Back in 1991, Bill Gates asked fellow billionaire Warren Buffett to recommend his favorite book about business. Without missing a beat, Warren replied "Business Adventures" by John Brooks. This was surprising to Bill, who thought Warren would respond with something like Adam Smith's "The Wealth of Nations" or Dale Carnegie's "How To Win Friends And Influence People". Even more surprising was the fact that Bill, who was a voracious reader, had never even heard of "Business Adventures" or the author John Brooks. Unfortunately the book had been out print for several decades by the time this early Gates/Buffett encounter occurred. So Warren generously offered to loan Bill his own personal copy. Spoiler alert! Bill never sent it back.
More than 20 years after that conversation, and 40 years after the "Business Adventures" was first published, Bill and Warren still consider it to be the best business book they've ever read.
According to Mr. Gates: "Brooks's work is a great reminder that the rules for running a strong business and creating value haven't changed. For one thing, there's an essential human factor in every business endeavor. It doesn't matter if you have a perfect product, production plan, and marketing pitch; you'll still need the right people to lead and implement those plans. That is a lesson you learn quickly in business, and I've been reminded of it at every step of my career, first at Microsoft and now at the foundation. Which people are you going to back? Do their roles fit their abilities? Do they have both the IQ and EQ to succeed? Warren is famous for this approach at Berkshire Hathaway, where he buys great businesses run by wonderful managers and then "gets out of the way."
So if the book is out of print, where can you read it??? I have good news!!!! For a while, the only copies you could buy anywhere were used and generally sold for around $2000 on sites like eBay or Amazon. But, it was recently re-released on paperback with an updated intro from Moneyball/Liar's Poker/The Blind Side writer Michael Lewis. You can buy a copy on Amazon right now for around $13. Buy a few copies and give them out as Christmas gifts!
And here's a video Bill posted that describes why he and Warren love this book so much: