Soundview Executive Book Summaries


Take the Fear Out of Business Finances

So you finally got that promotion and today is your first day attending the management meeting. As you sit down among your new peers a thick report is passed out filled with numbers. These are the monthly financial reports and as you look through them you’re completely lost. What does it all mean and am I going to be asked to comment on these numbers?

Don’t panic. There are simple ways to get up to speed with the basics of business finances. You could enroll in a business finance course but that would take too long. Or you could read the book No Fear Finance by Guy Fraser-Sampson.

Fraser-Sampson takes the fear out of understanding business financially concepts and reports. In a very clear and methodical way he goes through all the basic information needed to understand and use and understand financial reports and tools.

Early in his book Fraser-Sampson distinguishes between Financial Accounts and Management Accounts. Financial accounts are used to report about a company to outsiders like shareholders, while management accounts are used by management to make business decisions.

Other topics covered include:

  • Basic financial concepts such as the time value of money, and financial instruments including stocks, bonds and derivatives.
  • The main investment concepts like liquidity, volatility, active versus passive investing and different return measurements.
  • Key accounting matters like balance sheet and income statement analysis, working capital and solvency.
  • Company life cycle events including M&A, capital raising, insolvency.

If you would like to get a head start on understanding business finances, please join us for our next Soundview Live webinar, No Fear Finance. Guy Fraser-Sampson will explain basic financial concepts for business use, and will take questions from the audience. Now is a great time to get your burning questions answered in a low-pressure environment.



Is Your Company Optimized?

In 2008, UPS wanted to increase the fuel efficiency of its 88,000 delivery trucks. With such a large fleet, even an incremental increase in fuel efficiency would result in major savings for the company. One efficiency problem that UPS discovered was the amount of time the trucks idled while waiting to make left-hand turns. Using special optimization routing software, UPS was able to redraw its delivery routes to favor right-hand turns. As author Steve Sashihara writes in The Optimization Edge: Reinventing Decision Making to Maximize All Your Company’s Assets, “In 2005, the software helped UPS eliminate 464,000 driving miles in Washington, D.C., alone, saving 51,000 gallons of fuel.”

UPS is just one of many winning companies, writes Sashihara, that illustrate the power of what he calls optimization, which he defines as “a decision-making process and a set of related tools that employ mathematics, algorithms and computer software not only to sort and organize data, but to use that data to make recommendations faster and better than humans can.” Optimization, he writes, allows companies to “squeeze every ounce of value” from their assets.

According to Sashihara, the best companies — the ones that have been able to beat their competitors and stay on top even during the worst of the economic downfall — are those that have taken full advantage of the optimization edge. Today, executives need, more than ever, to look at their companies and determine where there might be opportunities for optimization initiatives. Key questions for executives include:

  • What are my company’s underutilized assets? For example, train capacity for a railroad or the face time that a pharmaceutical company’s sales reps spend with doctors might be optimized to bring greater value for the company.
  • Where and how are repetitive decisions about key assets being made in my company? Improving the accuracy of those decisions by even 10 percent could have a major impact on profitability.
  • How accurate are our forecasts?

If you would like to learn how you can make the most of your assets, join us on September 22nd for our webinar with Steve Sashihara entitled How to Maximize Your Company’s Assets. Steve will provide examples of other companies that have found efficiencies through his 5-step methodology for optimization. A 60-minute investment of time will be well worth it if you can save your company thousands of hours and dollars.



A FREE Resource You HAVE to Use!

There’s a reason I tend to conclude my posts by telling everyone to visit Soundview’s Web site, Summary.com. The site is regularly updated with information about newly released executive book summaries, book reviews (1,000 FREE reviews and growing!), upcoming Soundview Live Webinars and other great business learning resources.

I’ve got great news about another new resource available at Summary.com. How much do you think it would cost to attend an event where you hear vital business lectures from speakers such as Bill George, Patrick Lencioni, Jeffrey D. Sachs, Paul Krugman and David M. Rubenstein, among others? The event is the World Business Forum, and a ticket can cost as much as $2,500.

Fortunately, Soundview has partnered with HSM Global, producers of the World Business Forum, to bring you exclusive audio summaries of the event’s major speakers. These audio summaries are available for you to listen to for FREE!

Each audio summary is a 10-minute MP3 that features a narrated overview of the speech. The summary includes actual clips from the live speech given by the presenter at World Business Forum. If these tough economic times meant that you weren’t able to spend $2,500 on a ticket to the World Business Forum, these FREE audio summaries allow you to hear what you missed.

I need to stress here that you do NOT have to be a Soundview subscriber to listen to the World Business Forum audio summaries. These exclusive content pieces are FREE for everyone to learn from and enjoy. In fact, I’d recommend starting with Patrick Lencioni, whose latest book Getting Naked: A Business Fable About Shedding the Three Fears that Sabotage Client Loyalty is now available as a Soundview summary!

To listen to the audio summaries from the World Business Forum, CLICK THIS LINK!



Keep the Pipeline Full

Here’s a story that might raise a few eyebrows. The New York Times reported over the weekend about the reintroduction of guaranteed bonuses for certain recruits on Wall Street. The practice has been a part of recruiting in the financial industry for some time, but it’s obviously raising questions in a time period when many companies in the financial sector are on the receiving end of taxpayer-funded government bailouts. The debate over using guaranteed bonuses is an interesting one. Companies could argue that they need the bonuses to ensure that the top talent ends up at their company. The deals this person brokers will bring in profits that would eventually trickle down to those who maintain an investment portfolio with the institution. On the other side of the fence is the taxpaying public who could feel wronged that the companies their tax dollars bailed out are now able to revert to pre-crash era spending. The potential for the financial sector to rapidly return to its fast-living, risk-taking ways makes for a nervous public.

