Painting with Numbers : Presenting Financials and Other Numbers So People Will Understand You

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2012-04-03
  • Publisher: Wiley

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Painting with Numbers is a thoughtful, yet practical and readable, guide to presenting numerical information effectively. The chapters are divided into two sections: "Technique" - focuses on how readers and listeners perceive numbers and what they look for in reports, describes how reports should be laid out and organized, and provides tips on how to take advantage of the available tools - principally Microsoft Excel - to minimize time spent "beautifying" reports. "Content" - provides thoughts and guidelines on specific types of reports. One chapter alone is devoted to the "Natural P&L", the statement that is the cornerstone of management financial reporting. Other chapters discuss other reports common to businesses, reports relevant to other walks of our lives, and information that especially lends itself to presentation in graphs rather than tables.

Author Biography

RANDALL BOLTEN operates a consulting practice focused on financial management and information presentation. He is a seasoned and accomplished finance executive, with thirty years of experience in high-growth and high-potential Silicon Valley companies. His professional passion is presenting information that can enable managers, investors, and the general public to make real sense of complicated situations. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Princeton University and an MBA from Stanford University.

Table of Contents

Forewordp. xiii
Prefacep. xv
Acknowledgmentsp. xvii
Introduction: This Book Is Not About Numbers-Honest!p. 1
Being "Literate"p. 2
It's What They Think That Mattersp. 2
What You Were Never Taughtp. 3
The Ultimate Goalp. 5
Some Notes about Reading This Bookp. 5
The Rulesp. 11
Numerals Matterp. 13
Lining Up the Numbersp. 14
The Units of Measurep. 16
Precisionp. 17
Negative Numbers: What Do They Mean?p. 20
Looks Matterp. 25
The Tabula Rasa Decisionp. 26
The "Where's Waldo?" Effectp. 27
White Space Is Your Friendp. 29
…But White Space Is Not Always Your Friendp. 30
Time and Other Dimensions: Across or Down?p. 33
Borders, Shading, and Other Visual Effectsp. 35
Comments and Artworkp. 41
The "Ransom Note" Effectp. 43
Two Truly Helpful Hintsp. 44
Words Matterp. 47
Mean What You Say and Say What You Meanp. 48
Choosing between Precision and Presentabilityp. 52
Treating Words Like Numbersp. 55
Remember the Title. Pleasep. 57
Your Audience Mattersp. 61
The Right Amount of Datap. 62
Appropriate Emphasis on Critical Informationp. 64
Consistencyp. 67
Meaningful and Relevant Numbersp. 69
Respect for Your Audience's Timep. 73
Wrap-Up For Part I: The Rulesp. 77
The Toolsp. 81
You Can Pay Me Nowp. 83
The Instant Payoff Tipsp. 85
Instant Payoff Tip #1: Set Up Templates and Stylesp. 85
Instant Payoff Tip #2: Customize Your Toolbarp. 86
Instant Payoff Tip #3: Learn Some Shortcut Keysp. 87
Instant Payoff Tip #4: Use Consistent Formatsp. 89
Instant Payoff Tip #5: Learn to Use Excel as a Databasep. 90
Instant Payoff Tip #6: Learn to Use the Lookup & Reference Functionsp. 94
Instant Payoff Tip #7: Organize Data for Easy Computationp. 95
Instant Payoff Tip #8: Learn to Use Automated Helpp. 98
Instant Payoff Tip #9: Don't Learn Too Many Ways to Do the Same Thingp. 99
…Or Pay Me Laterp. 103
The Long-Term Payoff Tipsp. 104
