In 2009, an academic report by Elizabethtown College found that failure rates of businesses within several Amish settlements ranged from 2.6% and 4.2%. Interviews with loan officers, accountants and industry professions in other Amish regions yielded additional anecdotal evidence of closure rates significantly south of 10%.
When you consider the average five-year survival rate in most western developed countries like Australia and North America, which tend to experience five-year failure rates between 50% and 80%, it’s hard to not arrive at the question, ‘What can other entrepreneurs learn from the Amish?’
Author Erik Wesner asks that very question in his book, Success Made Simple: An Inside Look at Why Amish Businesses Thrive. He believes that the answer lies in the Amish culture, which emphasises “qualities like hard work and cooperation.”
Here are some of the other principles for success outlined in the book:
Play to your strengths: The Amish are known for producing products with ‘rustic’ charm. You wouldn’t trust an Amish mobile telephone salesman but you might just trust an Amish label featuring the words ‘organic’. Another key advantage is that Amish business owners tend to stick with what they know. Coincidentally, this is also the mantra of Warren Buffet.
Never stop learning: The Amish might only attend school until eighth grade but this can also be regarded as a benefit in disguise, promoting lateral thinking. There is nothing in Amish law that prohibits business owners from reading the latest Seth Godin or Jim Collins bestseller and, according to Wesner, the Amish are prolific readers.
Be passionate about what you do: A group known for being unfailingly polite and modest, the Amish will likely pin praise on anyone else but themselves… such as God. It stands to reason that no business without a clear purpose will ever succeed. Purpose is something that the Amish have in spades.
Success in the Amish business world is hardly surprising when you consider that networking through LinkedIn might not have the same community-building effect as teaming up with neighbors to build, say, a barn. And we’re sure that telling someone you ‘like’ their work will always be far more effective when told to their face rather to than their Facebook.