Alan Pierce, CEO of Ansuz Balder Magni Investments, About the Books that Changed his Life
Alan has been living in Indonesia for more than seventeen years, watching it grow, and sees a massive potential for its economy on a global scale. Indonesia is the owner of the world’s fourth largest population and the largest economy within South-East Asia, and ABM plans to take part in its emergence over the next twenty years as a top global economy.
ABM Quarry, their subsidiary company, was created to service the unfulfilled aggregate demand for infrastructure, within Indonesia’s more than 17,000 islands.
Alan became an entrepreneur from a very young age: he started his first business when he was only 9 years old. His grandfather had access to a bulk wholesale company, so Alan convinced him to let him buy boxes of candy bars with the money he was saving from his allowance. He started selling them at school and on his way to school.
Prior to founding ABM Investments, he had diverse experience in the construction industry, specifically infrastructure projects in Indonesia and residential construction in the US.
Alan’s also an artist. He started painting, drawing and sculpting from a young age and never stopped since. He received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Paris American Academy – he also had his first solo exhibition in Paris.
In his spare time, Alan is training in martial arts, another passion he’s been nurturing since his childhood. He finds it healthy, both mentally and physically, but also considers it helpful for developing creativity and one’s personal relationship with the truth.
From our interview, you’ll find out more about the books that were meaningful for Alan, changed his day to day life, and even helped him keep his team safe and avoid a war with hundreds of villagers during operations on a remote island!
What’s your favorite book and why? Business and non-business, if possible.
For Business: I really couldn’t narrow it down, as I read about quite a broad variety of different business subjects. Each new business book I read is usually specific to what I’m currently working on and kind of becomes my new favorite book of the week or month. I like to apply anything I learn, directly onto the project I’m developing.
“The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”
This book is very helpful and insightful book that I like to refer back to when my schedule or commitments get too rushed or chaotic. Sometimes we have to step back, re-prioritize and refocus to stay effective and proactive rather than falling into the trap of becoming just reactive. This is a great book for that purpose.
For Non Fiction, I read many different categories across the board. Anything from history, historical fiction, fantasy, spy novels, science fiction to personal growth books. Here are a few books below that have been especially meaningful for me:
“Chicken Soup for the Soul”
A feel-good book that is great to read when sometimes we get to busy and lose sight of the truly important things in life, like family, children, close friends, health and the basic living necessities; things that we should always be thankful for.
This novel is the second book in a great saga detailing the intense competition between two shipping magnates and their battle over the gateway to China: the very lucrative island of Hong Kong. Set in the tumultuous period during which the British had seized Hong Kong before it was known as England’s crown jewel, it is an exciting and fun ride detailing Hong Kong as a melting pot of political and economic interests with no shortage of intrigue. It’s a must read for sure.
“Lord of Emperors”
A historical fantasy set in a Byzantine world where the Eastern Roman Empire is on the verge of war with the Ostrogothic Kingdom of Italy from the point of view of a commissioned mosaicist artist. Fantastic story and very interesting historically as the author definitely did tremendous research for the book.
Was there a moment, specifically, when something you read in a book helped you? Can you tell me about it?
“Getting To Yes”
The underlying premise of the book is Keeping a flexible mind and making a real effort to understand someone’s underlying motivations as well as what they are trying to accomplish. This baseline will help you to find common ground in difficult negotiations and create mutually beneficial and long-lasting agreements. The best agreements, from my experience, are the ones where both parties find great value in the agreement and it is built on solid and transparent fundamentals. This book has also helped me in creating mutually beneficial partnerships with partners and investors in my company, ABM Investments.
During the reading of “Getting to Yes” I was managing operations on a remote island and one of my workers was shot with a bow and arrow and stabbed with a spear. We all could have been injured or killed as we were stuck on an island with no way out, but I sat with the local leader and both men involved and negotiated a peaceful truce. In large part due to the principles in “Getting to Yes”, we managed to avoid a war with hundreds of villagers. My one hundred men team was only at twenty at that point as many had gone home between projects. It would not have ended well for us, so thankfully we made it out peacefully.
What books had the biggest impact on you? (perhaps changed the way you see things, dramatically changed your career path)
“Think and Grow Rich”
This book dramatically changed the way I structured my day to day life. Based on over two decades of personal interviews and studies of some of history’s’ greatest minds, the author distills the lessons he learned and details how you can train and condition your mind through daily habit to master your actions. The way it promotes a disciplined and holistic approach of continual self-improvement, goal setting and strategic decision making really resonated with me.
What books would you recommend to youngsters interested in your professional path? Why? (no number limit here)
There’s a few answers to that question, as I have had a few career paths. I Started out with career in Art for twenty years and then shifted my focus to my other two great passions, Construction and Business. I’ll give you some of my favorites for all three.
For Business, I would have to say:
This book is a great read for anybody interested in getting into business, because it lays out in a very practical and clear fashion what to do and what not to do in order to make your business predictable and repeatable.
“The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon”
This was an amazing glimpse into one of the most disruptive companies in history as well as the past and future trajectory of e-commerce and retail. It is also a testament to unwavering self-belief. The thing that impressed me the most is that Jeff Bezos intentionally built an entire department dedicated to making his primary business obsolete which allowed him to take the lead in the next development, e-books. His foresight is extraordinary and he is an inspirational big thinker.
