First Entrepreneur by Edward G. Lengel

Edward G. Lengel again brings his extensive knowledge of George Washington to his latest book entitled First Entrepreneur: How George Washington Built His – and the Nation’s – Prosperity. At 280 pages with 8 pages of black and white pictures, the book is a good read.

The United States was conceived in business, founded on business, and operated as a business—all because of the entrepreneurial mind of the greatest American businessman of any generation: George Washington.

Using Washington’s extensive but often overlooked financial papers, Edward G. Lengel chronicles the fascinating and inspiring story of how this self-educated man built the Mount Vernon estate into a vast multilayered enterprise and prudently managed meager resources to win the war of independence. Later, as president, he helped establish the national economy on a solid footing and favorably positioned the nation for the Industrial Revolution. Washington’s steadfast commitment to the core economic principles of probity, transparency, careful management, and calculated boldness are timeless lessons that should inspire and instruct investors even today.

The book is a treasure trove of unpublished knowledge on the business mind of George Washington. It is a fascinating look at a man many see only as a military and political leader. According to Lengel, Washington was  a businessman first and foremost. His thoughts on business influenced him throughout his life from beginning as a surveyor to leading the nation.

The book is an interesting and engaging read.

For example, Lengel engages the reader with Washington’s battles with the Continental Congress to squeeze more funding from them for the army during the Revolutionary War. He applied many of the business lessons from running a plantation to running the army. Washington’s battles with Congress continued into his presidency.

It is also fascinating to read about Washington’s innovations on his plantation – the eight sided barn, distillery, and gristmill. Lengel proves that in order to make the plantation profitable, Washington took risks in new ways of doing things, including new designs. It was not reckless risk, but calculated.
Lengel also describes Washington’s management style as micromanagement. He discusses the relationship between Washington and the distillers that served on his plantation at various times. This micromanagement drove some of the distillers crazy. But, as Lengel asserts, this strong hand sometimes averted disaster.

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