Mission in a Bottle: The Honest Guide to Doing Business Differently – And Succeeding

by Seth Goldman and Barry Nalebuff

Business Plus, 2013

If it were written in a different format this microscopic dissection of an iced-tea company’s path to success would risk of boring its readers. It is practically day-by-day account of the time they had to choose the flavours, the time they almost ran out of money, the time they had to fire an employee who no one wanted to fire, the time the packaging got messed up, the second and third time the packaging got messed up – and so many other episodes that most food-and-beverage entrepreneurs know well.

Instead of seeming mundane, these episodes spring to life. The book is difficult to put down. That is because it’s basically a 250-page comic book. Forget what they did for iced-tea: the genius of Goldman and Nalebuff, the co-authors and co-founders of Honest Tea, is revealed in their decision to tell the old “entrepreneurial success” story in the form of a graphic novel. It means that they can be comprehensive about all the minor episodes that they thought mattered to their success, and at the same time let the reader jump in and out, backwards and forwards, through the text and immediately grasp what’s going on – much as comic book readers do.

It helps that Honest Tea – sold to Coca-Cola in tranches from 2008-2011 – makes a genuinely good product and went about building their company in an honestly customer-first way. The subtitle to the book is “the honest guide to doing business differently – and succeeding.” We’re not convinced that their approach is replicable to other beverage companies aspiring to sell themselves to the like of Coca-Cola. But it is enough to read in detail how one company managed to do it.

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