Long-Term Payoff Tip #1: Use Sensible, Intelligent Filenames and Folder Organizationp. 104
Long-Term Payoff Tip #2: Use Consistent Formatsp. 106
Long-Term Payoff Tip #3: Design Intelligent, Intelligible Formulasp. 106
Long-Term Payoff Tip #4: Use Named Rangesp. 110
Long-Term Payoff Tip #5: Use Named Formulas or Macrosp. 112
Long-Term Payoff Tip #6: Links: A Force That Can Be Used for Good or Evilp. 117
Long-Term Payoff Tip #7: Make Different Types of Cells Visually Distinguishable and Physically Separatep. 118
Long-Term Payoff Tip #8: Document Your Work!p. 120
Long-Term Payoff Tip #9: Check Your Work!p. 121
Long-Term Payoff Tip #10: Avoid Cool New Featuresp. 122
Graphs: The "Cartoons" of Numbersp. 125
Why Do People Use Graphs?p. 126
Help Your Audiencep. 127
First, Do No Harmp. 138
The Pitfalls of Presentations and PowerPointp. 153
Why Do People Make Fun of Business Presentations?p. 154
Real Estate Is a Scarce and Precious Commodityp. 154
Help Your Audiencep. 156
First, Do No Harmp. 161
Some Basic Truths That Go Double for Quantationp. 162
Wrap-Up for Part II: The Toolsp. 166
Real Masteryp. 169
It's Clear, But Is It Meaningful?p. 171
The War of the Adjectivesp. 171
A Quantation Professionalp. 173
Relating to Your Audience in a Constructive Wayp. 174
53…Uh, Is That a Lot?p. 179
What Is a Key Indicator?p. 180
What Makes a Good Key Indicator?p. 183
A Simple Examplep. 185
How Do You Present Key Indicators Effectively?p. 185
A Note on Precisionp. 190
A Note on Dashboardsp. 191
The One Report Every Organization Needsp. 197
A Sample Natural P&L, and What Makes It a Good Onep. 199
One Page!p. 200
Decision-Focused Line Itemsp. 200
Appropriate Dollar Amounts, Neither Too Big Nor Too Smallp. 204
Intuitive Organization of the Line Itemsp. 205
Understandable Categories, Meaningful to All Usersp. 208
Plain-English Terminologyp. 208
Consistent Look-and-Feelp. 209
Key Results Equal to the Corresponding Numbers in the Accounting System (or an Explanation Why Not)p. 209
Mapping the Chart of Accountsp. 211
Generate a Natural P&L from a Spreadsheet, or from the Accounting System?p. 212
Now Let's Talk about the Columnsp. 213
A Sermon to the Accounting Puristsp. 219
The Gaps in GAAPp. 225
Rules-Based versus Principles-Basedp. 226
Where Is All This Headed?p. 227
"Expensing" Stock Optionsp. 228
Software Revenue Recognitionp. 230
Typing GAAP to Internal Management Reportsp. 232
Some Notes on GAAPp. 235
What Is GaaP?p. 235
Stock Optionsp. 236
Revenue Recognitionp. 237
Quantation: It's Not Just for Business Anymorep. 239
One Taxpayer at a Timep. 240
All the Taxpayers at Oncep. 243
What's Really Going on Here?p. 249
Quantation in Ordinary Lifep. 255
Modelsp. 255
The Meaning of Wordsp. 260
That Quiz I Promisedp. 263
Wrap-Upp. 269
Speaking Truth to Powerp. 271
My "Tell the Truth" Syllogismp. 272
Reason #1 for Telling the Truth: It's the Right Thing to Dop. 272
Reason #2: It's in Your Employer's Interestp. 272
Reason #3: It's in Your Interestp. 273
Reason #4: You Will Get Caughtp. 273
Reason #5: It's the "Gotcha" of This Bookp. 275
Don't Be So Smug, You Civil Servants and Elected Officials!p. 276
Your Audience Has a Role, Toop. 276
Now, What's the First Thing You Do?p. 281
My Last, Best Tipp. 282
It's Just a Skillp. 282
Where We Have Beenp. 283
Jazz Meets Theologyp. 287
Revisitationp. 288
The Sins of Presentationp. 289
The Sins of Behaviorp. 297
The Deadliest Sin of Allp. 301
About the Authorp. 305
Indexp. 307
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