Stijn in Business 4 minutes

The testament of a furniture dealer

On December 20th 1976, Ingvar Kamprad (the legendary owner of IKEA) wrote a ‘testament’ outlining his views on business and life. I’m baffled to discover how much insight he already gave away in 1976. The 16-page document contains at least as much wisdom as the last 5 business books I read. I found analogies with the lean startup method, toyota production, writings of Paul Graham and general life advice. What a wonderful document, no wonder Ingvar was so successful!

###Profit gives us resources

  • If we charge too much, we will not be able to offer the lowest prices. If we charge too little, we will not be able to build up resources. A wonderful problem! It forces us to develop products more economically, to puchase more efficiently and to be constantly stubborn in cost savings of all kinds. That is our secret. That is the foundation of our success.

###Reaching good results with small means

  • Expensive solutions to any kind of problem are usually the work of mediocrity. We have no respect for a solution until we know what it costs. An IKEA product without a price tag is always wrong!

  • Waste of resources is one of the greatest diseases of mankind. […] But waste costs us even more in little everyday things: filing papers that you will never need again; spending time proving that you were right anyway; postponing a decision because you do not want to take responsibility now; telephoning when you could just as easily write a note or send a fax.

###Simplicity is a virtue

  • Do not forget that exaggerated planning is the most common cause of corporate death. Exaggerated planning constrains your freedom of action and leaves you less time to get things done. Complicated planning paralyses. So let simplicity and common sense guide your planning.

  • It is not just to cut costs that we avoid luxury hotels. We do not need fancy cars, posh titles, tailor-made uniforms or other status symbols. We rely on our own strength and our own will.

###Doing it a different way

  • By always asking why we are doing this or that, we can find new paths. By refusing to accept a pattern simply because it is well established, we make progress. We dare to do things differently!

  • Our protest against convention is not protest for tis own sake: it is a deliberate expression of our constant search for development and improvement.

###Concentration - important to our success

  • We can never do everything, everywhere, all at the same time. […] We will never be able to satisfy all tastes anyway. We must concentrate on our own profile.

###Taking responsibility - a privilege

  • Only while sleeping one makes no mistakes. Making mistakes is the privilege of the active - of those who can correct their mistakes and put them right.

  • No decision can claim to be the only right one

  • It is always the mediocre people who are negative, who spend their time proving that they were not wrong. The strong person is always positive and looks forward. It is the positive people who win. They are always a joy to their colleagues and to themselves.

  • Winning does not mean someone else has to lose.

  • If somebody steals a model from us, we do not sue them because a lawsuit is always negative. We solve the problem instead by developing a new and even better model.

###Most things still remain to be done. A glorious future!

  • Happiness is not reaching your goal. Happiness is being on the way. It is our wonderful fate to be just at the beginning.

  • Many people cite experience as an excuse for not trying anything new. Still, it can be wise to rely on experience at times. But if you do so, you should preferably rely on you own. That is usually more valuable than lengthy investigations.

  • Our ambition to develop ourselves as human beings and co-workers must remain high. Humbleness is the key word.

  • Bear in mind that time is your most important resource. You can do so much in 10 minutes. Ten minutes, once gone, are gone for good. You can never get them back.