Rain: A book review by Bob Morris

RainRain: What a Paperboy Learned About Business
Jeffrey J. Fox
Jossey-Bass (2009)

Note: I read and reviewed this book when it was published about four years ago and recently re-read it in combination with Secrets of Great Rainmakers as I now complete a revised marketing plan for the balance of this calendar year. Rain is my personal favorite among all of Fox’s books, although he published several other bestsellers after this one. I identify with the central character because I had two newspaper routes when I was Rain’s age. Also, I needed to reconnect with Fox’s unique insights on how to create rain, especially during a drought such as the current one that began years ago. If you need to generate some rain, check out this review I posted in 2005.

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Portrait of a Young Entrepreneur
This is the most recent of ten books that Jeffrey Fox has written and is, in my opinion, his most entertaining. In the first part (Pages 1-128), Fox presents a business narrative in which a fictitious youth named Rain embarks on a brief but productive career as a newspaper boy. (Presumably Rain is Fox’s surrogate.) Like Forest Gump, he encounters a series of adventures but unlike Gump, he seems to have more “street smarts.” Fox cleverly introduces a number of challenges and opportunities to dramatize several basic business lessons. Then in the second part of the book (Pages 129-192), he shifts his attention to his reader whom he invites to compete “a series of analytical exercises anchored in each of Rain’s adventures. The exercises are designed to illuminate Rain’s entrepreneurial thinking and his rainmaking principles.” Actually, completing the 29 brief exercises does more than illuminate the Rain’s “rainmaking principles”: It also enables the reader to make direct application of most (if not all) of them to her or his own circumstances.

I must say, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book because when doing so, I recalled many of my own experiences when I was Rain’s age and growing up on the South Side of Chicago. I had one paper route that I completed in the morning and later added another in the afternoon. After two years, I also began to work three days a week (4-8 PM) at a newsstand near my home. After about another year, when summer vacation began, I stopping delivering papers but continued to work at the newsstand Monday through Friday, 4-8 PM, and caddied at a local country club each weekend. I certainly did not have Rain’s entrepreneurial inclinations. I was simply determined to earn as much money as I could. I also encountered slow pays and no pays, hostile dogs, and customers impossible to please. I also hated getting up mornings when the temperature was near zero and the winds off Lake Michigan nearby were howling or when I was delivering papers afternoons when the heat and humidity were each 90º or more.

How many boys and girls today deliver newspapers? I have no idea. Most of the newspapers in Chicago when I was growing up no longer exist. It seems that in most other major metropolitan areas, there are no evening newspapers and only one morning newspaper. Presumably child labor laws now limit the employment opportunities for those in the 10-15 age range. So, where can they have the experiences and learn the lessons that Fox portrays in this book? I have no idea. However, although younger readers may not be able to identify with many of the situations in which Rain finds himself, I think that they will enjoy reading this book. I hope that many of them also get a clearer sense of the importance of meeting obligations (e.g. being on time, completing tasks), keeping promises to others, being alert to learning opportunities, and meanwhile making whatever personal sacrifices may be necessary.
As I read Fox’s book, I also recalled several life lessons that Robert Fulghum shares in his first book, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten: Play fair, Don’t hit people, Put things back where you found them, Clean up your own mess, Don’t take things that aren’t yours, Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody, Wash your hands before you eat, When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together, and Be aware of wonder. Simple? Of course. Naïve? I don’t think so. Fox and Fulghum affirm many of the same values that can also be found in the world’s most venerated holy works. In my opinion, there is no other business principle that is more important than The Golden Rule. It is central to the culture of the world’s most highly admired companies. Moreover, it is no coincidence that – year after year — these same companies are also among the world’s most profitable and most valuable.

Those who share my high regard for Jeffrey Fox’s latest book are urged to check out several of his others, notably How to Get to the Top: Business Lessons Learned at the Dinner Table (2007). I also highly recommend his How to Become a Rainmaker (2000) and then Secrets of Great Rainmakers (2006) as well as Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography, Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, and Fulghum’s aforementioned book. To those in need of additional recommendations, I suggest these: David Whyte’s The Heart Aroused, Michael Ray’s The Highest Goal, James O’Toole’s The Moral Compass and then Creating the Good Life, and Bill George’s Authentic Leadership and then True North.

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