “American dream” — that truth, authenticity and integrity in all business dealings are the foundations to real success.

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