“Presenting financials and other numbers so people will understand you.” That’s the subtitle of “Painting with Numbers,” a book by my client, Randy Bolten, that’s just out from Wiley. It’s getting enthusiastic reviews from sources as diverse as academics, bankers, politicians, and IT professionals, and its initial sales are gratifyingly strong.
From the book’s introduction: “This book is not about numbers. This book is about presenting numbers, and doing it clearly, concisely, elegantly, and, most of all, effectively.” And it successfully conveys its message in practical, take-it-home-and-put-it-to-work terms.
Bolten served as chief financial officer of several Silicon Valley firms and learned his skills “in the trenches.” He endured numerous presentations that left him scratching his head and wondering, “What was that person trying to say?” Determined to never do that himself, and to help others do better, he began to record and organize his insights regarding good and bad communication behavior in the numerical context.
This is a “how-to” book in the very best sense of the term. You can read it cover-to-cover and learn a great deal from it; you can also flip it open anywhere and gain helpful tips for the presentation you’re supposed to give in the next 10 minutes.
If you are an aspiring author, here are some key learning points you can model from Randy:
- The focus of the book is his unique expertise, organized and articulated in bite-size chunks for easy consumption.
- He invested time in learning what others have to say on the topic, and cites items of interest that can help his readers.
- He micro-managed the book design process. Specifically, he knew that his spreadsheet examples would have to look like screen-captures, not like a gussied-up artist’s version of spreadsheets, if readers were to feel, “I can do that!”
- His writing demonstrates his awareness that his reader is unlikely to feel excited and enthusiastic about his topic, to begin with. So he makes excellent use of humor and beautiful layout to engage the reader and drive home the power and utility of learning the skills he so eloquently presents.
He went with a major publisher, although we had considered self-publishing. Here are some reasons:
- He didn’t want to undertake the work of creating a business to produce and market the book.
- He was able to network his way to an appropriate editor, without an agent.
- The implied imprimatur of a major publisher was meaningful to him.
- Maximizing his profit was not his major goal.
I’m very proud of Randy, who has become my close friend from what began as a coaching relationship. Check out the book!