For Construction, that’s a hard one, both because I love so many elements of modern and traditional building construction, but also because in the different regions I have built in, the building technique has varied quite a bit depending on the history of the location and the materials most readily available at the time of building. You’ll have to take my book recommendations with a grain of salt, as they don’t fully encapsulate all the building materials in every region of the world, but that being said, the four below would be a great foundational start for anyone wanting to become a Residential or Small Commercial General Contractor:
“International residential code 2018”
This is a great book for overall understanding of primarily modern western building and the many different building styles and materials employed.
“A Timber Framer’s Workshop”
This book is fantastic for teaching the old world and increasingly rare joinery techniques for framing. These techniques were used for houses that lasted for hundreds of years, far longer than many of the modern western homes of today.
“Graphic Guide to Frame Construction”
This book has it all when it comes to modern era wood framing and is a fantastic guide for anyone who wants to get into construction or engineering.
“Fundamentals of Sustainable Dwellings”
Green Building is the future and this book is a great way to understand the fundamentals of energy efficient design, green power, air quality, thermal comfort, water management, daylighting and a host of other subjects.
For Art, I would say buy books that give insight into the artists that you admire and enjoy the most and also buy books that allow you to expand your fundamental understanding of the seven elements of art: line, shape, space, value, form, texture and color. The most difficult subject matters to master in my opinion are the human figure, our natural environment and color theory. Any books on these subjects can help you develop the skills you need to transition into whatever style or art genre you are most passionate about or need to do for work.
Some of my biggest influences are Michelangelo, Rhodin, Bernini, Rembrandt, Lucien Freud, George De la Tour, Caravaggio, Salvador Dali, Ivan Aivazovsky and Nyoman Nuarta.
I’m interested in finding out more about your reading habits. How often do you read? In what format?
I spend 30-45 minutes 4-5 days a week early in the morning while it’s still quiet and everyone is still sleeping. I love collecting physical books, but nowadays I almost always buy e-books to save time and space.
How do you make time for reading?
I read voraciously my whole life, everything I could get my hands on, until about 8 years ago; I got so caught up in the day to day of managing my business that I didn’t make time. Over time, I realized that the mind really is like a muscle, if you don’t give it nutrients and force it to grow and be uncomfortable, it begins to grow weaker. About three years ago, I decided to carve out time almost every day at the very minimum 30 minutes, 4-5 days a week.
Do you take notes or have any other technique for conquering the torrent of information?
I like to read in short impactful sessions to absorb the information better. If I read for longer than an hour, I start to lose focus on the content. Often, I’ll read about what I’m currently working on so that every time I learn something that applies directly or changed my thinking in any way, I’ll immediately make a note of it. I find that if information has a direct and practical use, it sticks in my mind better.
I have to stay away from fiction a little bit these days, because once I get started I’ll read until early in the morning and I pay for it the next day. My wife says every time I read, I get some sort of epiphany. I do think she sometimes wonders if you’re supposed to have that many…:)
How do you choose what books to read next?
I have a flexible annual calendar for book reading that I loosely follow. If something comes up that really intrigues me, I’ll just slide it in to my schedule. I’m a big believer in history repeating itself so I enjoy studying history books looking for patterns and also just learning about the world in general. I come from a family of travelers, readers and writers, so we all are a curious about other cultures and countries. In this era as we all become global citizens, its crucial for us to understand different cultures and historical context to better interact and understand people from different backgrounds and regions.
When I’m deciding what to read, I usually always have in the back of my mind, advice from my life long martial arts teacher, Prihatin Wiratna.
“Never allow your skill to outstrip your creativity and never allow your creativity to outstrip your skill. They must both be equal to achieve true balance.”
There are books more geared for increasing specific skills and industry knowledge and there are books more geared for general knowledge, history and fantasy. When you relax and really free your mind from order and just enjoy a good story, your imagination and creativity will start to flow. I tend to mix the two to disrupt the brain from getting to stuck in the same thinking patterns.
Over the past couple years, I’ve been reading more history than usual, specifically regarding Venice, Italy and its rise as a maritime power in the 1500s as research for a passion project that I Co-wrote titled, “The Mysteries of Venice: The Renaissance of Stone, Terrazzo, Brick and Glass” and is a fun coffee book full of pictures with a light mixture of history, construction, engineering and architecture exploring the past, present and future usages of Stone, Brick and glass. I’m crossing my fingers we’ll get it completed and published in the near future.
Do you prioritize those recommended by certain people? Is there anyone that you consider a book-recommendations guru?
Yes. Azan Tengku is my dear friend and my go to for good or unique business books. He is also a Bitcoin expert and author of “Bitcoin: The Digital Gold Rush”, which is also a very well written fundamental breakdown on the origins of Bitcoin and cryptocurrency.
Last question: what book are you currently reading and what are you expecting to gain from it?
I’m currently reading “In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works and Shapes Our Life” and am excited on gaining more insight into how google is changing the world and hopefully to get some valuable understanding I can use to maximize business decisions and read future trends while assessing investment opportunities for my company, ABM Investments.
Links where you can follow Alan Pierce or find out more about his projects:
All books mentioned by Alan Pierce in this interview:
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
- Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In by Roger Fisher, William Ury
- Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
- The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It by Michael E. Gerber
- The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon by Brad Stone
- Chicken Soup for the Soul by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Amy Newmark
- Tai-Pan by James Clavell
- Lord of Emperors by Guy Gavriel Kay
- 2018 International Residential Code for One- and Two-Family Dwellings by International Code Council
- A Timber Framer’s Workshop: Joinery, Design & Construction of Traditional Timber Frames by Steve Chappell
- Graphic Guide to Frame Construction by Rob Thallon
- Fundamentals of Sustainable Dwellings by Avi Friedman
- In The Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives by Steven Levy