6 business lessons from Jeffery Archer's 'As The Crow Flies'
17th November 2015

As a Crow Flies

I love fiction with business as the central theme. I love to read of a rags to riches story as the protagonist overcomes obstacles to attain a life of riches and wealth. 'As The Crow Flies' by Jeffery Archer is just such a book. I really don't know why it has taken me so long to actually read the book, since it was written years ago but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Aside from the drama, sex, lies and deception which makes the entire book readable there were a few interesting business lessons in the book as well. These lessons, I assume, have been taken by the author from common wisdom on success and packaged neatly into the central story.

As the central character journeys from a street salesman to empire builder, here are a few things that make his success possible.

Learn key skills early on and leverage them properly.

In the book, the protagonist, Charlie Trumper, learns his craft at the knee of his grandfather. He learns the art of salesmanship, inventory management, delegation and purchasing on the streets of London. He uses those hard learned skills through out his life, whether dealing with a commoner or a big banker. Any shop that he takes over, no matter how bad, eventually starts turning over a profit, due to the principles of good management.

Have a punishing work ethic.

He gets up at 4:00 am every morning and is in his shops by 4:30. He is the first to arrive and last to leave, no matter how senior he gets. His restless energy permeates the enterprise and motivates the staff to work just as hard. Due to his humble origins, there is not sense of entitlement here, just hard work. When combined with great skills it makes for a recipe for success.

Be honest and don't tolerate any cutting corners.

Throughout the book, Charlie Trumper's stores are known for their quality of products and honesty. This is not a book where the protagonist bribes, finagles or 'jugaads' his way to the top. Yes, he makes a decent profit on his sales but central to everything is an integrity that does not allow customers to be ripped off. The book highlights what reputation can mean for any business person.

Surround yourselves with partners who contribute and learn from them.

Success is seldom attained by oneself. Throughout the book, key people help the Trumpers go from one level to the next. From the angel investor to the real estate brokers and bankers. A key part of the story is when Mrs.Trumper recognizes the potential in an old army colonel and recruits him to be their representative. A decision which proves itself to be brilliant. For the Trumpers, everyone and everything is a learning opportunity and they leverage the intellectual capital brilliantly.

Grudges and bad blood can cost you a lot in the long term

What makes the story interesting and the plot devious, is the ongoing feud between the Trenthams and the Trumpers. The feud leads to destructive behaviour, petty rivalry and eventually suicides. At the end no one wins from all this bad blood. At the end the cost to the business and the person is not acceptable. Although the two sides in the book never mend fences, it does show how a grudge taken too far can cost everyone. Its a lesson for all our hotshot young CEOs and VCs to learn.

Have a vision and move steadily in that direction.

There is a small bench in front of the Trumper stores building where Charlie Trumper sits and looks at his enterprise. Here he starts to visualize what his business could be, would be. Its a perfect example of visioning where your first create the blueprint in the mind and then see it happen in the real world. Throughout the book Charlie Trumper never wavers from his vision, even in the face of tremendous odds.

In conclusion

Although the book does suffer from a case of narrative fallacy, where a lot is glossed over in favour of the story, it still is a wonderful read for all those in business. After all a rags to riches story never fails to inspire. Worth a read.

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