Wayne Lilley’s enthralling new book, Magna Cum Laude: How Frank Stronach Became Canada’s Best-Paid Man, is both a telling and interesting work that sheds a unique perspective on one of the world’s most controversial big business men. Frank Stronach has become known around the world for many things, which is what this book takes the time to touch on. While many millionaires might be known for their story of humble beginnings and a few have made news headlines while moving their business into the next level, few have done all of these things with as much style as Stronach. This is the basis for the book that Lilley writes, but he takes it to the next level. The author uses his own unique style as well as his unmatched experience in business journalism to frame the story of Frank Stronach in a way that is both entertaining and enlightening.

     In order to grade the author’s job at telling this story, one has to understand the monumental challenge that he undertook by trying to tell the story of Frank Stronach. The Canadian businessman is not a typical story and his life is not one that can easily be surmised in a simple biography. In fact, because of his family’s actions, his public persona, and how controversial he is, the author had the challenge of both digging to the bottom of his story and conveying that story in as fair a manner as possible. Through this work, fairness is one thing that can be evaluated. In terms of how fair the author was, it could be said that he was quite diligent and fair. In the case of Frank Stronach, there is lots of information out there and misinformation, as well. Individuals think that they know the story of Stronach well, even though they might not have an idea about his background or more importantly, his motivations. This is what the author tried to get to the bottom of. Because Lilley is one of the most respected individuals in the world of business reporting, he developed an impressive number of contacts that could help him dig to the bottom of the Stronach story. This contributed to the fairness of this book, which ultimately paints the businessman in a positive, yet misunderstood light. It would have been extremely easy for the author to take the lazy root and simply investigate some of the negative aspects of Stronach’s story, but he was able to uniquely balance all of the perspectives on the man and bring them together in a work that gives readers a fair representation of the man in question.

     One of the major challenges for the author of this book was to both tell the story and keep the book as entertaining as possible. For biography writers, this is really the measuring stick for how popular and successful a book will end up being. Those authors who are able to tell both an accurate and compelling story end up putting out a work that is both fair and interesting to readers. In this case, the life story of Frank Stronach made things extremely easy for the author. With many figures in business, the story is the same one over and over again. Most of these people come from well-doing families, get the correct education, and work themselves up through the appropriate channels and ladders in order to reach business success. Along the way, these individuals learn the art of money and they use that knowledge to build an empire that will support generation after generation. It is safe to say that Stronach is nothing like this, which makes him a compelling character. In fact, it could be said that his story is something made for fiction books, not a business-based biography about a Canadian car man. The book does an excellent job of explaining the meager roots that Stronach came from in Austria. That is not the entire story, though. Simply telling that part of Stronach’s life would have made for a fair biography, but it would not have made for a compelling one that jumps off of shelves and into the shopping carts of readers. The author was able to get to the heart of how the businessman’s roots impacted his ideals as a business person. Even more important than that was the fact that the author was able to link Stronach’s past to his future, telling the reader of how the businessman handled his situation and used it for his own betterment. It can be said that this made for a very interesting read. The author obviously understands that readers and people in general are always looking for something that will inspire them. The story of how Frank Stronach went from having only a few dollars in his pocket to becoming one of the richest human beings on earth is something that people cannot exactly relate to, but it is something that they can strive for.

     This biography is not meant to be an educational tool, but it is instead meant to be an entertaining story. Regardless of the author’s intent when he wrote the book, he does actually come up with a work that can teach something to individuals. Stronach rose to the top of the business world in Canada for a number of reasons, and none of them were accidental. They were, instead, the result of both good decisions made by him and they hard work that he put in when it did not seem like he would have a chance to succeed. It is interesting that the businessman understands the huge value of growth when it comes to business. When he first started out, he had a vision of a business that was to grow much larger. The problem with that was that he did not have the money to start a huge business from the ground up. In fact, the only had enough money to buy a couple of meals and a tank of gas in today’s terms. With that in mind, he began his business with only one small shop and he went from there. Business expansion has to start at the beginning and business people have to be willing to take the time to build their company the right way. This is what Frank Stronach was able to do. Interestingly, the author tells this story in a way that is both inspiring and educational. He does not simply focus on the events that happened, but he focuses on how they were done. He gets inside the head of the man who turned the small company into a global power and he figures out which ideas were so important in making this a reality. In addition to that, he focuses on some of the unconventional choices that Frank Stronach makes in building his business. When a man takes a small car shop and turns it into a billion dollar enterprise, one can probably assume that he has done things a little bit differently than all of the people who were around him. This was a keen observation by the author, so he took the time to not only talk about that basic idea in his book, but he went so far as to find out what sorts of things the businessman was doing differently in order to be so successful. One of those things was the fact that he used union-free shops as he grew the business. This allowed him to gain some of the market share and become successful relatively quickly. The fact that the author finds this out and points this out with so much conviction is another point in the favor of this being a very fair work.