The war for talent, particularly in the leadership realm is an ever-growing concern. Despite business schools churning out scores of graduates each year, there continues to be a claim that true talent is coming at an ever-increasing premium. One person who would likely argue against lavish spending as a means to ensure a company possesses good leaders is author and management expert Ram Charan. We featured his book, co-authored with James Noel and Stephen Drotter, The Leadership Pipeline as a bonus summary for our subscribers in Soundview’s August 2009 edition. Charan and his co-authors are adamant that good leaders can be “home grown” if the company is willing to take the necessary steps to educate the leader and put him or her in the situations necessary to guarantee good growth. Organizations are encouraged to constantly refine and adjust their program to help the company sustain its influx of leaders. If a company executes the practices that Charan, Noel and Drotter suggest, it should not have to resort to a splash of cash to keep the leadership pipeline from slowing to a drip.

As the Times suggests, the practices of the financial sector will give Kenneth Feinberg, the Obama administration’s “pay czar,” plenty to stay busy. Perhaps Feinberg should consider giving Ram Charan a call.



Why Stop With Earth Day?

If you printed out this installement of the Soundview Editor’s Blog, shame, shame! After all, today is Earth Day, and in the ever-expanding global consciousness of all things green, we shouldn’t forget that it’s the small things that make a difference. The  notion of environmental awareness is much-discussed, but where does it actually lead? If we’re operating under the age-old adage of actions speaking louder than words, Earth Day is as good a day as any to take a long look in the mirror.

Just like so many areas of our lives, be it eating right, getting regular, strenuous exercise or going for routine medical check-ups, being green is a great idea that’s often difficult to put into practice. Who hasn’t had their feet burned on the infamous path paved with their good intentions? Making the correct decisions for the Earth can be time-consuming. It takes an effort to do simple actions like separating one’s trash or replacing every light bulb, not to mention remembering reusable grocery bags every time we set out for the store. These actions are just the basics.

It’s far more likely that people are more concerned with money than with time. The media is starting to pick up on this notion, and it’s no surprise that when put to a vote, the real “green initiative” is conserving the paper in our wallets. Fortunately, there are many companies who are working very diligently to benefit consumers and the environment at the same time. The more effort companies put into making environmentally-friendly practices a benefit to consumers, the better everyone will be in the long run. Now that’s an Earth Day wish we could all make together.

Lest you think I’m looking to cast stones from my glass-lined editorial pulpit, we’re trying to do our part as well. Check out our new collection, The Business of Green, and help your company take affordable, proactive steps to making smart choices for your business, your customers and the environment. We’re featuring 11 key summaries of top business titles with an environmental edge. What’s more, this collection is only available electronically. Like I said, it’s the small things that make a difference.



Suze Orman has a 2009 Plan for You
January 23, 2009, 2:10 PM
Filed under: Financial/Accounting | Tags:

Published in late December, just in time to ring the New Year in, comes personal finance expert and bestselling author Suze Orman’s Suze Orman’s 2009 Action Plan from publisher Spiegel & Grau.

 

Orman has a huge following, writes a Q&A advice section in Oprah Winfrey’s monthly magazine O, has penned multiple bestsellers and hosts The Suze Orman Show on CNBC.  Quite frankly, she definitely seems to know her stuff when it comes to personal finance. And according to Orman, 2009 is the year that none of us can afford to make mistakes with our money.

 

From the book’s Amazon.com page: “The nation’s go-to expert on financial matters, Suze Orman, believes that 2009 is a critical year for your money. There are safeguards to put in place, actions to take, costly mistakes to avoid, and even opportunities to be had, so that you are protected during the bad times and prepared to prosper when things take a turn for the better. No matter what situation you’re in, you will find a plan of action and the answers to your questions about: credit, retirement, savings and spending, real estate, paying for college, and protecting your family.”

 

As additional help for readers, Orman has a page on her Web site for online updates to her 2009 action plan. On the same page, readers can find useful 2009 action plan resources, such as a “debt eliminator, an expense sheet, and several more.



Portable Personal Finance
January 7, 2009, 1:50 PM
Filed under: Financial/Accounting | Tags:

Tribune Media Services (TMS) launched Cash: Personal Finance for Real People, a new Kindle-specific personal finance magazine on Dec. 16. According to an article published by foliomag.com, the online face of Folio Magazine, this will be the third Kindle-specific magazine introduced by TMS and available on Amazon.

 

The magazine is a weekly, auto-delivered wirelessly on Mondays, for a monthly subscription price of $1.49, or $0.49 per issue. According to TMS, the editors have “assembled a crackerjack team that includes experts from Kiplinger’s Consumer News Service, U.S. News & World Report, Harvard University and the Mayo Clinic. …Cash delivers almost 40 columns a week that will help you make intelligent financial decisions.”

 

Folio quoted TMS’ Steve Tippie, Cash’s publisher and TMS vice president of marketing and licensing, as saying, “Cash is a very timely new tool created to help American consumers evaluate their options for spending, saving and investing decisions they confront each day. To meet this need, we pull the best advice and information from dozens of sources to tailor a continually-updated handbook to being a smart consumer.”

 

Cash sounds intriguing, but access—so far—is limited to only those who have a Kindle. The price seems fair for the subscription, but I’m not sure how many individuals will want to make the $359 investment for the hardware. Then again, it is an investment that allows the owner to carry a plethora of reading material around, so it might just be worth the ticket price.