Book Review: How Stella Saved The Farm

By Chris Wendel

3.5 stars out of 5

2013 – Hardcover $19.99, Kindle $$9.99

It's not often that I'm able to write about farm animals that run a fictional company. At first glance, it's easy to be pessimistic about the potential of the fable-esque "How Stella Saved the Farm." However, this recently released 160-page novella is worth the read.

Stella is a sheep who returns to the family farm after a post-college vacation in Peru. Windsor Farm is the first farm in the world ever to be run by animals.

Stella's mother, Deidre, has just been put in charge of the farm's operations. The accountant (a turkey) tells her that success will not only require hard work from the farm's animal employees, but also innovative thinking in order to thrive.

Deidre the sheep navigates through the many challenges, including:

– Succession planning

– A jilted employee who doesn't get the

promotion

– Unmotivated employees that like to

complain

– Demoralizing employee gossip

– The hazards of introducing a new

product line

– Changing company culture

– Conflicts between company

departments

– The importance of understanding

financial reports

The book does a good job showing how Deidre is able to manage by using her own guile, but also being aware enough to use the expertise within the farm organization. She is also good at showing empathy for the animal employees.

As the farm evolves, the book shows organizational charts that change as well. The flowcharts become a critical part of demonstrating how the farm manages both a new management regime and adding a new alpaca division that will produce a profitable line of high-end wool.

The authors (Govindarajan, a global leadership professor and Trimble, a bestselling author) originally wrote a more traditional, comprehensive (and larger) book version of the same concepts called "The Other Side of Innovation: Solving the Execution Challenge."

"How Stella Saved the Farm" is an interesting take on its traditional predecessor; it's easy to see why the authors opted for the shorter Charlotte's Web-type of narrative to build a larger audience. This has allowed the book to be an interesting case study, which serves as a catalyst for broader, company-wide participation.

All in all, the book is a good way to facilitate internal discussions that everyone within an organization can be part of.

I have never been a big fan of business books presented in fable form. However, How Stella Saved the Farm never pretends to be more than what it actually is: A short and interesting story that describes strategies for solving many of the problems today's organizations encounter on the road to survival and success.

Bottom Line: "How Stella Saved the Farm" is a short, easy-to-read book that effectively shows the trials of running a company. The book is simple but effective, although one has to accept that the characters are farm animals with clich├ęd roles.

Regardless, if you're looking for a book that everyone in your organization can read and then discuss together, then this one is a good choice.

Chris Wendel is a consultant and commercial lender with Northern Initiatives in Traverse City. Marquette-based Northern Initiatives is a private, non-profit community development corporation that provides entrepreneurs with access to capital, information, and new markets.

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