4 ½ stars.
For those readers seeking an inside look at the downfall of business giants, as well as the slow fizzle of smaller companies, Corporate Undertaker: Business Lessons from the Dead and Dying by author and crisis manager Domenic Aversa offers a savage peek behind the corporate curtain.
With big business taking such center stage in the power dynamics of politics and the daily news, it is easy to forget that the majority of businesses still fail, a point that the author makes early on in the book. More than 50% of businesses fail in the first five years, while 70% are done within a decade. That ominous fact sets the perfect tone for this eye-opening read, one that should have a surprisingly broad appeal.
Domenic Aversa walks readers through his long career as the reluctant harbinger of death for companies, big and small, in nearly every state in America, and dozens of countries around the world. To hear these intense stories of business titans being reduced to rubble is oddly cathartic, but it is also humanizing.
In many of these anecdotal tales, businesses fail for very relatable reasons, and when the boardroom facade is stripped away, business leaders and managers are revealed as common people, subject to pettiness and rage and sorrow like anyone. One may not expect to experience such surges of empathy at some of these stories, but the power of Aversa’s storytelling is undeniable. There are uplifting and amusing moments as well, when a company does manage to save itself, under the guidance and sincere interest of this author.
Between Aversa’s varied careers and the very nature of his job, the range of stories is impressive, making ripe fodder for a page-turning memoir. There are also some high-stakes situations that seem pulled straight from Hollywood imagination, yet Aversa is nothing if not believable. He realizes how strange it is to see behind this wealthy and occasionally dangerous curtain, but he welcomes readers in with intense details, shocking bursts of action, and the rubbernecking draw of crisis. Despite how wild some of these stories may seem, they are written with an authentic and engaging voice, from a writer that has obviously reflected and considered these experiences for many years.
One particularly standout aspect of the book are the sections of “Lessons,” particularly those on “Life” and “Adversity.” These are condensed bundles of wisdom, amounting to the distilled outcome of the author’s experience. While the rest of the book is fascinating, these lists are spot on, well-written, and continuously compelling.
There are some moments that get a bit “inside baseball,” but these are also filled with practical suggestions for professionals in any industry. Additionally, the suggested tasks may seem like common sense, but when juxtaposed with these real-life stories of businesses around the world, one begins to see the importance of seemingly simple things.
Peppered with moments of levity, as well as hard moments of loss and grief, this book puts a new shine on the corporate world. While a business memoir may not sound like a compelling slice of the human experience, Corporate Undertaker truly is a gripping read, particularly given the unique position this author survived and thrived in for decades.
Self-Publishing Review Link: Here