The Success Rate of Amish Entrepreneurs
By Steve Gillman
Who has some of the most successful businesses around? It
seems to be Amish entrepreneurs according to an article on CNN.com;
Amish businesses have an eye-popping 95% success rate at
staying open at least five years, according to author Erik Wesner's
new book, Success Made Simple: An Inside Look at Why Amish Businesses
In the US the average five-year survival rate for new businesses
is less than 50%, so for any group to have a 95% survival rate
is impressive. What makes them so successful? One key may be
that Amish business owners work in areas that they know well.
Furniture making companies are common among the Amish, for example,
with hand-crafted items being one of the biggest sellers. But
you won't see an Amish night club or car dealership.
Common cultural values, like cooperation and hard work, probably
play a role in Amish success as well. The article briefly profiles
Myron Miller, an Amish businessman in Millersburg, Ohio;
He started his company 15 years ago and now has two separate
entities: Four Corners Furniture, a retail furniture-making operation
open to the public, and Miller Bedroom Wholesale, which sells
directly to distributors. Miller employs 12 full-time workers
and two part-timers.
Not bad for someone with an eighth grade education, which
is where the Amish routinely end their formal schooling.
Early on Miller saw that the tourists who came to the area
made for a great market for quality handmade furniture. He expanded
hi business beyond the local area though, and now has his furniture
being sold by 75 dealers around the country. He works with others
in a "hardwood furniture guild" and his company has
no website. Miller is not ignorant of modern marketing and business
practices though. He reads business books and has attended seminars
by motivational speaker Zig Ziglar.
It is estimated that there are around 9,000 Amish businesses
in the US. Not all of these business people are entrepreneurs
however. many have small operations in or near home that employ
a few people at most, and are meant to simply provide a living.
Others are true Amish entrepreneurs, who seek to market and grow
Interestingly, those entrepreneurs who are Amish succeed despite
having more restrictions than other business people have. The
Wesner says that while the Amish have made allowances and
will, for instance, make products that they don't use themselves
-- like designer-label leather clothing or high-priced toys --
they won't touch any business "that may be seen as morally
questionable." Don't hold your breath waiting for an Amish-owned
casino, liquor store or debt collection service.
But modern touches are creeping into the business scene.
Some Amish retailers use electricity in their shops, more as
a nod to customers who expect air-conditioning and credit-card
machines. They're often fueled with alternative energy sources,
like solar and wind power.
Some Amish entrepreneurs are now using cell phones and fax
machines, but they tend to only do so as necessary. There is
no prohibition against such modern technologies in the Amish
culture, but there is a general teaching that life should be
kept as simple as possible, and that technologies should not
be used in a way that detracts from more important values.