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Sunday, June 10, 2012

Book Review: Painting With Numbers - Presenting Financials and Other Numbers So People Will Understand You

Title: Painting with Numbers: Presenting Financials and Other Numbers So People Will Understand You
Author: Randall Bolten

Content: 6.5/10

As the book was targeted towards finance professionals, only half the book (related to report presentation and creating spreadsheets) were relevant to me. However, those parts were timely and well presented. 

Readability: 9/10
The emphasis of this book was to present financial numbers so people will understand you. And this book does present its information in a clear and concise manner.

Overall Ranking 15.5/20
The tips that Randall provides are well worth reading. However, I would only recommend to purchase the book to finance professionals involved in financial reporting.

The Good and the Bad

The Good: This book is appropriate for executive who are required to present financial information on a routine basis. The first half of the book is also useful for general presentations as well as for the creation of spreadsheets.

The Bad: I found the latter half the book to be not quite relevant, as presenting a balance sheet and GAAP reporting was not relevant to me.

Summary and Review

Painting with Numbers is a book that teaches consultants, accountants and finance professionals to present numbers in a clear and concise manner. Written from the perspective of an ex CFO, it presents timely information as to the proper way by which financial information should be presented.

Bolten says it best when he says that "reporting is an act of communication, not an act of compliance." 

When presentations or reports are not well communicated, the audience is often left either missing the key points, or left confused from a poor choice of words.
In the best version, the largest 
important  numbers stand out visually, 
the commas line up vertically, and it 
mirrors the way we were thought to 
add up numbers. 

The author's points are demonstrated in a clear manner through the use of examples that are easily understandable. In addition, as a book that emphasizes on the clarity of presentation, Randall practices what he preaches by presenting his points in a clear and readable manner.

Key points are boxed in red as "deadly sins", examples, notes and advice are similarly boxed with their separate colors. The result is clarity and variety as the important information is communicated.

An example of this can be seen from the example in the picture on the right. Randall presents this example and questions the reader as to which version is the best. The answer is version A. Can you guess why?

The book is divided into three main sections.

In part 1, "The Rules", Bolten focused on the rules that every report or presentation should follow.

In part 2, "The Tools", Bolten provides advice using the tools of excel, graphs and PowerPoint to help create your reports.

In part 3, Bolten puts everything into context of the organization.

Ultimately, the information presented in "Painting with Numbers" could mean the difference between an audience that is able to absorb the content, and an audience that did not understand what you are presenting. Although not the entire book was relevant to me, the parts that were relevant was timely and well presented.

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