Intelligent Fanatics Project – A must read to learn from great business leaders

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I just completed reading the book titled Intelligent Fanatics Project written by Sean Iddings and Ian Cassel of Microcapclub website fame. Its an excellent book highlighting how great leaders built sustainable businesses of all time. Intelligent Fanatics a term coined by Charlie Munger is all about great CEOs who were fanatical about building businesses and consequently the “moat or competitive advantages”. This book stands out in the way authors have delved deep into the CEOs from different geographies and different centuries to arrive at the point that No matter which geography or what time period it is, the principles and characteristics of these CEOs tend to follow a model. It should be noted that Prof. Sanjay Bakshi was the first person to do a research on “Seven Intelligent Fanatics from India” which is another great project and I will publish about that in a different post.

The best story i liked was about the 3G partners from Brazil who went on to acquire the liquor giant Anheuser Busch. They built or acquired businesses they had no prior experiences in. They acquired or invested in just 1 business in a decade which exudes their long term mindset. There is another book called “Dream Big” written on 3G partners businesses was established led by Jorge Paulo Lemann who partnered with Marcel Telles and Beto Sicupira in establishment.  Jorge had partnered with Warren Buffet in some of the recent US acquisitions like Heinz.

The chapters on Les Schwab (Tire centers) and Chester Cadieux (Quick Trip/ QT) in which it highlights their relentless persuasion on growing employees to success is truly enticing to learn. Seems 140 retired QT employees were millionaires through the stock investment options which grew by 20% CAGR for 30 years.

Herb Kelleher who ran Southwest airlines overcoming multitude of challenges in an otherwise capital intensive industry is remarkable. Th remarkable story about how Herb Kelleher built the southwest happy hypothesis culture can also be read in another book called “The Southwest Airlines way”. Here again you can see that Ryanair replicated the Southwest airlines successful  model focused on profitability and egalitarian employee culture.

Authors have done a great job thorough analysis and also in the end presenting readers with a framework model to learn from.

What I learnt from the book: 

Its a great idea to learn, replicate business models which are successful. Sam Walton built Walmart , Sams Club, John Geisse built Target, Jim Senegal built Costco, Harry Cunningam opened kmart replicating how Sol Price (one of the intelligent fanatics in this book) built Fedmart and Priceclub. In the chapter about Sol Price, he was quoted saying – Many retailers look at an item and say “I`m selling this for ten bucks. How can I sell it for eleven?” We look at it and say ” How can we get into nine bucks?” And then “How can we get it to eight”. If you notice, Jeff Bezos of Amazon has the same view of giving value to customers whether its the experience or pricing.

Other key lessons are the long term focus these leaders had when building their businesses. These fanatics have the capacity to suffer short term pain for long term gain. All of them are great mentors to the next generation of entrepreneurs. Its nicely termed in the book as mentor effect

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