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What the CEO Wants You to Know : How Your Company Really Works Hardcover – February 13, 2001

4.1 out of 5 stars 83 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Ram Charan learned about business from his family's shoe shop in India before attending Harvard Business School and going on to advise senior executives in companies large and small. His experiences taught him that universal laws apply "whether you sell fruit from a stand or are running a Fortune 500 company," and that the business acumen that comes from understanding these basics can be applied throughout any operation. What the CEO Wants You to Know is Charan's primer on this point, which he illustrates with explanations filtered through the eyes of street venders and other small shopkeepers. One, for example, involves a woman in Managua, Nicaragua, who sells clothing from a small cart and beats the oppressive interest rates on her loans and the puny profit margins on her goods with a skillfully selected inventory that is quickly and repeatedly turned over. Whether it's a corner merchant or a giant manufacturing concern, Charan notes, "the faster the velocity, the higher the return." Relating such thinking to cash generation, customer satisfaction, and other essentials, he describes the universal principles that help all companies make money. "What your CEO wants you to know is how these fundamentals of business work in your company," he writes before embarking on a very lucid explanation that can be quickly absorbed and put into practice. --Howard Rothman

From Publishers Weekly

Charan (Boards at Work), a consultant, draws an analogy between the decision-making processes of the CEO and the street vendor in his native India. The vendor must focus on profit margin, returns and customer demands. CEOs must "Think like the street vendor. Cut through to the nucleus of the business." Successful leaders, says Charan, aren't afraid to seek help---from coaches, colleagues or employees. With its friendly, conversational tone, this book will be useful to some readers on the lower and middle rungs, but may prove too simplistic for aspiring CEOs.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 141 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Business; 1 edition (February 13, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0609608398
  • ISBN-13: 978-0609608395
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.7 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (83 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #22,077 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 26, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Dr. Charan has used his decades of experience with top CEOs to write a book that explains the overall concepts and focus of a successful business using simple metaphors. "The best CEOs . . . are able to take the complexity and mystery out of business by focusing on the fundamentals." "And they make sure everone in the company . . . understands these fundamentals." If you work in a small part of a large organization and don't understand how what you do contributes to the whole, this book will be a revelation to you. If you do not understand how business people think and would like to learn, this book will help you more than any five courses you could take.
The book is organized into four parts.
In part one, you learn the universal language of business though concepts like inventory, product mix, merchandising, pricing, return on assets, customer focus, product quality, cash generation, growth, and finding out what you need to change from customers. The primary metaphor used here is that of a street vendor who is selling fruit in India and cannot afford to have a bad day. Dr. Charan fleshes out the examples by referring to his family's shoe business, and to decisions taken by leading executives he has worked with (like Jack Welch of General Electric, Jac Nassar of Ford, and Dick Brown at EDS).
In part two, he talks about how to use these concepts in the real world. His key point is to take the measurements and create a focus on 3 or 4 key activities that will make the most difference. He also relates this work to expanding the value of the company's share price.
In part three, he turns his attention to getting key tasks done.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The most brilliant thing about this extremely slim volume is it's title. Any ambitious person in a corporate setting will want what the book promises. Unfortunately, the promise is not fulfilled.

One problem is the book is most applicable to retail or manufacturing. The central insight of the book deals with inventory turnover. That may be fine for Dell Computers, but CEOs of companies that develop software don't care about inventory, because there is none. The entire service/information economy is more or less ignored.

Overall I found the book interesting and worthwhile. But if you strip away the folksy tales about fruit vendors in the third world and anecdotes about the CEO of Ford, what you have left is a short pamphlet.

I would guess this book contains information my CEO would probably would want me to know. But I am pretty sure my CEO would want me to know a whole lot more than whats in this book.
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Format: Hardcover
I have to laugh every time I hear about some CEO or manager that has passed out, to their employees, "Who Moved My Cheese." My money is with the company that passes this book out to their employees.
It's nothing we haven't learned in business school or during our MBA studies-basic business fundamentals. Ram, however, pulls all these concepts together, quite elegantly, and reminds us that these fundamental concepts should be our focus if we want a strong viable company. I throughly enjoyed it. An easy 2-Hour read.
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Format: Hardcover
It is humbling. After B-School and hundreds of business books, it took these 150 or so pages of text lay explain why I spent time learning finance and accounting, marketing, communications and leadership: To build my business acumen. And Mr. Charan makes it clear that business acumen drives all businesses, be they apple carts or multi-nationals.

How simple is Charan's exposition on building business acumen?

-Finance and operations management are boiled down to one equation (R=M*V). As basic as it gets.

-And marketing gets covered just as simply: "Do they like my fruit? If customers cleared me out of bananas but I have apples left, should I abandon apples and specialize in bananas?"

- Leadership is getting people to focus on the important drivers of wealth generation: cash, velocity, and margins. The best leaders cut through the complexity of their businesses, and get their employees entirely focused on these fundamentals.

But do not be fooled by the brevity. This book is actually quite rigorous. Of course, you will still need spreadsheets and inventory management software and SAS to mine data in this increasingly complex world. Charan does not deny this, but cuts through the complexity so you can see how it all fits together. And that is business acumen, the knowledge and understanding of which will enrich any job you do.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is one of the most simple business books to read and I would highly recommend it to those that are looking to understand how businesses operate. I believe this book would be highest valued by those without extensive business backgrounds and by others that are seeking to understand why some companies are great whereas others are average. Mr. Charan explains the most important element of businesses, generating cash. He then talks about numerous business concepts at a very basic level, which I think would help everyone (including MBAs and CEOs). At 150 pages or so it is an easy read and can be read quickly for those seeking information quickly.
I personally have a degree in accounting, an MBA in finance and I worked in corporate strategy. I found this book definitely worth the while and ranks up in the top 2 of overall general business books I have read. I am just now starting to put my reviews online.
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