Review: “Business Secrets Of The Trappist Monks” By August Turak

Via NetGalley, Columbia Business School Publishing provided me with a copy of this book for the purposes of reading and reviewing it. While I received it at no cost to myself, I am under no obligation to provide a positive review.

As a Customer Support Manager, I am always looking for better ways to serve our customers, and this book seemed at first glance to fit the bill. Admittedly, a portion of it involves decisions by people above my pay grade, but for the most part the concepts here are universal to all positions in a business.

Turak’s premise in this book is very straight-forward: People are happier when focused on the service of others first. The vehicle he uses for his lesson is the time he has spent as a guest at Mepkin Abbey in South Carolina, observing the way they serve their community through various business ventures.

The Trappist tradition is over 1500 years old as, as the monks regularly reminded Turak, you have to trust the process. The abbey, while primarily populated with elderly gentlemen working just a few hours a day, manages to provide high quality products to their local community without focusing on advertising and being aggressive in their business. They trust that by doing the right thing day in and day out, through hard work, and taking care of their customers first and foremost, the rest of it will take care of itself. Furthermore, the monks develop a tremendous sense of community among themselves, and that sense of being part of something much bigger than themselves drives them even more.

The author has extensive experience in all levels of management over the last thirty-plus years, and while his involvement with Mepkin Abbey spans only seventeen years, he uses many examples from his past to show how putting the customer first has led to positive results. These examples are not always centered on businesses Turak has been involved in, but businesses he has encountered secondhand. Multiple times he uses the United States Marine Corps and Alcoholics Anonymous as examples of a sense of community and a sense of belonging being a driving force. In the case of AA, he shows that the participants become invested in helping others, not just themselves, and that is part of the recovery process.

In addition to business aspects, the author also makes the point that a life of service extends into the core of a person’s life. Whether it be community service, volunteering, or just random acts of kindness, helping others will help ourselves.

There are a few times I believed Turak wandered a little too far off track with some of his examples, but he did eventually bring it all back to the primary point. Admittedly, Turak’s message is nothing new. Among others, Zig Ziglar had a similar message when he said you can have anything you want in life by helping others get what they want. The delivery of the message is where Turak differs from others.

I actually found myself more fascinated with his discussions of monastic life than some of the teachings Turak was putting forward. In many ways that’s because I was familiar with the message, and I wanted to learn more about the people and the process behind the message. However, that is due more to my familiarity with the message rather than a failure on Turak’s part.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)