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Success Made Simple: An Inside Look at Why Amish Businesses Thrive

ISBN: 978-0-470-44237-1
256 pages
March 2010, Jossey-Bass
US $24.95 Add to Cart

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March 08, 2010
San Francisco, CA

An Inside Look at Why Amish Businesses Thrive

There are roughly 230,000 Amish in America, many of whom live in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Indiana. The Amish restrict use of modern gadgets and technology, and generally keep to themselves. Erik Wesner, a leading scholar on the Amish, is one of a few who have gained access to the Amish for an extended period of time. He set out to find out why Amish businesses have an astounding 95% success rate over a 5-year period. What he found was surprisingly simple. 

There are roughly 9,000 Amish owned and operated enterprises in North America. Contrary to popular belief, many of them are not mom-and-pop shops selling root beer and rugs, but have more than a dozen employees and annual sales above $5 million. They are in the business of furniture and construction, sell nationwide and overseas, and a few even have contracts with businesses as diverse as Kmart and Ralph Lauren. 

Having a 95% success rate is impressive in its own right, but compared with the fact that barely half of all start ups in modern America last five years, it’s downright extraordinary. Especially when you also consider: 

  • Novice entrepreneurs hold only eighth grade diplomas from one-room schools, not Ivy League MBAs. 
  • Amish cultural taboos restrict many types of technology. That includes telephones, laptops, credit cards, and pagers.  
  • Church regulations restrict advertising on radio and television or any ventures that go against their moral order.  

Amish “CEOs” therefore not only face the common challenges of any regular startups, but the cultural hurdles within their communities as well. In SUCCESS MADE SIMPLE, Wesner takes a closer look at what the Amish do differently. What can modern Americans learn from the Amish? The lessons of their success are rather simple. 

  • Fear and Faith. While Amish, with many mouths to feed and pressures like any other business owners, must face up to the fear of failure, their faith puts things back in perspective and keeps them grounded. The Amish lean on faith.  
  • Sorting out the difference between motives and ambitions before techniques and strategies. Having a vision and a purpose for a business—vision is concerned with the why before the how.   
  • People always come first; the profits will come.  
  • Amish businesses employ many in their family and in their community. It is extremely important for them to be straightforward, respectful, and honest with each other at work.  

Just because these ideas are simple doesn’t make them easy. SUCCESS MADE SIMPLE shows that these people, without common worldly credentials, have applied an uncanny savvy, a dose of common sense, an ethic of hard work, and enduring values to the world of business to quietly succeed and keep pace with the rest of the world.

More images are available upon request.