The Library in St. Pete

DECISION MAKING

Against the Gods – The Remarkable Story of Risk | Peter Bernstein

A comprehensive history of man’s efforts to understand risk and probability, beginning with early gamblers in ancient Greece, continuing through the 17th-century French mathematicians Pascal and Fermat and up to modern chaos theory. Along the way he demonstrates that understanding risk underlies everything from game theory to bridge-building to winemaking. A great read for entrepreneurs who have to think constantly about managing risk in their own businesses.

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Talent is Overrated | Geoff Colvin

Greatness doesn’t come from DNA but from practice and perseverance honed over decades. The key is how you practice, how you analyze the results of your progress and learn from your mistakes, that enables you to achieve greatness. This book helps explain why, as investors, we have such a bias towards entrepreneurs who have both substantial domain expertise and years of experience building companies in their industry.

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The Black Swan | Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Examines the influence of highly improbable and unpredictable events that have massive impact. The problem is that we place too much weight on the odds that past events will repeat when most of the really big events are rare and unpredictable. Trying to extract general truths to explain them may be emotionally satisfying, but it’s practically useless. This book will make you think about risk differently, and it impacted BPV’s view of success and failure and the elements of chance that lead to both. In the end, it argues for humility when enjoying success and perspective when dealing with failure.

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Blink | Malcolm Gladwell

We can make better instant judgments by training our mind and senses to focus on the most relevant facts—and that less input (as long as it’s the right input) is better than more. This book relates directly to successful investing, since after all the hard analysis and due diligence is completed, the real decision comes down to a judgment “in the gut” that calls forth all the lessons learned over many years of investing.  We'd also recommend two of Gladwell's other books:  Tipping Point and Outliers.

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Into Thin Air | John Krakauer

The personal account of a deadly disaster at Mt. Everest in which experts who knew better still made tragically wrong decisions. There are some valuable lessons to be learned here about the perils of making decisions under pressure without adequate reflection on the possible outcomes.

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LEADERSHIP & MANAGEMENT

Why Great Leaders Don’t Take Yes for and Answer | Michael Roberto

The key to making successful strategic business decisions lies in how you design the decision-making process itself. Entrepreneurs will benefit from Professor Roberto’s analysis regarding how leaders can best understand both the data and biases that underlie key decisions.  We also recommend Professor Roberto's Know What You Don't Know, in which the author explains how leaders can go beyond mere “problem solving” to uncover and address emerging problems while they’re still manageable–before they mushroom into disaster. Many of the surprises that distract and sometimes derail entrepreneurs can be avoided or dealt with early if they know how to look for them ahead of time.

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Who: The A Method for Hiring | Geoff Smart & Randy Street

Smart and Street, who have helped some of the top players in the private equity world recruit senior managers for their portfolio companies, have broadened the how-to-hire process from interviews to a 360-degree perspective on recruiting A players. The authors boil down their recommendations into a 4-step process, from scorecard and source to select and sell. Every entrepreneur would benefit from reading this book and understanding how to make superior hiring decisions, as the true cost of bad hiring decisions is even greater than you think.  We also recommend the authors' Power Score: Your Formula for Leadership Success, in which Smart & Street take data from 15,000 management interviews over twenty years to indicate that successful leaders get three things right, which can when combined into a “Power Score” and compared with the best proven leaders in the authors’ ghSMART database.  The formula is simple, but very few leaders operate at consistently high levels in all three area.  This book describes how to continuously improve in each area and offers several helpful real world examples of how great leaders do it.  Backed up by a lot of great data and research, the process can’t help but enhance leadership success if executed faithfully.

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Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done | Larry Bossidy & Ram Charan

Disciplines like strategy, leadership development, and innovation are the sexier aspects of being at the helm of a successful business, but the ultimate difference between a company and its competitors is the ability to execute. The right strategy, the best product, creating “economic moats” – all of those matter. But the truth is most entrepreneurs succeed relative to their competition due to superior execution. This book is also a favorite of Tom James, the CEO of Raymond James and member of the BPV Advisory Board.

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The Loyalty Effect | Frederick Reichheld

Major companies replace half their customers in five years, half their employees in four and a half and their investors in less than one – but traditional accounting measures fail to capture the impact. Fascinating research and real world examples of the economic impact of holding on to your customers for the long run.

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Built to Last | Jim Collins

A central myth, according to the authors, is that visionary companies start with a great product and are pushed into the future by charismatic leaders. Much more important, is flexibility and an atmosphere in which bright people were not afraid to “try a lot of stuff and keep what works.” We like this book even more than the author's Good to Great.

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BUSINESS HISTORY

Entrepreneurship and Multinationals – Global Business and the Making of the Modern World | Geoffrey Jones

Why, after the Industrial Revolution began in the West, did the Rest struggle to catch up?  Professor Geoffrey Jones argues that entrepreneurs are the missing gap in the analysis of what creates a prosperous modern economy.  Since 1850 those countries with the most friendly environments for entrepreneurs have innovated and prospered.

