“If you are going to get anywhere in life, you have to read a lot of books.” – Roald Dahl
Learning is a lifelong process for professionals, and chief financial officers are no different. A CFO reading (and listening) list of the industry’s great minds can help them stay on top of the latest trends in business, finance, and leadership and arm them with the tools to adapt to those changes.
We surveyed fintech experts, finance directors, CFOs, and other finance professionals to find their most useful books, blogs, and podcasts in 2022. Here’s what we’ve come up with.
CFO books full of big ideas
The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek
Poker, football, and chess are finite games. They have fixed rules, and the objective is to win — cash, championships, prestige. But civilization, evolution, or religion? Those are infinite games where the only objective is to play forever. Simon Sinek explores what this philosophy means for leaders and how to apply it to their organizations.
The most effective leaders think long-term. They create companies designed to deliver value for others long after they are gone.
“While it's important for organizations to make money, leaders should think beyond that. Having a bigger, more profound purpose for building a business is how we win over the long-term in terms of being fulfilled.” - Jeff Zhou, CEO, Fig Loans
High Growth Handbook by Elad Gil
In High Growth Handbook, longtime technology executive Elad Gil lays out what it takes to go from startup to tech giant. Drawing on lessons he learned from working with companies like Airbnb, Twitter, Google, and Coinbase, Gil provides firsthand knowledge on building your executive team, navigating complex challenges, and taking a company public. The book features interviews with several Silicon Valley pioneers and business leaders and has been described as “the playbook for turning a startup into a unicorn.”
As companies scale, leaders would do well to shift their attention from the product to developing distribution, Gil argues. That means focusing on high margins and negative churn for the highest chance of success.
The Balanced Scorecard by Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton
The Balanced Scorecard provides detailed steps on bringing strategies to market through financial measures, customer knowledge, internal processes, and growth. Developing a comprehensive business strategy in the boardroom is one thing, but it’s another to put your strategy into action and tie it to real performance measures. This read will help you do that.
“I have developed hundreds of scorecards for clients from across the globe including many blue chip companies, government organisations as well as small and medium size corporations. Based on that experience I believe that the BSC is one of the most powerful management tools ever invented.” - Bernard Marr, futurist and thought leader
The Granularity of Growth by Patrick Viguerie, Sven Smit, and Mehrdad Baghai
The Granularity of Growth identifies the factors that feed and sustain growth over time. In an era when failing to grow means falling behind, this treatise may be more vital than ever. Dive in to discover ways to work smarter instead of harder, which is critical in today’s globally competitive business environment.
“The Granularity of Growth demonstrates how to identify sources of growth that drive enduring company performance.“ - John Janclae, president of Nymbus CUSO
Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable by Seth Godin
Entrepreneur and marketing savant Seth Godin makes the case that playing it safe is too risky for modern marketing. Instead of fitting into the flock, he encourages businesses to find the eponymous “purple cow” or a product, so remarkable people have no choice but to sit up and take notice. Don’t shy from criticism, and don’t appeal to the masses. Find your tribe and cater to them; success will follow.
“Godin is a master when it comes to describing difficult to apply concepts in an easy manner. With real world examples and application I recommend this book to anyone with a desire to stand out.” -Trevor Carlson, The Essential Digital Nomad
Strategy Rules: Five Timeless Lessons from Bill Gates, Andy Grove, and Steve Jobs by David B. Yoffie and Michael A. Cusumano
The authors of Strategy Rules observed three of the most successful entrepreneurs in the history of business — Bill Gates (Microsoft), Andy Grove (Intel), and Steve Jobs (Apple) — to gain insight into how they built their empires. You’ll see where they succeeded, where they failed, and how you can apply these lessons in your own ventures. For example, make strategic bets and lots of them. However, keep them small and never risk the viability of your venture.
“There's [a lot] of observation, reasoning, and reflections in the book which compares three legendary mavericks' differences in background, personalities and strategic thinking” - Yi Zhou, CEO - Ease Consulting
The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz
There is no such thing as a perfect business model, and things inevitably go wrong some of the time. The Hard Thing About Hard Things focuses on this aspect of business, presenting strategies to negotiate business cycles, reframe problems, identify strengths and weaknesses within your organization, and embrace the struggle to succeed. This book drives home the idea that knowing how to prepare for and recover from business disasters can determine the success of your venture.
