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Armchair philosopher

Book review: Double Your Profits: In Six Months or Less

I recently finished reading Double Your Profits: In Six Months or Less, by Bob Fifer. Usually, I stay well away from books with such a gimmicky, hucksterish title. But two people recommended this book to me (separately), both of whom I respect as professionals with a wealth of experience in many areas of business and commerce. So, I decided to give Double Your Profits a chance, and I was not disappointed.

Bob Fifer is the CEO of one of the World's most profitable business consultancy firms, and at the time of publication (1993) his clients included 100 of the Fortune 500 companies. Needless to say, here is an author with extensive experience in business, and the largest businesses in the world pay him for his advice. In this book, Fifer shares his experience in frank and down-to-earth terms for anyone with an ear to listen, and there is a lot of useful information for any burgeoning business owner or an aspiring manager to learn from.

Outline of the book

Much of this book is based on the fundamental formula of profit = revenue - costs. By cutting costs and increasing revenue, a business can increase its profits, sometimes to a considerable degree. While this might sound like simple common sense, Fifer persuasively claims that many people in business lose sight of these fundamentals, and the effect is at best a loss of profit, and at worst complete business failure. This book can be indexed on the shelf of "common sense ideas that are no longer in fashion".

The book consists of three main sections: The first section of the book acts as a primer and discusses the importance of establishing the right culture in your business (i.e. leadership); the remaining two sections are dedicated each to the revenue and costs parts of this equation.

Writing style

Fifer is a good writer. His economy of words and clear, unpretentious writing style, make it very easy to read the book quickly and absorb the ideas presented. This makes it a great book to dip in and out of the book when you have a few spare moments

From his writing style, we can infer a lot about the author's character. He is not a timid or unduly modest man. Instead, Fifer writes assertively and authoritatively and is not afraid to list his own successes where it helps to reinforce his point. Fifer does not mince words, and he does not come across as a great fan of vagueness or subtlety.

Some of the ideas discussed in this book are unfashionable. The current trend for business books is to focus on the softer, more humanist aspects of modern society; creating businesses focussed on positive social impact; creating businesses that fund a leisurely, independent lifestyle; or to inspire new entrepreneurs to Dream Big™. While these aspects of our connection to our working life are undoubtedly important, it is refreshing to read a book that is unapologetically frank and focused on the fundamentals that keep real businesses ticking over. The following exerpt will illustrate the point:

"If you are a relatively unsentimental manager, ask yourself, 'Whom would I rather have resentful: the better-performing employees or the under-performers?' You'll always achieve better results by keeping the top half happy. (That, by the way, is the quickest way to determine, without seeing anyone's salary, whether an organisation is a meritocracy. In a meritocracy, the bottom half complains. In a seniority or other system, the top-performing half complains)."

Verdict

Like many books, there is a lot in Double Your Profits that the reader will agree with, and some they will not agree with—or that won't sit well with the reader's values. However, a copy of this book should be on the bookshelf of every business owner, if for no other reason than to serve as an occasional reminder that the fundamentals still matter.

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