Weekly Bookmarks –
131st Edition – August 8, 2021
We look at the numbers to see where we are. Numbers show us the outcomes of all the decisions we’ve made so far. But they don’t tell us where to go.The old man in Be Like Amazon: Even a Even a Lemonade Stand Can Do It
1. Do We Need Another Book on Amazon?
I was experiencing a weak moment when I clicked the buy button on Be Like Amazon by Jeffrey and Bryan Eisenberg.
The theme of the book is the alignment of all business activities around the customer and the story is told through dialogue.
My favorite part of the book is a reference to the 2010 Amazon letter to shareholders which includes three interesting bullet points:
- 360 of the 452 goals (set) will have a direct impact on customer experience
- The word revenue is used eight times and free cash flow is only used four times
- In the 452 goals, the terms net income, gross profit or margin, and operating profit are not used once.
Start with customers, and work backward. Listen to customers, but don’t just listen to customers – also invent on their behalf. We can’t assure you that we’ll meet all of this year’s goals. We haven’t in past years. However, we can assure you that we’ll continue to obsess over customers. We have strong conviction that that approach – in the long term – is every bit as good for owners as it is for customers.Jeff Bezos – 2010 Amazon Annual Report
2. Reflections on The FBI Way
I mentioned this book last week, and I just finished it a few days ago. Five stars all the way.
Frank Figliuzzi condenses the FBI’s core values into what he calls the Seven C’s:
The chapter on clarity was powerful, memorable, and my favorite. The chapter on credibility is one you’ll probably read twice.
Living by a code lowers the risk of falling victim to bad decisions, bad people, and bad outcomes.Frank Figliuzzi, The FBI Way
3. Other Books About the FBI
After finishing The FBI Way, I started wondering about the other books written by FBI agents. Here’s what I came up with:
- Frank Abagnale – Catch Me If You Can. The book is great, the movie is okay. Frank’s Abagnale’s Talks at Google is also outstanding, especially the Q&A at the end.
- Chris Voss – Never Split the Difference. As Dave Letterman might say, this author needs no introduction. It’s the book you don’t just read or listen to just once.
- Scott Augenbaum – The Secret to Cybersecurity. Because of my lack of knowledge with cyberthreats of any kind, I went on to interview Scott last year, and his risk management techniques are not impossible to implement.
4. A Tale of Two Retailers
This past week, I was reviewing the SG&A of two big retailers, and here’s what I found as a percentage of revenue over the past four years:
Big Retailer A – 9.8% to 10.1%
Big Retailer B – 20.8% to 21.3%
Retailer A is Costco and Retailer B is Walmart. I didn’t realize the gap was that wide. Obviously, Costco’s business model is different from Walmart’s. Costco also doesn’t advertise. Should they? Would it make a difference? Whose business model do you like better?
5. Running and the Olympic Gold
Short distance running blows me away. And how and the world does Allyson Felix continue to shine in her twilight years? What a remarkable winner and a class act.
Once upon a time, I ran to stay in shape after I started my financial career. I was one of those people who was compelled to study and research the sport so that I could get better (in case you’re curious, my 5K PR was 18:11).
Of the dozen or so books I read on running over the past 25 years, one still stands out because the material was the tell-all sort of book. The title is Speed Trap by Charlie Francis, the former Olympic running coach to Ben Johnson of Canada.
Here is what Coach Francis has to say about the 100 metres (I’m sticking to the author’s spelling):
The 100 metres is track’s ultimate challenge precisely because it is so austere, so short. The shorter the distance, the less endurance becomes a factor-and the less you can improve by dint of hard work. Precision matters more than effort.
Since 100-metre runners travel faster than athletes in any other event, they are more sensitive to mistakes, from technical flaws to overtraining. Because their extreme speed puts so much strain on their muscles and tendons, there is less margin for error and a higher frequency of disaster; sprinters are highly vulnerable to injury even when handled well.Charlie Francis, Speed Trap
That’s why I salute those short-distance runners. They are freaks of nature.
The CFO Bookshelf Podcast – Are you an analytical thinker with great people skills, or are those communication abilities lacking? I recently read People Skills for Analytical Thinkers and just had to interview the author after I finished the book. The show with Gilbert Eijkelenboom is now live.
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