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The Money Machine: How KKR Manufactured Power&Profits | Sarah Bartlett

Chronicles the rise and tactics of KKR (Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Company), which came close to making “leveraged buyout” a household term. A fascinating read on financial history and the misuse of power. There aren’t many good books out there on how the private equity world really works, but this is one of them.

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Devil Take the Hindmost | Edward Chancellor

An entertaining albeit sobering look at the history of speculative manias and the mass delusion that surrounds them. As an investor, it easy to get caught up in bubbles and manias, even when you are looking out for them. Are things really different this time?

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Barbarians at the Gate | Bryan Burroughs & John Helyar

Two versions of the fierce competition for the largest buyout ever consummated, a landmark in business history and a story of avarice on an epic scale. This is a story from the big buyout world, a distant cousin of venture investing, but nonetheless one of the most entertaining books ever written on the private equity world.

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The House of Morgan | Ron Chernow

Portrays the influence that the Morgan banks have had on the history of the Western economy since the late 18th century. The epic story of the develop- ment of the American industrial experience is inextricably related to the history of the Morgan banks.  We also recommend TitanChernow's portrait of John D. Rockerfellerwhich captures a pivotal moment in American history: the dramatic post-Civil War shift from small business to the rise of giant corporations that irrevocably transformed the nation. It's a finely nuanced portrait of a fascinating, complex man, synthesizing his public and private lives and disclosing several largely unknown family scandals, tragedies, and misfortunes.

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Startup | Jerry Kaplan

A real David and Goliath tale and the story of why things go right or wrong, how competition can kill you, and how financing really works within a small startup. One of the few classics on venture investing written from an entrepreneur’s point of view. It has a West Coast flavor to it but still very relevant.

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Reckless Endangerment | Gretchen Morgenson & Joshua Rosner

Morgenson and Rosner draw back the curtain on Fannie Mae, the mortgage-finance giant that grew, with the support of the Clinton administration, through the 1990s, becoming a major opponent of government oversight even as it was benefiting from public subsidies. They expose the role played not only by Fannie Mae executives but also by enablers at Countrywide Financial, Goldman Sachs, the Federal Reserve, HUD, Congress, the FDIC, and the biggest players on Wall Street, to show how greed, aggression, and fear led countless officials to ignore warning signs of an imminent disaster.

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STRATEGY & OTHER

How Money Walks | Travis H. Brown

Between 1995 and 2010, millions of Americans moved between the states, taking with them over $2 trillion in adjusted gross incomes – equivalent to the GDP of California, the ninth largest in the world.  Why?  Which states benefited and which states suffered? And why does it matter? Using official statistics from the IRS, How Money Walks explores the hows, whys, and impact of this massive movement of American working wealth.  Why does this matter?  Because the robust presence of working wealth is the leading indicator of economic health.

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Three Simple Steps | Trevor Blake

Founder of BPV portfolio company QOL Medical, Trevor Blake studied the lives of successful men and women who preceded him, and developed three simple rules that helped him first to escape poverty, then to achieve a life of adventures, and then to achieve financial independence.  Written in a straightforward and no-nonsense style, Three Simple Steps shows you how to take back control of your destiny and reshape your mind for increased creativity, serenity and achievement.  A a practical guide to real-life achievement by a pragmatic businessman who attributes his incredible successes to these very simple ideas.

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The Founder’s Dilemmas | Noam Wasserman

Often downplayed in the excitement of starting up a new business venture is one of the most important decisions entrepreneurs will face: should they go it alone, or bring in cofounders, hires, and investors to help build the business? More than just financial rewards are at stake. Friendships and relationships can suffer. Bad decisions at the inception of a promising venture lay the foundations for its eventual ruin. Drawing on a decade of research, Wasserman highlights the need at each step to strike a careful balance between controlling the startup and attracting the best resources to grow it, and demonstrates why the easy short-term choice is often the most perilous in the long term.

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The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Business Law | C. Bagley & C. Dauchy

This standard-setting book is an essential resource for anyone looking to understand the legal challenges faced by entrepreneurs. The information you need to avoid potentially costly missteps, from leaving your current job to taking your company public.

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Pioneering Portfolio Management | David Swensen

The results of David Swensen’s investment strategy for the Yale University endowment have remained as impressive as ever. Swensen was one of the earliest advocates for endowments making substantial commitments to alternative assets, including private equity and venture capital. This is a great overview of how he thinks about both the opportunities and the risks inherent in alternative investments.

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Margin of Safety | Seth Klarman

One of the most difficult-to-track-down finance books ever written, since it is no longer in print. Aside from a clear explanation of value investing, Klarman provides practical advice from how to evaluate businesses to where to find excellent investment opportunities for value investors. Klarman’s discussion of how to think about value and trying to invest where there is a “margin of safety” is in our view as applicable to growth equity investors in private companies as it is to public company investing.

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