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Memos from the Chairman

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  310 ratings  ·  21 reviews
Memos from the Chairman is a particularly encouraging example for all business managers and leaders who, through humor, insight, and shared inspiration, strive to run and build a firm with outstanding success and good cheer. Through his notorious memos, Greenberg expounds upon business ethics, telephone manners, cycles and trends, and other important issues. Greenberg has ...more
Kindle Edition, 162 pages
Published March 1st 1996 by Workman Publishing Company
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3.85  · 
Rating details
 ·  310 ratings  ·  21 reviews

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Brad Feld
Dec 07, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
I had high hopes for Ace Greenberg’s compendium of memos from his time as chairman of Bear Stearns, which coincided with massive growth and success for the company. While there was some cuteness in here along with a few things to reflect on, I was disappointed in how dull the majority of the book was. Maybe it was awesome in 1996 when it came out, but it felt slow and dated in 2015.
Dec 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a collection of memos sent from Alan C. Greenberg while he was chairman of Bear Stearns. Communicating memos is a common practice throughout the business world but Greenberg set himself apart in the way he did it.

The following quote from a memo by Greenberg is one of the best examples of this.

“I was just shown the results for our first quarter. They were excellent. When mortals go through a prosperous period, it seems to be human nature for expenses to balloon. We are going to be t
Soo Ling Yeoh
Mar 05, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

A book of practical truths, and entertaining at the same time. Key insights include:
1. Be prepared during the good times. Times will turn, and it could be very soon.
2. Thou will do well in commerce as long as thou does not believe thine own odour is perfume.
3. Use common sense. Do not force fit frameworks into problems for a solution.
4. Avoid the herd mentality.
5. Customer first.
6. A great poker player leaves nothing on the table. Cap costs at all times, and leave no waste.
7. Start hiring
Jul 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Saved memos from the former Chairman and CEO of Bear Stearns to his employees...great ideas for workplace. Read as intern for Bear and was priviledged to get to know Mr. Greenberg as i worked on same floor as him :) (have my autographed copy)
Gabriel Pinkus
This guy is hilarious. Bear Stearns is making $110M in a quarter and he's sending out memos reminding people that broken rubber bands can still be used if you tie the ends together. I can see why Buffett liked Ace so much.
Luís Ferreira
Fun collection of Company memos from Bear Sterns CEO, who credits the wisdom shared to funny fictitious executives with strange names (ex: Haimchinkel Malintz Anaynikal).

Excessive and petty expense cutting is the most recurring theme (saving paper clips, rubber bands and envelopes is golden). Other takeaways are 1) investing while other companies are downsizing(hiring instead of firing), 2) client & phone etiquette, 3) management accountability and 4) common sense.

My Notes:
*thou will do we
Mostafa Maleki
Jul 29, 2018 rated it did not like it

I can’t believe the leader of a multi billion dollar investment bank wanted to save expenses by cutting on rubber bands or asking his team to stay in public parks while on business travel. This is the dark side of capitalism at the expense of human empowerment and freedom.
Feb 12, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Control expenses. Use common sense. Return calls.
Interesting memos, filled with irony and sarcasm, from a time when there was no internet, no mobile phones, no e-mails, but leading successful businesses was tough nonetheless.
Really cherished the PSB definition.
Sean Cramer
Funny view on a chairman's perspective on cutting costs improve market share. Thought it was a good read
Jan 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Thou will do well in commerce as long as thou does not believe thine own odor is perfume."
Armando Leite
A collection of memos sent by Bear and Stearns CEO, Alan Greenberg, impart a philosophy of common sense management on the rest of his organisation. Several times fads in management are dismissed as such (BPR, VM...)
Although "arrogance" is mentioned as a negative on several occasions, the memos in themselves come across as arrogant at times... some clever laplacian truths though;
- Be polite to customers
- Be responsive
- Control your expenses
- >If you don;t have something good to say about someb
Mar 06, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Superficially, the memos appear repetitive and overly simplistic. Then you realize that is the beauty and the brilliance of Greenberg...over a period of 18 years he consistently displays wit, discipline and a set of values that make Bear Sterns focus on the right things (customers, cost, honesty) despite the great distractions of Wall Street ups and downs. Really good one for leaders of any company or group.
Mar 08, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The size of the book makes it a fun read. It could however do with more of an explanantion... reg circumstances of said time periods, and an end note...

The chairman of a now failed organisation kept sticking to the basics - common sense, frugality, accountability, respect for customers, honing a culture, and lastly, being contrarian in times of extreme situations.

It's a nice short fun read, but gives away little information other than the verbatim memos.
Arturo Ojeda
Interesting focus on the fundamentals. At first, it sounded sarcastic but I think a better term for describing the memos is that they are straightforward.

He talks a lot about austerity, and I think it's an important topic to take care of as a chairman but I don't think that's what made the company great, as some people see it. At some points, I think insisting some much on that, and taking it to an extreme, made the associates feel like they were working on a "cheap" company.
The final memo should read that hoarding paper clips & rubber bands is neither panacea nor consolation when your balance sheet is levered 50 times and loaded with worthless MBS just as a global financial crisis erupts.
Dec 21, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quick/fun read that gives the reader a good luck at Ace Greenberg's management style. During the heyday of Bear Stearns, Ace made the firm a great place to work and managed their P&L like a hawk.
Nov 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Light reading. Lots of humor in his very consistent and instructive view on management.
Namik Šepić
The only good thing about this book, is that it's available online. Definitely not worth buying.
Some jewels of wisdom, and interesting what themes are repeated over the years. This would be a good book to have handy for quoting from at key moments.
Michael Massad
Jul 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Simple, quick, easy to grasp.

Alan Greenberg distills how to run a company in a few simple steps
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“The only statistic I care about is return on equity. After many sessions with some of our business school graduates (yes, we do have some), I think they have helped me understand the secret to improving our R.O.E. It seems that if we increase revenues and cut expenses, return on equity goes up and that is what makes me happy. Please make me happy! I can be very unpleasant when I’m not.” 2 likes
“It is up to all of us to fight our unrelenting enemies—complacency, overconfidence and conceit.” 1 likes
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