Funny and irreverent are two of the terms that best describe the business adventures of actor Paul Newman and author A.E. Hotchner. With Newman's obsession with the perfect salad dressing as the goal, the pair decided to bottle and sell his savory concoction and went into business in 1978 with no marketing strategy and no business plan. They chronicle their surprising success in Shameless Exploitation in Pursuit of the Common Good.

Insisting on doing things their own esoteric way, Newman and Hotchner delighted in defying the so-called experts. They refused to compromise their commitment to all-natural ingredients and maintained a hands-on approach to taste-testing every food sample. The salad-dressing kings soon expanded their empire to spaghetti sauce, popcorn, lemonade and salsa. Only the ice cream flopped. The "anti-management" lessons abound: trust your instincts, don't leave your sense of humor at home and take risks. But the real message is one of altruism. Every December 31, the company gives away all of its profits, so far distributing more than $150 million. Before Newman and Hotchner took the leap, no celebrity had been successful in the food business (though many had tried). The famous duo rewrote the book, and their success story proves to be a tasty treat for all readers.

Stephanie Swilley is studying for her M.B.A. at Vanderbilt University's Owen School of Management.

 

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