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The Outsiders: Eight Unconventional CEOs and Their Radically Rational Blueprint for Success
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The Outsiders: Eight Unconventional CEOs and Their Radically Rational Blueprint for Success

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  7,383 ratings  ·  425 reviews
”It is impossible to produce superior performance unless you do something different.” — John Templeton

What makes a successful CEO? Most people call to mind a familiar definition: a seasoned manager with deep industry expertise. Others might point to the qualities of today’s so-called celebrity CEOs—charisma, virtuoso communication skills, and a confident management style.
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published October 23rd 2012 by Harvard Business Review Press (first published 2012)
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Keenan Johnston
Jan 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
The Outsiders is about 8 CEOs who have enjoyed far better returns on company stock than their peers or the market due to their ability to allocate both financial and human capital.I really liked this book because capital allocation rarely gets talked about at the C-suite level from my experience. Most of the CEO's I interact with don't have financial or CFO backgrounds, rising through the sales or operations ranks. The result of which is a big disconnect between owners and operators on capital d ...more
Jason Schmidt
Apr 20, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: quit-reading
Extremely repetitive. Every CEO made strategic acquisitions and bought back stock when the price multiple made sense. There thats the whole book. The book also glorifies things like excessively slashing worker pay to increase return to shareholders. For a much better read check out Makers and Takers: The Rise of Finance and the Fall of American Business by Rana Foroohar.
Feb 20, 2017 rated it liked it
It was a well written book, with interesting stories. But as a CEO I do not agree that the entire success of such ginormous organizations have been purely because of their CEOs and how they managed cashflow, decentralized their organization and made smart capital allocations. Business is way more complex than what this book makes it seems like. There numerous internal and external factors that can move the pendulum in different direction.

Although there were interesting patterns in behaviour I d
Jason Sun
Sep 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: business
"Lessons from 8 great CEOs"

I think the mix of stories and principles the CEOs blended together are good. Having 8 CEOs makes it interesting because there's a variety to look at. I do think there's a bit glossed over, but still a positive read for learning.

Here are my notes:

- Greedy when others are fearful
- Investing in the right things in big ways, cut costs everywhere else
- Funding acquisitions with debt
- Think fast and slow: fast with your initial gut-reaction, slow with your analysis
- C
Saurabh Shankar
Jul 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: berkshire
Its a great book focusing on some live examples of CEO's who have created value for shareholders.

The last chapter "radical rationality" in itself is worth the price of book. Some of the key pointers of this chapter and book.

1. Always do the math- not the detailed spreadsheet one but a simple one pager telling what are the assumptions made and basis that what are the returns expected from the project. The quality of assumptions tells how good or bad this decision is
2. Intense focus on value per s
Aaron Schlafly
Mar 02, 2015 rated it did not like it
A better description would be "Eight unconventional CEOs who used share buy-backs to leverage up returns while staying focussed and riding a wave of good luck." I'm not sure it is the best or most useful advice to leaders of companies.

The corporate histories are at least interesting, as they come from various times over the past few decades.
Nicolene Murdoch
Mar 13, 2019 rated it liked it
I enjoyed the chapters on Warren Buffett and Katharine Graham the most. I learnt more about Buffett’s interesting approaches to corporate governance. Katharine became CEO following the suicide of her husband. She was inexperienced but she trusted her gut. The movie “The Post” only touches on a small part of her multiple achievements. She did it all with poise, class and style. I also got confirmation again that introverts make good CEOs!
Adam Bratt
Jun 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Great overview of some amazing CEOs you've never heard of who embraced contrarian viewpoints and completely demolished benchmark returns by focusing on allocating capital.
Santhosh Guru
A clear and crisply written book about eight great CEOs and their skilful capital allocation technique. This book is a good introduction to a completely alien concept and a new framework on growing business.
Diego Gomes
Aug 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The bible for CEOs

This is by far my favorite book on managing a business. as a first time ceo, the outsiders provides powerful guidelines for those who dream to beat the markets and build a legacy, while fostering shareholder happyness ;)
Mar 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
If you want to run your own business, be a CEO, or get some ideas of what you should look for in CEOs of companies you want to invest in, you should read this book.

The eight CEOs Thorndike profiles all excelled in capital allocation, i.e., they knew what to do with the money their companies had.

Sounds simple enough, right? There's no simple template, however, as different circumstances yield different best moves.

He compares each CEO's returns to the results of his/her peers as well as the S&P 50
Danielle Morrill
Nov 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Makes me hungry to do some deals!
Roy Chua
Jan 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Good book. The author emphasises the similarities of CEOs that have performed brilliantly in the past.

Some key points I picked out:

1. Good CEOs are differentiated by temperament, not by intelligence. Warren buffet talks about institutional imperative, and the need to be greedy when others are fearful, fearful when others are greedy.
2. It is impossible to produce superior performance unless you do something different - John Templeton.
3. The role of a CEO should be less operational, more like an
Jun 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
This non-fiction book cannot simply be classified in a single sub-genre. Author analyses and develops an analogy about workings of 8 frugal, humble, analytical, rational, pragmatic, cognoscenti, iconoclastic, idiosyncratic, unbiased, clear-eyed, highly understated, highly unconventional yet equally lucky CEOs.

The book goes deep in the field of financial management (stock offerings, buybacks, free cash flows, debt servicing, LBOs, capital allocation-which is one of the least discussed things yet
Jan Kolmas
Jun 23, 2020 rated it did not like it
Did not finish, after the third chapter it got all boringly repetitive - inexperienced person is put in charge of a large slow company, sells non-profitable assets, acquires profitable assets, makes millions.

