Business Adventures: 12 Classic Tales from the World of Wall Street by John Brooks is the last investing/ business/ personal finance book that I set out to read in my 2021 personal finance goals.
It is considered the best business book by Warren Buffett and he had recommended it highly to Bill Gates (who also says in Gates Notes that it’s one of the best business books he’s ever read), so I thought I should read it. If Bill Gates and Warren Buffett both think highly fondly of this book then it’s a no brainer to try and read it.
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John Brooks was a financial writer for The New Yorker magazine and Business Adventures is one of the most popular books he has written.
Business Adventures Review
Have you heard of the Ford Edsel? It was a big $350 million regret created by the Ford Motor Company. This is just one of the stories from Business Adventures, with painstaking detail on exactly how Ford let the Edsel spending get carried away.
It is a detailed dissection of exactly what went wrong and possibly how the company can turn the ship around or fix the problem (or if it was too late to do so). Ford was out of tune and out of touch with what the customer wanted, and stubbornly went ahead anyway (because of ego? Because they could?) and as a result, there was a lot of money spent for only a few cars sold.
Ford only sold around 110,000 Edsels over three years compared to what the had forecasted of 200,000 Edsels per year. For more on the failure of the Edsel, you can check out this article here.
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Business Adventures was a great perusal down business history lane, especially for someone like me without a business background. I did not know that there was a 1962 Flash Crash, where the stock market dropped by $20 billion over the course of three days.
This reminds me of the March 2020 crash (though the recovery took a little longer than three days). Little did we know that the pandemic stock market would go to new highs in such a short amount of time.
Another example was Xerox. Xerox skyrocketed to success but competitors quickly encroached on the silver lining success and almost eliminated them as a business.
I had no idea that back when the Xerox machine was first introduced, they needed an individual (unfortunately usually a woman) who had a job to just monitor and clean the Xerox machine.
They then had issues where people started photocopying pages with the Xerox machine and there were copyright concerns.
What I Liked About Business Adventures
The stories are captivating, a lot of them are so detailed, and while you read it you feel sad that the ‘train wreck’ will happen nonetheless.
I liked that the stories were classic and yet they felt updated and something that would happen easily in current day life… Even though they are from decades ago, it feels almost as if history tends to repeat itself and the lessons learned in each story would be relevant today.
Business adventures focuses on the human side of the business, the emotions, irrational behaviour and somewhat unpredictable nature of humans. And yet it is predictable because human nature is predictable.
The psychology of business is something that is very much underrated.
What I Didn’t Like About Business Adventures
The writing style was difficult to read. It’s just not an easy read.
However, I liked that each chapter was pretty much unrelated to each other so I could follow along more easily (or start fresh with a different business story) even if it felt a bit fragmented.
Most of the stories originate from the 1950’s and 1960’s. They were so detailed that I must admit I got lost in some of them. My brain must not be operating at genius level like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates to appreciate the intricacies of the book.
All in all, there were some interesting stories within the book and some great business lessons learned.
Unless we’re careful, history tends to repeat itself.
Have you read Business Adventures by John Brooks?
What are your thoughts on this book?
GYM is a 30 something millennial interested in achieving financial freedom through disciplined saving, dividend and ETF investing, and living a minimalist lifestyle. Before you go, check out my recommendations page of financial tools I use to save and invest money. Don’t forget to subscribe for blog updates, a free dividend yield spreadsheet, and the free Young Money Bootcamp eCourse.