“If you’re planning to start a company, whether it’s a high-tech company or the kinds of companies that I started and ran, read this book. If you’re going to be someone in charge of anything in any kind of a company, read this book.” - Dhiraj Thareja, entrepreneur, engineer, investor
The Smartest Guys in the Room by Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind
A deep look inside the fall of Enron, a story now synonymous with corporate fraud and corruption. The lesson? Ambition and intelligence must be tempered with strong character and industry ethics.
“Don't let corporate greed push you to do things you know aren't right. It's been over 20 years since the Enron scandal (and the other related fraud cases of the 1990s like WorldCom and Tyco) and I feel like now is a good time to revisit it.” - Melissa Pedigo, CPA, content creator for fintech, tax, accounting, and finance - A CPA Writes
CFO blogs and newsletters for bite-sized learning
Generation CFO by Chris Argent and Mark Cracknell
Generation CFO partners with business and finance leaders to bring insight, advice, and news to a community of 100,000 members. This online community for accounting and finance professionals delivers thought leadership, networking opportunities, and educational events, so there’s something for everyone.
“I was introduced by my chairman to Generation CFO after their involvement in some of our panel sessions. Chris’s enthusiasm helped me to understand what digital transformation is all about, as well as the impact it can have. Their network is full of enthusiastic and motivated people.“ - Crystal Haygreen, director of post qualification education at First Intuition
CFO Thought Leader by Jack Sweeney
CFO Thought Leader highlights thought leadership straight from your peers — CFOs who will inspire you to create positive change at your company.
Enjoy lessons in leadership, embracing challenges and shedding practices that hinder growth, and hear about the success and failures that led today’s CFOs to new heights.
“Finance drives business but how CFOs interact with the rest of the management team to facilitate growth while managing costs is a key element of success. Jack Sweeney does an excellent job of talking with finance leaders and understanding their approach to managing businesses and their views on the ever-evolving role of the CFO.” - Eric Dickmann, founder/CMO of the Five Echelon Group
CFO Connect was built to bring financial leaders together to learn from each other. In addition to regular meetups around Europe and the U.S., the site offers a monthly newsletter. Enjoy exclusive events, a private Slack channel, and curated content in the monthly newsletter.
“Communities like CFO Connect offer a great opportunity to learn more about trends and new ways of doing things in finance.” -Catherine Birkett, CFO at GoCardless
Lenny’s Newsletter by Lenny Rachitsky
Angel investor Lenny Rachitsky answers questions about product, growth, and people management. Check out this newsletter to get accurate, recent data from the venture capital world.
“Lenny polls up-to-date VCs on current trends. It is the most accurate and recent data that I've found online. Many of my friends who are running finances at startups are citing it.” - Andy Su, CEO, Pry
Your Online Genius by Bobby Klinck
Bobby Klinck guides entrepreneurs through legal questions and business skills as they seek to grow new ventures. This blog is a brash, unapologetic approach to offering high-level strategy and tactical advice.
“Bobby Klinck shares a lot of valuable information and lessons for leaders and entrepreneurs, especially in the online business landscape. He doesn't hold back from challenging the norms of online marketing and the secret strategies of ninja tactics. Instead, he focuses on connecting with the audience and serving people.” - Jeff Zhou, CEO, Fig Loans
CFO podcasts for the commute
Awkward Conversations: Tales from the Finance Department with Peter Nesbitt
Teampay's new podcast hosts finance leaders as they chat about their careers, share their expertise, and discuss those awkward conversations finance teams have with employees.
Blockchain Insider by Simon Taylor and Cuy Sheffield
This is an amazing podcast specializing in crypto, blockchain, distributed ledger technology (DLT), and crypto news.
“While what's happening in Web3 is still in its early stages, it's critical to stay close to the latest trends in the space as the technology around money and the movement of it evolves.” - Charles Tsang, head of marketing at Pinwheel
CFO 4.0, The Future of Finance by Hannah Munro
Change is inevitable for a CFO, but CFO 4.0 believes change is an opportunity for growth — personally and for your organization.
