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Publisher's Summary

"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. But what really matters when you run an organization? What is the hallmark of exceptional CEO performance? Quite simply, it is the returns for the shareholders of that company over the long term.

In this refreshing, counterintuitive audiobook, author Will Thorndike brings to bear the analytical wisdom of a successful career in investing, closely evaluating the performance of companies and their leaders. You will meet eight individualistic CEOs whose firms' average returns outperformed the S&P 500 by a factor of twenty in other words, an investment of $10,000 with each of these CEOs, on average, would have been worth over $1.5 million twenty-five years later. You may not know all their names, but you will recognize their companies: General Cinema, Ralston Purina, The Washington Post Company, Berkshire Hathaway, General Dynamics, Capital Cities Broadcasting, TCI, and Teledyne.

In The Outsiders, you'll learn the traits and methods striking for their consistency and relentless rationality that helped these unique leaders achieve such exceptional performance. Humble, unassuming, and often frugal, these "outsiders" shunned Wall Street and the press, and shied away from the hottest new management trends. Instead, they shared specific traits that put them and the companies they led on winning trajectories: a laser-sharp focus on per share value as opposed to earnings or sales growth; an exceptional talent for allocating capital and human resources; and the belief that cash flow, not reported earnings, determines a company's long-term value.

Drawing on years of research and experience, Thorndike tells eye-opening stories, extracting lessons and revealing a compelling alternative model for anyone interested in leading a company or investing in one and reaping extraordinary returns.

©2012 William N. Thorndike, Jr. (P)2013 Audible, Inc.

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Clear, structured presentation. Well narrated. Worth a listen!

This audiobook is certainly worth a listen. The book is laid out in a clear, concise manner with a case study on each of the Outsiders CEOs. Each of the CEOs faced a unique set of obstacles making this book an engrossing listen/read throughout.

Please note that the emphasis is on the success of the CEOs in office rather than on the formative background that made these CEOs unique. As such, the reader/listener has to take on a degree of blind faith in making sure the author uses the right metrics to identify success for these standout CEOs. For example, much is made of about the stock price CAGR during the tenure of the CEO and therefore, a heavy emphasis is placed on various methods to gain leverage (stock buybacks, debt issuance, etc.). Naturally, higher beta/leverage in a growing industry promises to substantial outperformance in a growing industry but taking on more risk in an uncertain market and have the dice fall in your favor doesn't necessarily mark great decision making. Rant over. Good book. Well narrated. Makes you think.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Corporate Leaders Do Make a Difference

What made the experience of listening to The Outsiders the most enjoyable?

It's fascinating to see the similarities and differences in these leaders' strategies. What's remarkable is how their results were so much better than their competitors' in the same industry. These executives didn't achieve their success with blockbuster products or emerging markets. Instead, they focused on capital allocation - taking the funds that the company generated and allocating it toward its highest and best use, whether that use was to buy back stock, reduce debt, pay shareholders, expand the existing business or acquire complementary or integrated businesses.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

What I took from this book is that leaders make a huge difference in the performance of a business. And those leaders aren't the people who make the cover of Fortune or Forbes. They're men (mostly) who take actions (divesting assets, buying back stock) that the public generally doesn't notice, but that make their shareholders substantially richer than investors in other companies in the same industry. Who expects an executive who shrinks a defense contractor to a fraction of its former size or sells his visible consumer packaged goods businesses to focus on agricultural feed or buys back her stock when its undervalued to be more successful than Jack Welsh, the standard against which our subjects are measured.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Good depth of stories and business concepts

Strong on financial concepts. Good examples, well-supported. This book leans a little too much on stock repurchases, but otherwise good.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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A Very Good Summary of Value Focused CEOs

The book provides a to-the-point summary of value-focused CEOs, highlighting their business decisions and personality characteristics which seem to have made them effective managers. The book emphasizes these CEOs focusing less on stock growth and more on internal business growth, which then leads to greater stock values. Less focus on buybacks and dividends, with more focus on internal investment, business alignment, and making cuts where necessary.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Great insights regarding capital allocation

The Outsiders explores high-performing, contrarian CEOs with an quantitative bent. The evaluation of performance based on shareholder return is getting back to basics in a world muddied by executives that, while experts in their chosen field, are not master allocators or capital and investment. There are many practical insights to be had, and I will be purchasing a hard copy for further review.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Sami
  • Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
  • 04-21-15

It could have been better

The book's idea is great. The stories are too short to understand or enjoy.

I would give it the plus for opening the door to more investigations regarding theses CEOs

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Excellent

Loved it, especially insight on Warren Buffett and Katherine Graham, fascinating story. Lots of great advice.

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For CEOs this is a must read

What I try to do for my own personal knowledge is find mentors/role models, and try and mimic how they act/think. This book introduced me to 8 role models and provided a brief history on who they were professionally and how acted. Some of the 8 CEO's in the book I was familiar with, some not at all. If you are a CEO or wish to understand how a CEO should act, I would call this a must read.

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Changed My Small Business Life

Math. Basic Math. The people in this book realized its amazing power. #1 make money from your business. Do this with capable management. They don’t get cash flow? Replace them. #2 spend lots of time looking at the math (such as tax implications) of what to do with the assets which include the business itself and the cash it produces. The people that do #2 well will multiply their results over great CEOs. It’s not even close. Astonishing and basic truth.

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succint view of business success

interesting and very business specific, great examples, a lot of business jargon , might be hard for some

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  • Phillip
  • 09-17-15

Exceptional

Life changing for business leadership imagery and assumptions. Its the why of brilliance, simply the standard for commercial knowledge.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 07-07-18

capital allocation

Fantastic lessons learnt on capital allocation. One of the most basic but underappreciated concepts. thanks

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  • Honest John
  • 01-16-18

Excellent Advice and Proven Principles

Success is due to disciplined execution of known principles combined with your competencies. Very straight forward to understand and replicate.

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  • Ewel
  • 12-02-17

Good Research <br />

This was quite useful. it just made me focus on the importance of cash flow and capital allocation for business health and longevity.

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  • bonde
  • 08-13-17

EXCELLENT

Excellent short course on Capital Allocation a must read for all aspiring CEOs investors and the like

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  • Santiago
  • 05-15-17

Amazing. Loved it.

One of the best business books I have ever read. It goes through the trajectories of 8 CEOs who achieved amazing returns, and distils the key strategies they implemented: Investor-like resource allocation and capital structures, simple governance structures and decentralized operations.
It all makes a lot of sense, the author does a great job of explaining the circumstances that led to each decision instead of just giving advice.
Highly recommended.

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  • Alexander Christopher Smith
  • 05-21-18

Good insights into how top performing CEOs operate

Good for people who are interested about business and company management/investment decisions. Interesting the high level of idiosyncratic and concentration risk these CEOs were willing to take compared with modern theory of diversification and risk adjusted returns etc.

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  • Julia
  • 05-14-18

Excellent

For anyone interested in being an exceptional CEO... it helps if you’ve studied business as you’ll get more out of it.
Fantastic!!