Reviewed by Michael Pellecchia in UPSIDE April 1998

With his customary simplicity, veteran author and business

consultant Michael Phillips redefines commerce in his latest book,

Gods of Commerce. His 1974 book The Seven Laws of Money

(reprinted, Shambhala, 1997) explored the spiritual side of filthy

lucre. In his 1986 book Marketing Without Advertising

(reprinted, Nolo Press, 1997), he again used basics to redefine a

complex field--bringing ideas such as trust, helpfulness and

customer education into the marketing equation.


Phillips continues to be an elegant and thought-provoking writer.

Gods of Commerce covers three distinct categories: trade,

industry and "clientry." Trade focuses on getting the right markup

on each final sale, industry aims for price reduction through

economies of scale, and clientry strives for lifelong relations with

clients. Phillips maintains that trade originates in urban areas, and

industry, which focuses on always improving cost variables,

spawns close relations with government.This distinction makes it

easy to see why industry cannot change as quickly as trade can.


The distinction between trade and industry is also important for

international business. Trade needs no infrastructure, yet

government developers insist on infrastructure development even

when it is not required. If governments distinguished between

trade and industry, they might find that more businesses would be

categorized as "trade" and thus could be structured more simply.


The final section deals with clientry. To quote from the book,

"Good clientry provides technical, social, and other types of

information and services to industry, which allows for better

management, better decision making, and more insight." The

section's main subtopic relates to "snafus" (things that go wrong

even when everything is working as it should), the consequence of

an increasingly complex society.


Phillips has added to the literature of complexity with this idea.

Complexity disables people from seeing where a system is headed

over time and makes them content to grasp given moments.

Phillips knows that as complex as things are, we are more inclined

to add complexity than to take it away. Thus, our gods of

commerce are not always happy or benevolent. Also, at least two

of them--the gods of trade and industry--are outmoded. Because

it's a quick read and contains powerful insights, Gods of

Commerce is likely to have a long shelf life, in keeping with its

stellar predecessor, The Seven Laws of Money.


Reviewed by Michael Pellecchia in UPSIDE April 1998

Return to books by M. Phillips