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Read ‘Painting with Numbers.’ Please.

Posted by on June 13th, 2012

If you’re doing investment pitches, you should read this book. If you’re doing a pitch I’m going to see, I want you to have read this book. And if you’re a startup CFO, finance lead, bean counter, or presentation slide deck preparer, then you should read this book. Painting with Numbers, by Randall Bolten. And it has a subtitle that exactly explains why I recommend it:

Presenting Financials and Other Numbers So People Will Understand You.

The bad news: it’s produced like a textbook, and laid out like a textbook, and priced like a textbook, $28.00 for the hard copy and $19.99 for the Kindle edition.

The good news: 

  • It includes a good practical treatment of how to do it with spreadsheets and slide decks. It has lots of tips and lots of examples.
  • It also includes some really important discussion of why terms and details matter.

I’ve deal with people who think GAAP (generally accepted accounting principles) and terminology are nits that only nit pickers care about. Numbers are numbers, after all. But in the real world, when you get to business numbers, sales are not accounts receivable and revenue isn’t income and people who read financial projections need to know that an apple is an apple, and not an orange.

Bolten does a really good job on why, what, and how to present numbers, just as in his subtitle, so people will understand you. And I think this topic matters.

Written by Tim Berry

user Tim Berry

Tim is the founder of Palo Alto Software and, the co-founder of Borland International, and the official business planning coach at He has been called the "Obi-wan Kenobe of business planning" and "The Father of Business Planning." He is a serial author of books and software on business planning.

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