Thursday, August 14, 2008

Book: Lasermonks

Subtitle: The Business Story Nine Hundred Years in the Making

by: Sarah Caniglia and Cindy Griffith

If in my sewing life, I'm a shark who has yet to make the kill, then in my reading life, I'm Goldilocks. If Nickel and Dimed left me too hot (burning with desire to do anything possible to avoid a low-wage life), and Bait and Switch left me too cold (chilled to the core with fear for the future of regular old jobs) this latest book, another just-over-one-day read, was juuuuust right.

I learned of this book from the newsletter Winning Ways written by Barbara Winter, but I had learned of the ideas behind this book from my friend Rachel on her blog, which is what drove me to read it (that and it being available at our fabulous library). The idea of a business (in the case of an abbey of monks in Wisconsin, selling toner and more) supporting charitable works seems like a wonderful one to me, and I enjoyed reading about how the monks have grown their business with the help of the laywomen who authored this book. My only wish would be that the authors had made it a little more clear who they were and how they came to participate in the monks' project, because I kept rereading the first few pages of the book thinking, "Huh? Who is we?" To save others the confusion, two women learned of the monks' project from a news story, wanted to sell the monks their online toner business and instead wound up helping the monks grow theirs.

Lasermonks is not a very good primer for someone who actually wants to start a social enterprise, the advice they give is vague at best, but it's a nice inspiring story about a social enterprise that is thriving. It gave me some food for thought as I continue on my path of trying to find work that sustains both me and the world. Could I possibly employ a similar model? They donate all their profits to charity. Gulp, sounds daunting, but maybe it could also provide much-needed motivation to get off the dime as well as momentum to keep going. Can I get in a similar mindset with regard to customer service? Their practice is to follow the Rule of St. Benedict, which essentially says treat every guest (customer) as if he or she might actually be Jesus Christ popping in for a visit. You know, like royalty. Those who know me know that I am not quite that much of a people-pleaser, so that sounds even more challenging, but it's certainly a worthy aspiration.

I highly recommend this book to other entrepreneurs who are looking for ways to tie a business to good works (Rachel, I'm looking at you) or for anyone who, like me, might have been reading too much depressing stuff lately and needs a pick-me-up. Oh, and if you need to buy toner? For heaven's sake, check the Lasermonks out.

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