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The Outsiders: Eight Unconventional CEOs and Their Radically Rational Blueprint for Success Hardcover – October 23, 2012
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One of the Most Important Business Books in America.” Forbes
This book completely changed my business life... If you want to build a company that generates incredible returns, this book should be on your required reading list.” Dave Morin, Founder & Partner, Slow Ventures as seen on Medium
easily the best investment or business book published in the past few years ” Brendan Matthews, Motley Fool
an important insider’s perspective, an unapologetic glimpse into the hard-core investor view of what success looks like.” Forbes.com
"It focuses on the less sexy but equally important job of a CEOcapital allocation." Mebane Faber, CIO and portfolio manager at Cambria Investment Management (Business Insider’s Wall Street Reading List for 2014)
Thorndike wants to give any manager or business owner the confidence to occasionally do things differently from your peers to make the most of the cards they’re dealt and to delight their shareholders.” Financial Times
[Thorndike's] findings turn received wisdom about CEO success on its head. It’s not revenue and profit growth, but the increase in a company’s per share value that offers the ultimate barometer of a CEO’s greatness Thorndike may have discovered an alchemic formula for CEO success. But will existing CEOs listen?” economia
Thorndike has done extensive research on each of the people features, and their success story makes for an inspiring and most definitely, compelling read.” The Hindu (India)
An extremely instructive read well worth the effort.” Business Traveller magazine
This is an eminently readable volume with plenty of lessons.” The Irish Times
ADVANCE PRAISE for The Outsiders:
Jim Collins, author, Good to Great; coauthor, Built to Last and Great by Choice
Will Thorndike dissects an eclectic and fascinating group of business leaders who created exceptional long-term value. He takes the unique angle of examining great CEOs as chief allocators of capital, so disciplined in their empirical rationality as to be nonconformists in the very best sense. Thorndike’s take is fresh, smart, and provocativeand well worth learning.”
Michael J. Mauboussin, Chief Investment Strategist, Legg Mason Capital Management; author, The Success Equation
Will Thorndike provides management principles that are as rock solid as they are rare and shares the engaging stories of eight CEOs who lived by them. The ideas in this book provide both executives and investors with the North Star of value. Follow it and prosper.”
Mason Hawkins, Chairman and CEO, Southeastern Asset Management
The Outsiders is a must-read for leadersand aspiring leadersstriving to become exceptional CEOs, and for investors interested in partnering with exceptional stewards of corporate capital.”
Walter Kiechel, author, The Lords of Strategy
If creating wealth for shareholders is the ultimate test of a CEO, meet the champions. The names of these outsiders’ may come as a surprise, but you will learn valuable strategic lessons from their iconoclastic ways.”
Thomas A. Russo, Partner, Gardner Russo & Gardner
The Outsiders celebrates leaders who kept their firms focused, rewarded their management despite long periods of inactivity, andby keeping their companies out of troublefound themselves free to pounce when compelling opportunities arose. A highly effective playbook for excellence.”
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Mr. Thorndike's book not only falls into the third category, but has made its way to the top of my keeper list. it is simply extraordinary, and I could not recommend it more highly.
Why did I like it so much? Because it explains, in the most straightforward of ways, in the clearest of prose, (1) the hallmarks of a good business (strong, steady, predictable cash flow, as the sine qua non and core focus), (2) the possible sources of cash and uses of cash in a business that taken together generate cash flow in simple algebra (sources less uses equals cash flow), (3) the strategies flowed by 8 business leaders in managing that flow of capital so that the math works out the right way, (4) the incredible similarities in the strategies pursued by these leaders in working with cash flow and the tight correlation to increases in shareholder value, (5) the mindset of these leaders that separated them from the pack, (6) the ability of this group to decentralize, tune out the outside noise and ignore the "institutional imperative" and (7) the common intense focus shared by these leaders on a small set of metrics (all pretty much proxies for measuring cash flow and thus return on equity.
If I had to consolidate those conclusions into a single core principle that came through with crystal clarity for me in this book, it would be that strategic, rational management of cash flow against clear benchmarks may be the single highest priority for leadership in any business. And as a corollary, that so few businesses seem guided by an intense focus on cash flow with its corresponding contribution to shareholder value.
I also was so impressed that the conclusions presented in the book were not simply the musings of a very intelligent thinker, but rather were grounded in the most thorough of research. I likely still would have found much of value even without the research foundation, but that aspect provided even more credence to the analysis presented in the book.
I spent Saturday of Labor Day Weekend reading through this volume as if it were the latest action thriller (geeky, I know). I simply couldn't turn the pages quickly enough, and look forward to returning to its teachings time and time again. It will have a very important place on both my investing and business bookshelves in the years to come.
As Mr. Thorndike says in an interview that I read after reading the book, it would be wonderful if the top business schools would teach more (or, perhaps at all) about management of cash flow as a critical business priority of the CEO that should never under any circumstances be delegated down or away. I think he may have well written the textbook.
The eight CEOs studied by Thorndike had remarkably similar approaches to questions such as "should I buy my competitor or should I pay a large dividend to my investors", "should I invest in a new plant/market or should I offer to buyback shares from my investors", "should I spend our excess cash on growing our market share or should I return this cash to investors".
In a nutshell, Thorndike gives you the secrets of eight outstanding CEOs and how they think about whether you should spend your cash to grow the top line, to pay a dividend, or to buyback shares and thereby reduce the denominator of shares outstanding.
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Rationality, patience and decisiveness are their key traits.