Charles G. Koch is the most important businessman you have never heard of.
For that matter, Koch is likely to prove to be the most significant figure in American business in our lifetimes, and that is saying a lot.
Koch is not the wealthiest man alive—Bill Gates still has that title locked up—but his business achievements are certainly the most remarkable. While Gates has amassed his fortune by being the best businessman in an emerging and vital industry, Koch has built the world’s largest private company ($30 billion or so in value) in bread and butter industries such as oil refining, animal feed, and paper products where the competition is fierce and product substitution is easy.
Under Charles Koch’s leadership, the family business (appropriately named Koch Industries) has increased in value at a steady clip—ten times faster than the Standard and Poor’s 500. In Good to Great (another outstanding business book) Jim Collins used a benchmark of growing three times faster than the Market as the mark of a great company.
Koch has bested that growth rate by about 300%. Not bad.
But what makes Charles G. Koch the most important figure in American business today, or perhaps ever, is not the uniqueness of his achievements at all; it is the fact that Koch argues, mostly successfully, that his achievements are not a fluke at all, or even due to some special genius on his part. Instead Koch argues that his secret, if you could call it that, is that he has followed a Science of Success.
And better yet, Koch has written one of the definitive books on business in order to share his insights with the next generation. The Science of Success ((c) Koch Industries, 2007: John Wiley & Sons) will quickly become must reading for MBA students and others interested in making a go of it in business.
Readers looking for an easy-to-follow recipe for success will be disappointed, however. Success may have a science, but it still doesn’t have the easy-to-follow recipe that every self-help book reader is looking for. Instead Koch shares with his readers the basic principles of what works and why, drawing heavily upon the insights of great thinkers such as Thomas Hobbes, Michel Polanyi, F. A. Hayak, Ludwig Von Mises, Peter Drucker—well, you get the idea: anyone and everyone who has had any insight into the human condition and what makes us tick.
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