As a startup founder, I was hoping to learn something about being a successful CEO, but the the book is all about managing huge companies, and the takeaway messages about acquisitions and buying back shares don't apply at all.

It seems that the author is a fanboy of Warren Buffet, who is alwa
Liam Polkinghorne
Apr 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Great book summarising the iconoclastic approach of a number of successful business leaders, using engaging case studies. They were typically first time CEOs with little prior managerial experience, focused on capital allocation rather than operations management or external communication, optimised long-term value per share rather than growth, focused on margins, returns and free cash flow rather than revenue and net income, and had a long-term orientation. They disdained dividends, made discipl ...more
Jul 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
I think this work is primarily interesting because of the emphasis it places on the selected eight leaders doing things that others did not think of and succeeding because of that. To be precise, this must not be read as the validation of doing whatever the rest of the people in the group think, but rather as proof that if one has an idea which seems obvious and provably good, the absence of others doing this shouldn’t deter one.

My main problem with this book was that it was superficial. It rare
Jun 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: business
This was a well written book. It was a great experience of having to read about business leaders (read CEOs) and their various iconoclastic ways of handling things. This book highlighted some historical background checks on some of the world business leading firms and the faces behind the brands. As for some of the lessons, I think the explanations on the understanding of capital allocation and thinking carefully about how to best deploy company’s resources to create value for shareholders was f ...more
Apr 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Even though I don’t have a strong background in finances, investment strategies and stock market, moreover I don’t run a big corporate either I found this book really interesting.

It’s about CEOs from previous century who share the same pattern for companies management which made them extremely successful. At the same time, I don’t think it is just that simple and there were also other factors about those super successful companies which are not mentioned in the book and they were not only becau
Tomas Krakauskas
Jul 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Great book, I enjoyed reading every chapter. Two things surprised me, first is how outstanding was result of those 8 great CEOs compared to peers and S&P 500. All of them made yearly compound returns duoble or even higher compared to markert. Secondly, there is a clear recipe how to create shareholders' value and all of them consistently followed that path for many years, without being influenced by the general crowd behavior. A must read for every investor! ...more
Harish Vaidyanathan
Mar 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
I really liked the outsider's view and the clarity of thinking that these outsiders demonstrated, never confusing progress & short-term metrics with what they believed is true shareholder value. Though there was a lot of commonality, it is apparent that that *is* the point... ...more
Abid Shivji
Aug 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a short, but fantastic read. Definitely one of my favourite business books so far.
Kelsey Dallas
Dec 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Didn't expect to like an investing book this much. It was interesting and engaging. (And just a little bit confusing.)
Fredrik Storflor
Apr 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Easy to read and interesting perspectives about what these CEOs have in common. Good to get a different perspective than mainstream charisma, Visioneer etc
Alok Agarwal
Aug 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best business books I have read although it may have over simplified the job of a CEO to doing capital allocation and decentralisation of operations. The examples of capital allocations were very incisive and thought provoking. Buy back of shares and using youR over priced shares to do acquisitions were simple but effective and bold tools narrated in this book. However, generating cash flow through tight day to day operations has been trivialised in this book but the author ha ...more
Sanketh Koka
Oct 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Great examples by the author. Should be a part of the curriculum in b schools. Teaches what most miss out teaching. Enjoy the audacity of ceos mentioned in the book. A definite read
Chris Coccaro
Aug 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An incredibly detailed account of major CEO underdogs filled with unexpected triumphs, many making history and major waves through the market and their industry. The numbers speak for themselves as these CEOs have documented returns well over standard S&P benchmarks.

Repetitive at times, but necessary, as the author drives home the genetic makeup of a wildly successful CEO and how they drive incredible margins for their various businesses. A field manual for C-level execs and should be included o
Tim O'Hearn
Mar 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Solid study packed with interesting tidbits of information. Inspired by Good to Great with better flow and less of the everybody's-a-winner feel. Notable is the detailed history of each of the businesses, which were all meticulously crafted. A valuable book especially for those interested in private equity.
Feb 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is a great business book for any investor or anyone interested in management and leadership theory. Thorndike, a private equity investor by day, embarked on his research for this book not with the goal of writing a book but simply to see if he could identify any trends among the top performing CEO's of the past half century. What he found was a very clear trendline for what drives extraordinary returns that goes against a lot of mainstream management theory.

I started reading the book alread
Parth  Belani
May 03, 2018 rated it liked it
The author, William N. Thorndike Jr., has mentioned eight CEOs during whose tenures the returns generated by their shares have outperformed those of industry peers and the broad market by a wide margin for very long duration of time. He considers such CEOs as truly outstanding CEOs and has explored their backgrounds, management approaches and major decisions taken by them to achieve extraordinary returns for their shareholders. Although these CEOs have followed an independent and contrarian deci ...more
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“The business of business is a lot of little decisions every day mixed up with a few big decisions.” 3 likes
“Basically, CEOs have five essential choices for deploying capital—investing in existing operations, acquiring other businesses, issuing dividends, paying down debt, or repurchasing stock—and three alternatives for raising it—tapping internal cash flow, issuing debt, or raising equity. Think of these options collectively as a tool kit. Over the long term, returns for shareholders will be determined largely by the decisions a CEO makes in choosing which tools to use (and which to avoid) among these various options. Stated simply, two companies with identical operating results and different approaches to allocating capital will derive two very different long-term outcomes for shareholders.” 3 likes
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