Monthly Bookmarks –
138th Edition – November 7, 2021
Business is all about people and you need to find those who share your vision and values who will bring their own passion and strengths to the task.Charles Schwab
1. CFOs Should Be Very Familiar with Jamie Dimon
Many moons ago, I started my accounting and financial career at KPMG where I spent the majority of my time on bank audits. Since leaving, even though I’ve closed on about $25 million in small business debt financing annually, I’ve not followed the banking industry.
Accordingly, I knew very little about Jamie Dimon before reading The Lost Bank by Kirsten Grind. There were not that many pages devoted to Dimon, so I wanted more. I found that something more in the book, Last Man Standing by Duff McDonald.
The first part of the book dives into the origin of the mentor-student relationship between Sandy Weill and Jamie Dimon. But like the Beatles, all good things come to an end. The two parted, but Jamie ultimately became the chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase. Believe it or not, he was one of the good guys during the sub-prime financial crisis.
Why study Dimon? Because he could be cocky, arrogant, work a hundred hours a week expecting others to do the same thing, and forget about the people-side of critical projects?
No. This guy was a diamond in the rough from the very beginning, a very smart one. He was an expert in M&A. He got the really big picture on investments, yet he could tear into the details to flush out waste and operating inefficiencies in any bank. He was a student of numbers and what they meant. Outcomes were never about him. Outcomes were about key results for customers, employees, and shareholders.
If there were a history course for CFOs, Jamie Dimon belongs in the discussion with John Jakob Raskob and Harold Geneen.
2. What’s Your Favorite Lencioni Book?
Help me to understand why a hardcore finance guy like me enjoys reading any book written by Lencioni? Sure, they are short, easy to read, and pack 2-3 important nuggets of wisdom in each of his fables. While the majority of our readers work in the smart space (Lencioni’s term), all of his books are about the healthy part of the business. And I’m still drawn to his concepts.
If you’ve not read any of his books or maybe just one or two, where do you begin? Which title should follow?
Brian Jones is a member of Lencioni’s consulting arm called, The Table Group. I asked Brian that question, and he gave me this list in his very own words:
- Start with The Motive. It’s his latest book, but it’s the prequel to all of his other books.
- Then read The Advantage. It’s the only leadership book Patrick has written.
- You’ve probably read The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, but it should come next in your reading.
- I’d round out his list with The Ideal Team Player.
Brian and I spent nearly an hour discussing The Motive in our latest podcast episode, and his message about the book helps us to question our true motives about leadership positions.
3. Do Narrators Make a Difference?
One of our podcast listeners asked me about narrators of audiobooks I recommend. Do you ever find a narrator so good that you search for other books he/she has read and then listen to them? I have. Here’s my shortlist:
- Scott Brick is head and shoulders leading the way. His voice is perfect for certain books like The Devil in the White City, No One Would Listen (on Madoff), and In The Heart of the Sea. Great voice.
- Ray Porter’s name might sound familiar. He read The 4-Hour Workweek, and his unique voice can be heard in Tools of Titans, Tribe of Mentors, and many works of fiction.
- Edward Herrmann has read two of my favorite books, The Boys in the Boat and Unbroken. His credits also include Atlas Shrugged, The Johnstown Flood, and Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance. Sometimes, I just want a reader where I don’t notice them because I’m so engrossed in the book. Herrmann is that narrator.
- I’ve read Open by Agassi twice. I’ve listened to it twice. It’s that good. When you listen to it, you’re getting a bonus with the reader, Erik Davies. Davies has the type of voice you’d expect in a thriller. But his voice is a match for Open.
- Fred Sanders has the perfect voice for biographies and memoirs. His credits include The Gambler, Apollo 13, Yeager, Elon Musk, and Born to Run.
- Similar to Fred Sanders, I’d include Will Damron who has narrated Bad Blood, The Culture Code, Range, Digital Minimalism, and several best-selling works of fiction.
While I’ve only heard him on works of fiction, George Guidall belongs in a hall of fame for audiobook narrators. I’ll always be a Vince Flynn fan, and that’s where I remember Guidall’s grandfatherly voice the most.
4. Another Entrepreneurial Journey and More Obstacles in the Way
Next to narrative non-fiction, I like reading books by CEO-founders who figured it out when the odds were stacked against them. While the book may lack some of the drama and fascination of Shoe Dog, I’m adding Charles Schwab’s book, Invested: Changing Forever the Way Americans Invest to my must-read list for business leaders.
Overcoming dyslexia, lack of cash (numerous occasions), a tricky business partnership (Bank of America), and scaling technology in a pioneering way that had never been done before. Throw in his humility and determination, and you’ve got a great leader to look up to.
I’m a huge fan of the lean startup methodology as taught by Steve Blank. But I’m reminded of the Schwab way. He had a gut feeling about a gaping hole in the market. He went for it. Sometimes those hunches pay off with limited data.
Great story. Great man. Astounding results.
5. Looking for That Next Great Book?
Still looking for some good book suggestions? Here are a few titles I’ve stashed away for the future:
- Vanderbilt by Cooper and Howe (3.1k ratings at 4.4). This book just came out a few weeks ago, and I’m astonished at the number of reviews already. It’s now in my queue.
- Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty by Keefe (3k ratings at 4.7). I’m very familiar with this story, so I’m finally going to read it before the year ends. It’s a book we’ll probably review in this newsletter.
- Greenlights by McConaughey (47k reviews at 4.7 stars). I’m giving in. I just got the Audible version and the author reads it himself. I’ve heard so many positive things about the book. It’s my next listen.
- Chain of Title by Dayen (less than 200 ratings at 4.6). After reading The Lost Bank, the fall of Washington Mutual, I wanted to get a first-hand account of the borrows who were negatively impacted by the sub-prime financial crisis.
- Relentless: The Forensics of Mobsters’ Business Practices by Zimmerman and Forrester (less than 100 ratings at 4.3). If I had a career do over, I would have jumped into forensic accounting for about five years after leaving KPMG in the 1990s. Accordingly, this is more of a curiosity journey – I’ll let you know if it’s good.
October’s CFO Bookshelf Podcast Playlist:
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