It’s an intriguing premise for a book: Pack three economist buddies into a car for a cross-country road trip to explore how small businesses function in far-flung locales, and extract some lessons valuable to all manner of executives and entrepreneurs in the process.

That’s exactly what Scott Schaefer, a professor of economics and strategy at the David Eccles School of Business, did with a couple of friends—Michael Mazzeo of Northwestern and Paul Oyer from Stanford—when he literally took the wheel and guided the trio to the creation of Roadside MBA: Back Road Lessons for Entrepreneurs, Executives and Small Business Owners, published June 10 by Business Plus.

The book includes visits to all manner of businesses, from a compost company in Montana to a windsock manufacturer in Oklahoma, a doggie daycare in Georgia to a funeral home in Tennessee. In exploring a variety of businesses, the three authors find ample material for discussing the complexities of modern business, and in the process discovering there are several different avenues for business to find “success.”

The idea for the book was inspired by a short side-trip the three friends made to a shoe store while attending an academic conference in New England. Schaefer noted that talking to the people at the small Maine store “made us realize that there are countless compelling and insightful stories to be heard at other local companies.”

Thus inspired, the three economists who spend most of their classroom time teaching MBA candidates about the strategic issues facing large corporations hit the road to find what lessons they could glean from Main Street businesses on America’s blue highways.

Naturally, there was some surprises for the three professors.

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