B.S. Incorporated by Jennifer Rock and Michael Voss

From the blurb, I expected a crazy send up of the business world – more along the lines of The Office and Dilbert. But what we have here is a heart-felt story of a company manager and new hire who have to save the owners of a large copier supply firm from themselves. There are two protagonists – a male and a female – each representing different points of view (people vs process). Although they are hard to like in the beginning, by the end most will appreciate the warm fuzzies that they (and this book) engender.

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Story: Business Solutions Inc.’s owners are looking for new market opportunities after years of a successful business selling copiers. They’ve hired a fancy consultancy firm and created a new product/service (it’s a mystery!) called Optelligence. Frontlines communications manager Will Evans started from the original factory distribution area and worked his way up over the years – the business is his life. New hire Anna wants to sink her leopard skin stilettos into BSI and make her mark. When everything starts to fall apart around them, they will have to band together to save the company from itself.

The blurb is honestly very misleading – nearly all the points about the craziness of the company make this sound more like a surreal comedy. But the struggles of our two leads are much more personal – the story is about Will and Anna and believing in the company as well as themselves. The ‘evil’ bad guy here is the parasitic consultancy firm – getting its hooks into the two co-founders and leading them down a path to profits on the consultancy’s end but bankruptcy on the BMI end. Is this book realistic? No, not really – at least not to the extent it is taken here. But the emphasis is on the characters – and there are some really wonderful ones in B.S. Incorporated. It is a very heartfelt story.

The two leads – Will and Anna, will go through a transformation and catharsis by the end of the story, creating a nice circular storyline. Sure, the battle between white collar and blue collar is a bit one dimensional (the blue collar guys work hard honest hours and have the best rapport with the clients while the white collar guys screw up constantly, create fiefdoms, have sex with the secretaries, and lay off the blue collar guys to save their own jobs. The only decent guys are kind of sad sacks while the women are predatory, unfortunately, or housewifely assistants. In a cast as large as in this book, that was honestly a bit of a disappointment.

There are some cute lines in there and a few chuckles. This is a book you read for the heart and not for humor. And for a hyperrealized, if simplistic, view of American business (especially midwest style since this is set in Minnesota). The only thing missing was another consultancy firm pushing ISO9000 or TQM quality management principles to unsuspecting lineworkers. But in all, I really enjoyed it. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

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