Building a multinational company

Kone´s Prince – The Colorful Life of Pekka Herlin - John Simon, Otava

Kone´s Prince: The Colorful Life of Pekka Herlin – John Simon

Book can be found both in Finnish and in English.

This book was in my reading list as soon as I hear it was published. Pekka Herlin is one of the most important persons in the Finnish business history. He was a chairman and CEO of Kone Oyj. Under his command Kone became a truly global company.

The Book is interesting venture of the life of this person. Unlike many other books of its kind, it doesn’t try to make him god. Actually, it is quite the contrary. It takes a stance to tell the truth of Pekka Herlin, exposing the truth of his failures as well as his achievements. In the end the reader is allowed to form his own opinion. This book has lot to give to the readers.

There were three things that especially caught my eye:

  • Book illustrates well the way international business was done in 1960-1990s. European Union and common currency makes you forget how different the situation was not so long ago. However similar problems can still occur when companies aim further than Europe. Studying cases like Kone, can prepare your company for the possible difficulties.
  • Pekka Herlin was avid reader who believed into continuously improving his knowledge. He found business advice in variety of books, for example The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli and War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy.
  • It is incredible how much one man can achieve. Pekka was a CEO and a Chairman of Kone Oyj, he was successful farmer in his farm at Thorsvik and he participated and won several sailing regattas.

The book has some problems with the way it has been structured. Instead of following person’s life in a time-line, the book takes a look at the life of Pekka Herlin from different angles. This makes the book a bit difficult to follow, not to mention that some bigger moments keep being repeated several times over and over. Still this is in my opinion only a minor problem.

I believe this book is an excellent case study for management and international business people alike. It really dives into the management of Kone Oy and shows the development from a local company to a truly multinational player in its field.

It is not for nothing that Finnish weekly business newspaper “Talouselämä” stated that this bibliography would set the standard for all the other bibliographies to come. Its incredible sales indicate that this would be the truth, as this book is now one of the most sold Finnish bibliographies of all time.

This book is indeed great bibliography. If you are interested about company development, management and fascinating business figures this book could be well worth taking a look at.

The book is available in Finnish from Bookplus. (If you buy the book trough this link bookstore pays small commission for the owner of this blog. This doesn’t cost you anything, but it supports the blog.) In English the book can be found from Akateeminen Kirjakauppa in Finland.