The...stories in Mr. O’Toole’s admiring but unflinching survey, plucked from England and America over the past two centuries, often inspire, even if few of the successes endured ... The good news is that practicing the golden rule has generally been a winning business strategy. The converse has also been true ... Mr. O’Toole is careful not to claim too much. He notes that the commitment to ideals has often lapsed after the founder departed or the family ownership changed ... But even if idealism is transient, Mr. O’Toole has made a strong case that enlightened stewardship is in the interest of stockholders. In setting out to write a brief for social responsibility, he has delivered some managerial wisdom.
...not a hagiography lauding the careers of these 'enlightened capitalists' ... but a cautionary look at how so many of their sustainable practices were cut short ... At a time when more and more consumers expect business to benefit the greater good, the book is timely. It asks big questions like whether socially virtuous business tactics are actually compatible with shareholder capitalism, and, as he writes in the preface, what may matter most: Whether in the 'collective judgment of corporate executives,' executives actually 'believe it is possible—or sensible—to try to do good as they seek to do well.'
... a timely work ... While [O’Toole's] book is not an easy read — he has never met a detail he doesn’t like — it offers important insight, especially for anyone who thinks the kind of change we seem to want will be easy.
...enormous but accessible ... Overall, the re-telling—reviving, really—of so many corporate lives acts as a tonic for any reader tired of hearing about the exciting world and devilish dominance of Big Tech. O’Toole takes us back to explore the work and legacies of the behemoths of the manufacturing past, many of them almost forgotten. The primary audience for the book is likely to be business school students and management specialists, although the former group will find a depressingly large number of examples of men with MBAs who were brought into enlightened companies when the original visionary leader had been sidelined or driven out ... These, and more modern company set-ups, including for-profit social enterprises, seem to offer hope for those in search of models of kinder capitalism that can outlast their founders’ vision. But they remain outside the mainstream.
This book includes stories of companies big and small, famous and not so famous, producing products ranging from ice cream to life-saving drugs. Some will find this approach to be unsatisfying because the book does not establish an analytic framework, and it leaves it to the reader to connect the dots between stories ... O’Toole seems to miss a crucial, threshold issue here. Is a company fundamentally or inherently ethical or moral if it produces a high-quality product at the best possible price? ... O’Toole says the purpose of his book is to offer information that 'inspires and guides' the forthcoming class of corporate leaders. His book surely contributes to his stated purpose.
O’Toole...gives background and context to the efforts of those who have attempted to challenge one of business’s oldest axioms that it is 'hard to be good' ... O’Toole writes that his method in performing this social review is simple storytelling, and it works; the book serves as an informative road map for leaders who dare to break the mold. A tapestry of remarkable characters, high drama, and entertaining story arcs for leaders of businesses large and small.
O’Toole...makes a meticulous and captivating study of business leaders throughout history ... This comprehensive and thoughtful study of the often troubled relationship between business and benevolence will provide readers unexpected food for thought.