June Book Report: Reviewing “CFO Techniques”
I’d like to try a new addition to the site in the form of a monthly (hopefully) book report! Keeping your skills fresh and dynamic is one of the most important tools for career development. Aside from that, reading is just a great way to learn new information in an entertaining format. Hopefully these monthly recommendations can prove to be useful for you and be beneficial for your career!
I first bought CFO Techniques because, at the time of purchase, I was in talks with a friend to go in together on a small business. I’ve always perceived myself as someone who could evolve into a CFO of a company and this would have been my first foray into that position. The talks eventually failed as they pursued other interests, but I was still left with a pretty cool book to read. So without further ado, the June book report!
CFO Techniques purports itself to be a hands on guide to keeping a business solvent and successful. At the book’s core, it’s a mini-textbook. Don’t let that dissuade you though, it’s still an engaging read. Let me reiterate that, this is a book primarily focusing on accounting and cash flow management and it is actually engaging.
The author, Marina Guzik, has 25 years under her belt; 18 of those as a CFO. She also holds an MBA in Accounting with a Ph.D in Economics. I first found out about Guzik through her blog “The Frustrated CFO” and when the time came for me to find a CFO book, I was pleased to find that she had one. She currently runs a consulting company where she is a sort of CFO for hire and she specializes in mid-size companies in any industry.
Admittedly, when people think of a CFO book they think of “The Essential CFO” and I can’t blame them. I’ve read it, it’s a great book; however, its focus is on large companies and the intricacies of management. The author was a previous investment banker and CFO with E*Trade Financial and thus his background is with seeking capital growth and shareholder confidence. Compared with Guzik who focuses on small and mid-size business who tend to have smaller staff sizes and leaner margins, it is a much more useful book for the average business owner. Plus, Guzik has priced this at half of what “The Essential CFO” is.
What Makes the Book Great
Guzik ties in solid business education with humorous personal anecdotes from her own career. In one instance, when discussing the various ways an owner can spot a discrepancy in financial documents, she recounts the time an accountant consistently posted dates for accounts payable incorrectly. She spoke with the accountant the first time it occurred and on the next time, she ordered a big rubber stamp that she used to mark all wire transfers with the correct posting date to fix the error. The book is full of these types of stories which tie in all the erudite text with applicable and easy-going side bits.
The book also follows a very logical flow – an introduction to financial reports and tools comes before treasury (cash flow) management, which comes before information analysis. Ultimately, the text is broken up into nine parts, with each part being separated by concise chapters and each chapter being broken up by smaller sub-chapters. This allows for an easy read. Not only can you stop and start the book at any place you would like, but it also allows you to reference the book once you finish. Referencing is made even easier with a comprehensive index at the back of the book.
The book itself though is very comprehensive. It’s apparent, from the first chapter to the last, that the author is not only well-versed in business, but also took an extraordinary effort to research her facts. Further, it has an abundance of useful graphs to provide as a visual example to what she is discussing at any given point in time. Many of these graphs were ones that she claims to have used professionally. Given the detail on some of them, I’m rather convinced that Guzik is telling the truth.
What Could Have Been Better
As much as the graphs and figures supplemented the text and were overall useful, they also are my biggest complaint. The graphs are incredibly dense and yet are still fitted on half of a page. This causes the text to be insanely small sometimes, and burdensome to read. I looked online to try and find a digital index of all the graphs in the book and none was to be found. Had Guzik supplied these in a digital and easy to read format, the book would score much higher; however, the work it takes to get information out of some of the graphs makes them useless. To be fair though, some of the graphs are perfectly sized and are easy to read and use.
My other gripe about this book is that it markets itself as an everyday guide. It’s not. I do not recommend this book for someone with no business experience or knowledge. There are other “beginner’s books” out there that will be more useful. I consider myself to be knowledgeable in business, and semi-knowledgeable about accounting and I found myself googling a few terms or concepts on occasion. In that respect, it’s a great read because you’re sure to learn something; on the other hand, it probably pays to already have a good grasp of the business cycle and accounting terms or already be engaged in an established business.
Ultimately, I would recommend this to students in the sophomore or junior level of a business or accounting degree or to someone who is already engaged in the role of a CFO who is looking to take their knowledge to the next level. Another great person to read this book would be a budding entrepreneur who is looking to learn more about owning a business before ‘taking the plunge’ so to speak. The concepts covered, whether simple or complex, are presented in an easily referenced and learnable format which makes it a great book to read and keep on the bookshelf for a later date. The sections on administrative planning (like an employee handbook or corporate policies), strategic planning, and creating audit controls are worth the $24 alone that the book costs on Amazon. The rest is essentially “free” value-added material.
Interest in buying the book? Here’s the Amazon Link for your convenience. I enjoyed the book and plan on keeping it handy, I hope my readers have the same luck with it. If you enjoyed this month’s book report be sure to share it with your friends on Facebook. And while you’re on Facebook don’t forget to like my Cash Flow Celt page!