Friday, January 4, 2008

Book Review: Rome Inc. Light and Fun Romp

Rome Inc.: The Rise and Fall of the First Multinational Corporation
Written by Stanley Bing, this was a light, fun, and electric romp through ancient Rome. The first half of this book did a good job comparing aspects of Roman life to modern business lessons. Most of this material was glossy and has been better covered elsewhere. The most interesting discussions from the early half of the book was a short discussion about the very first "labor" strike in recorded history and a few paragraphs about Hannibal.

However, things get really interesting about halfway through the book when Mr. Bing pauses to focus on a few key individuals. The chapter about counsul Caius Marius was brutally good about a mogul who just won't die. He described Marius as "a crazy, juiced up, bombastically angry mother, and he wouldn't stay down, no matter what."

Then we came to my favorite chapter, the one about the big toga on campus Julius Caesar. Julius Caesar was more than just a pre-modern day Mogul and CEO. He was an example of how to acquire an empire and how to lose it. The book describes some of Caesar's attributes such as:

  • Ambition - he set a higher standard for himself. He compared himself to the great Greek CEO tyrant Alexander.

  • Boldness - He did what he thought needed to be done, when he wanted to do it. He didn't feel that it was always necessary to follow what was done in the past.

  • Planning and Strategy - Caesar followed the old Sun Tzu dictum that you should not engage in battle until you are assured victory. In the rare situation where his army was outmatched, Caesar had no problem with calling it a day. How many others would continued to waste resources on projects that are destined for failure simply to save face.

  • Quotable - Caesar was much like President Reagan. He was a master communicator and he could turn a phrase that could encourage all of the land.

  • Later in the book, there is an interesting bit about Constantine and how he transformed Rome into something more recognizable as the Roman Catholic Church. The ability for Rome and corporations to adapt and transform may be their greatest strength in lasting the ages.

    If you're looking for a good time, this is a fine book to escape in for a few hours. Take it home and enjoy with a good wine or beer.

    I'd rate Rome Inc. three and a half stars out of five.
    Drop me a comment if you've read it and what you thought about it.
    -------Sincerely, Trevor Stasik

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