Madame Alexandra’s Rule of Business…revisited

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

Apparently businesses still forget what drives success.  Here’s a reminder…


“…money brings the only worthwhile thing it can bring: freedom…it being only the medium of exchange between a man’s labor and his freedom. Labor is not dishonorable, nor is the money which is only the comestible fruit of that labor; the two are one. Those however who mistake money for a commodity with an intrinsic value will find their coffers empty.”

Many today accumulate money for its own sake. Businesses forget the value of customer service. Employers forget how to treat and motivate their employees. And we all expect those with questionable personal character to be completely ethical in their business dealings.

Where did we go wrong? Now is the time to learn from a wise nineteenth century businesswoman; and who better teach us than Madame Alexandra Borodinskaya. She emigrated from Russia to Paris and ran a well-respected and successful maison close (brothel). She only served high-end clientele, and more was required than mere wealth. During her ninety two years she amassed a huge amount of wealth and property.

An account of her business principles was discovered after her death by a British academic. Later, author and entrepreneur Claude Roessiger put them together in Madame Alexandra’s Rule of Business: The Enduring Principles of Business Success.

Each chapter relates to a specific topic. First the “rule” is stated, and then examples are explained. Much of what Madame Alexandra learned was through her own mistakes; and she is the first to admit to them (one of her rules).

No, her principles don’t seem to be followed today, and the excuse that times have changed because of the internet or whatever, just doesn’t  hold up. One rule that specifically comes to mind is “The conduct of business is inseparable from the conduct of one’s own life.”, “…a man of honor is of honor everywhere…Those who live by two standards have only one: dishonesty.”

Upon discovering these notes, many were disappointed that there was no salacious material about notable people. She took her secrets to the grave, and that wasn’t surprising. Confidentiality was one of her tenets.

Madame Alexandra’s Rule of Business: The Enduring Principles of Business Success is a short book at only 158 pages, but is packed with a lot of punch. This will not only appeal to business people and entrepreneurs, but to those who have to interact with contractors and businesses every day. And that is all of us.

(originally posted on UnderratedReads on May 29, 2017)

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