Finance experts offer ideas on how to use data and technology to build better processes and hire the right team.
The Modern CFO by Andrew Seski
Offers interviews with leading CFOs that dive into the how and why of their leadership approach and philosophies.
Explore how other CFOs are adapting to an evolving business world and changing what it means to be a finance leader.
CFO Weekly by Megan Weis
Fight the feeling of being overwhelmed by the new and growing roles a CFO is expected to play in modern companies with the help of expert advice from other financial pros.
Veteran CFOs offer tips for simplifying accounting processes, making decisions based on data, and freeing up time to think about the big picture.
CFO Yeah! by Patrick Whatman
CFO Yeah! features in-depth conversations with CFOs from rapidly scaling, highly innovative organizations like Zapier.
Hear from like-minded leaders who know that intelligently managed finances are as critical to rapid growth as sales and marketing.
The CFO Playbook by Christopher Maffei
It’s not just about finances for today’s CFO. Your company asks you to adopt new technology, usher along product releases, and always be thinking about what’s next.
This podcast was recorded with your needs in mind. Learn from other CFOs how to build agile teams, create better systems of checks and balances, integrate technology into your processes, and more.
CFO magazines too insightful to leave on the (digital) coffee table
CFO edited by Andy Burt
CFO features original stories published daily around risk management, new accounting standards, and professional development.
Readers are granted access to an array of resources, from ebooks and benchmarking tools to directories for networking, exclusive reports, and more.
Harvard Business Review edited by Adi Ignatius
A long-time stalwart in the business world for a reason, the century-old Harvard Business Review continues to deliver fresh ideas and innovative strategies for company leaders.
Learn about new management practices, read studies and reports around leadership and financial best practices, or simply learn about the latest business trends.
Financial Management edited by Kim Nilsen
A vital resource for management best practices, the latest accounting news, and in-depth analysis of the finance industry, this magazine is written by professional accountants for professional accountants.
The organization stresses the importance of building trust within the organization and between an organization and the outside world through ethical, effective financial practices.
Accountancy Age edited by Michael McCaw
Accountancy Age zeroes in on issues of pressing importance to finance leaders including tax law, technology advancements, new regulations, business trends, and economic forecasting.
The magazine prides itself on taking the headlines of the day and delivering actionable insights so CFOs can not only know what’s going on but also understand what to do with that knowledge. Accountancy Age writes from the perspective of a strategic adviser and treats readers like their clients.
Global Finance edited by Joseph Giarraputo
Giarraputo co-founded Global Finance to provide corporate leaders with tools and information to guide their businesses to success. Contributors include senior financial officers throughout North America and Europe.
The organization prides itself on being a valuable data source for more than 190 countries. Readers enjoy analysis and articles on international finances.
Invest in time spent reading, listening, and reflecting
The modern CFO has a far deeper role in corporate success than accounting and finance. This reading and listening list reflects an increasingly complex role that spans strategy, philosophy, leadership, and innovation.
CFOs who invest time in reading, listening, and reflecting on these titles will emerge armed with new insights to steer the growth of their organizations. What did we miss? Share your favorite reads in the comments.
Cross Company Communications & Collaboration Tools
A financial controller’s role and responsibilities are largely determined by the size of the company. And while it’s common practice for controllers to be responsible for managing data, they are sometimes also responsible for running an effective and efficient department and establishing the organization’s finance culture.
An organization’s finance culture is established from the top down, and one of the most important components is communication and collaboration. Email, shared folders and services like Slack have made it easy to embrace collaboration. Now, email plugins and Slack apps let organizations build on these tools to further enhance their ability to communicate.
Within the Slack ecosystem, there are plenty of finance-related apps that can streamline processes, approve expenses and much more. Teampay is one such Slack app that can be rolled out company-wide to manage purchasing approvals.
Wrapping Things Up
While many of these tools have been around for a number of years, the rise of new apps and automation services is changing the way financial controllers do their jobs. Identifying the right finance tools and embracing automation is an important step for any controller who wants to maximize their impact on their organization.
If you’re interested in learning more about the role of automation in accounting and how it has the potential to further shake up this industry, check out our piece: 4 Reasons Why Automating Accounting Functions Is The Future.