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.



Courage, Greatness and Your Business

It’s easy to admire someone for his or her business accomplishments. Magazines tout the visionaries who lead both the traditional brand superpowers and the up-and-coming houses of innovation. The press also enjoys shining the spotlight on “rock star” CEOs whose personalities often enhance an already prolific amount of business intelligence.

However, from time to time, we hear about someone whose bravery extends beyond the boardroom. The other day I was reading Brian Tracy’s blog and I found myself struck by the power of his simple message. Tracy, for those that aren’t aware, has been battling throat cancer over the past several months, a point he addresses in this blog post. For all of his achievments as a strategist, consultant, author and business visionary, one of his finest moments may be his taming of a very serious illness with equal parts courage and positivity.

I can admit here that Soundview had been in contact with Tracy during the period of his treatment. He spoke with determination and had an upbeat attitude the entire time. Despite undergoing treatment, Tracy gladly spoke of his book Now Build a Great Business. This book and its inspiring contents will be the subject of an upcoming edition of Soundview Live!

Tracy will speak on the topic of “Seven Ways to Maximize Your Profits.” I had the opportunity to review some of the material during our planning sessions, and I can honestly say that Tracy’s perspective amazes me. I really hope you can join us on Tuesday, September 21 at Noon (Eastern) for the next installment of Soundview Live. You’ll have the exclusive opportunity to ask Brian questions about your business, a value to which the thousands of organizations with whom Brian has worked can attest.

Don’t forget, if you’re a Soundview subscriber, you get to attend Soundview Live for FREE!



A Sweet Acquisition in the Works?

You’ve got to give credit to Warren Buffett for a good turn of phrase. While sourcing this quote is a bit tough, America’s most famous investor is credited with saying, “When people are greedy, be nervous. When people are nervous, be greedy.” Companies that apply this logic often look at unstable economic times as an opportunity to make bold moves.

Today’s headlines indicate that Kraft Foods is one such company looking to make a move. In an acquisition attempt that’s on par with a lunar eclipse in terms of size, the food giant is bidding to take over British confectioner Cadbury. According to a company profile, Kraft is the second largest food company in the world and the largest in the United States. If you didn’t bother to click on the link in the previous sentence, go back and take a look at the brands Kraft controls. Stunning isn’t it? How much of your grocery cart is devoted to Kraft products? If you’re a parent, your purchases of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, Oreo cookies and Kool-Aid are probably a large factor in why Kraft is able to make such a bold move. I know I’ve done my part with my love of Ritz crackers and Philadelphia cream cheese.

Now Kraft is looking to become parent to yet another organization. However, as press reports indicate, Cadbury is attempting to resist the acquisition. While I’m not certain that the move will affect the taste of the Dairy Milk bar (a Cadbury staple), investors and business analysts are keeping a close eye on the proceedings.

If this deal touches off a resurgence in mergers and acquisitions (also known as M&A, which tend to occur during periods of economic recovery), executives may want to brush up on the basics of M&A. For that, I’d recommend a book we summarized a short time ago whose advice remains timeless. Scott Moeller and Chris Brady authored Intelligent M&A, a title that gives executives a strong survival guide to the intense, high-stakes world of mergers and acquisitions. It’s one of the most clear-cut books on the subject and would serve any executive well prior to being given a role in a company’s M&A efforts.



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.



The Long, Slow Road to Recovery

Feel free to come out from under your beds, folks. Happy days are here again.

Really?

Perhaps the people at the above media outlet should check some of the 240+ comments that were logged in the aftermath of this report hitting the airwaves. I’d tell you to check it out as well, but trust me, there are far more productive ways to spend your time. You have to cut through a lot of vitriolic remarks concerning both our current and previous president to get to statements of any relevance. The comments that did discuss the economy seemed to confirm that the public is not ready to accept that all is well from sea to shining sea.

Judging by the reports we receive from various publishers, the public’s desire for books relating to the current economic situation has not decreased. It’s gotten to the point where even individuals in specific fields are looking to address how to ride out the storm in their industries. Some may view this as opportunistic, but the market for this type of information is proving to be larger than anticipated.

We’ve answered this response ourselves in recent times. Visit Summary.com to see our Survive and Thrive Collection, one of several products we’re currently featuring that are the result of reader demand. We’re committed to providing the most relevant advice from the top business minds.

While nothing would please us more than to remove these items due to lack of need, we’re prepared to continue the flow of information for the duration of the recession. Don’t believe the hype. The road to recovery is long, but we’re with you every step of the way.



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.