William Thorndike: “The Outsiders” | Talks at Google

Published on Oct 22, 2015

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.

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In this refreshing, counterintuitive book, 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.

About the Author
William N. Thorndike, Jr. of Westwood/Boston. Founded Housatonic Partners, a private equity firm with offices in Boston and San Francisco, in 1994. Mr. Thorndike is a graduate of Harvard College and the Stanford Graduate School of Business. He is a Director of Alta Colleges; Carillon Assisted Living, LLC; CONSOL Energy, Inc. (NYSE: CNX); Lincoln Peak Holdings, LLC; The London Company, LLC; OASIS Group Ltd.; QMC International, LLC; White Flower Farm, Inc., and a Trustee of The Stanford Business School Trust; WGBH; the College of the Atlantic (Chair); and a founding partner at FARM, a social impact investing collaborative. He is the author of The Outsiders

 

The Outsiders.