Thank you to Trish Collins at TLC Book Tours for inviting me to be a part of the blog tour for Le Deal by J. Byrne Murphy! I was provided with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Le Deal: How a Young American, In Business, In Love, and in Over His Head, Kick-Started a Multibillion Dollar Industry in Europe (affiliate link)
J. Byrne Murphy
Originally published August 19, 2008
Le Deal is an adventure story involving raw entrepreneurship, high-level politics, and a young American family in foreign lands. It is the true story of Byrne Murphy, a businessman who abruptly moves to Paris with his wife and baby daughter in a quest to reignite his career and his fortunes. He quickly finds himself up against strange and powerful forces for which he is ill prepared.
Just days after landing in France, Byrne reads that the newly installed prime minister has declared a moratorium on all new retail development, apparently snuffing out Byrne’s proposed new venture---discount fashion malls---before it’s even started. He and his company will engage in a mano a mano struggle with the prime minister (which reaches all the way to France’s Supreme Court); encounter a ruthless political ambush in Germany by the soon-to-be chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder; and face a threatening (“Is this the Mafia?”) would-be partner in Italy. Counterbalanced against these are a series of mostly charming encounters with nearly all members of the British Royal Family, capped off by a tour with Her Royal Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, which nearly ended in a royal embarrassment of epic proportions.
Byrne and his wife, Pamela, experience the joys and risks of living and growing their family in foreign lands. From proposals for dalliances to a harrowing experience with a local and dangerous disease during pregnancy, they are reminded time and again that surprises can be ever present in foreign cultures.
Over eight years the company (McArthurGlen Europe) grew from nothing to generating approximately a billion dollars in sales from 11 centers across Europe. Those efforts created nearly 8,000 jobs, opened 1,500 stores featuring 500 brands, attracted nearly 40 million shopping visits per year, and spawned an array of competitors. In short, an industry.
Along the way, the author learns what he, and Americans in general, do and do not know about life beyond our borders. The book ends with a message about the need for twenty-first-century Americans who work in international affairs to truly take “context” into account; to realize, in our quest to accomplish more in less time, that investing the time to understand the nuances of foreign cultures with which one may be working is a key to prospering in this multicultural, polyglot, interconnected, globalized world. - from Goodreads
Looking for new business opportunities in the early 1990s, J. Byrne Murphy joined McArthurGlen to help them launch their designer outlet model in Europe. Since it had been so successful in America, he assumed the same would follow in Europe, but he and his team ran into more problems than they ever dreamed.
What I didn't love about this book:
- Very little! I may not have been the target audience for this book, as it may be more geared towards business-oriented readers, so in some areas the concepts went a little over my head.
- A lot of the narrative focused on Murphy's work in France, trying to open an outlet in a small town, somewhat to the detriment of the rest of the book, as it felt like he glossed over or sped through his experiences in countries such as Germany and Italy. I would also like to know how the company fared in other places that were only mentioned in passing.
- There are a lot of people to keep track of; obviously, they're all important to Murphy and his experiences, but for someone on the outside, it was difficult at times to keep them all straight.
What I enjoyed about this book:
- Murphy has a great writing style. It's very approachable and this memoir often reads like a novel.
- While he shares his great successes, he isn't afraid to admit when he made mistakes. He willingly points out his naivete about doing business in a foreign country and the things he wished he had known or taken the time to learn before diving in.
- This book is a great inside look at what it's like to try to start a business in another country. Murphy and his team learn that what works here in the United States doesn't necessarily work elsewhere. He talks about the nuances of local politics, knowing the right people, and staying the course. It was really amazing to see how some of the discount designer outlets took literally years to get up and running, and most ended up being wildly successful, even though there were a lot of local pressures and doubts.
If you have an interest in business, and particularly what it's like to start one in a foreign country, I'd highly recommend this book! 4 stars