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     It is here where the book helps individuals to understand the inner workings of the Canadian labour market a little bit better. Frank Stronach was a huge part of the Canadian business world. Some might say that he is the single most important business figure of his time for that country. By documenting exactly what the man’s methods were and what sort of things worked in building his business, the author is expanding the knowledge base in regards to Canadian business as a whole. Before reading this book, one might not have understood the inner workings of the business and labour world. They might have thought that they understood these things, but that really would have just been knowledge on the surface. That would have been knowledge that did not include inside information on the politics of the Canadian business world at the time. Once a person has the chance to read this book, they understand what businesspeople like Frank Stronach were dealing with in regards to building their business. They understand, even above that, the huge challenge that it was to take a business and build it from scratch in a time where other businesses completely dominated the market. It really shows the relatively small amount of new thinking that was going on during this time in the Canadian business world. It is completely bizarre and unexpected that one man with a couple of radical ideas on how to handle his own labour pool can come in and completely blow away the entire market in only a few short years. The overall development of progressive thinking in the Canadian business world took off with Stronach and his brand of new business tactics,  but as this book clearly shows, people were not nearly as open to these types of things before Stronach as they probably should have been in order to find real success.

     In this book, the author attempts to argue that Stronach, for all of his faults and all of his criticisms, was one of the most important and progressive men in all of Canadian business history. He does this by going through the man’s life, piece by piece, and picking apart both his processes and his motivations. In addition to that, the author spends a lot of his time trying to tie Frank Stronach to the overall history of Canada and Canadian business. He wants his readers to try to think about the man’s place in history for themselves by giving some clues and some interesting perspective. In this way, the author is quite successful. He paints a picture of a man who not only had a huge impact in shaping Canadian business, but also a man whose impact is still being seen today in both his current business and political moves and his legacy.

     One of the most unique and impressive things about this book is the fact that it is so very well researched. This is what really makes the book a good one and it is the reason that so many people have leaned upon it for their understanding of Frank Stronach. The author spent much time covering the business world in Canada and because of that, he not only had knowledge and perspective, but he also had contacts. This meant that when he was writing this book, he was able to go to many different people and get information and perspective on Frank Stronach. These sources were varied and they all carried a unique perspective, as well. The results of this were that the book comes across as being very credible and very well researched. This also helps contribute to the fairness of the book. When a reader picks this up, they understand that the author has done his homework in running down a ton of sources and using some very informed contacts in order to make sure that the Frank Stronach story was a comprehensive one.

     One of the challenges that the author had was forming his work in a way that was original. When dealing with biographies, it can be difficult for authors to come across with new, refreshing ideas. In this work, Lilley manages to balance these things in a very unique way. He manages to bring an enlightening, fresh perspective on the issue of Frank Stronach. This is not exactly the easiest thing in the world because everyone has their own opinions of the man. Everyone in the country thinks that they know everything about Stronach, so the author has to try to bring something new to them. The best thing that he does in this light is encourage readers to think about Stronach in a different way. He encourages, successfully, his readers to make sure that they understand how challenging Stronach’s life was and how much he was able to achieve in terms of changing Canadian history. This certainly contributes to the new and fresh perspective that comes across in this work.

     All in all, this work is a diatribe on new world thinking. Not only does it shed a fresh light on Frank Stronach, but it also helps the reader gain some understanding of Canadian business and labour. It helps the reader come to grasps with some of the major prevailing themes of the Canadian business world during that time. This was not an easy task for the author, but he comes through with flying colors because of the vast and intense research that he puts in and also the unbiased perspective that he brings to the work.

 

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