The best books about companies and corporations

6 authors have picked their favorite books about corporation and why they recommend each book.

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Grow the Pie

By Alex Edmans,

Book cover of Grow the Pie: How Great Companies Deliver Both Purpose and Profit

This book addresses the highly topical discussion on the potential conflict between profit and purpose, fueled in particular by the 2019 Business Roundtable guidelines. In this sense, it is not a pure profit book but seeks to balance the social and financial goals of a company. Anyone who wants to have a qualified say in the current discussion about profit and purpose should read this book.


Who am I?

Hermann Simon is a world-renowned expert on price and profit management. He is the founder and honorary chairman of Simon-Kucher & Partners, the global leader in price and topline consulting with 1700 employees and 41 offices worldwide. He is the only German in the Thinkers50 Hall of Fame of the most influential management thinkers. In China a business school is named in his honor. Profit is at the core of Hermann’s writing and consulting activities.


I wrote...

True Profit!: No Company Ever Went Broke Turning a Profit

By Hermann Simon,

Book cover of True Profit!: No Company Ever Went Broke Turning a Profit

What is my book about?

Profit is the most important indicator of business success. It is all the more surprising that there is no “pure” profit book. This book is the first and only one. It clears up false profit concepts and gets to the bottom of actual profits. Profit is the cost of survival. The ethics of profit, as well as the causes of low profits, and the therapy for high profits are discussed. Finally, I prove that price, with a profit multiplier of 10, is the most effective profit driver, followed by cost, with a multiplier of 6, and sales volume, which has a multiplier of only 4.

The book is strategic and equally relevant for large and small companies.

The Shareholder Value Myth

By Lynn Stout,

Book cover of The Shareholder Value Myth: How Putting Shareholders First Harms Investors, Corporations, and the Public

Stout’s book was an early salvo in the current debate about shareholder primacy that opened the way for many who have followed in her footsteps. In this carefully argued book, she disputes the argument that corporate boards are required by law to put the shareholder first, pointing out flaws in legal interpretations that have supported a damaging consensus view. In debunking the shareholder value myth, she shows that the obsessive focus on financial returns has led to dangerous short-termism in which corporate leaders pursue quarterly earnings to the disadvantage of investments that would not only improve social outcomes but also lead to better long term performance. She also demonstrates that shareholders hold many values, only one of which might be financial returns. In this regard, she was a vanguard of the accelerating focus of institutional investors on “stewardship” of the environmental and social impacts of their investments.  


Who am I?

Sarah Kaplan is Distinguished Professor and Director of the Institute for Gender and the Economy at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. She is the author of the bestseller Creative Destruction: Why Companies That Are Built to Last Underperform the Market—And How to Successfully Transform Them and The 360º Corporation: From Stakeholder Trade-offs to Transformation, both address the challenges of innovation and organizational change in society. She frequently speaks and appears in the media on topics related to achieving a more inclusive economy and corporate governance reform. Formerly a professor at the Wharton School and a consultant at McKinsey & Company, she earned her PhD at MIT’s Sloan School of Management.


I wrote...

The 360° Corporation: From Stakeholder Trade-Offs to Transformation

By Sarah Kaplan,

Book cover of The 360° Corporation: From Stakeholder Trade-Offs to Transformation

What is my book about?

Companies are increasingly facing intense pressures to address stakeholder demands from every direction: consumers want socially responsible products; employees want meaningful work; investors now screen on environmental, social, and governance criteria; “clicktivists” create social media storms over company missteps. CEOs now realize that their companies must be social as well as commercial actors, but stakeholder pressures often create trade-offs with demands to deliver financial performance to shareholders. How can companies respond while avoiding simple “greenwashing” or “pinkwashing”?

In The 360° Corporation, I argue that the shared-value mindset may actually get in the way of progress and I show—in practical steps—how trade-offs, rather than being confusing or problematic, can actually be the source of organizational resilience and transformation. 

The Little Book of Valuation

By Aswath Damodaran,

Book cover of The Little Book of Valuation: How to Value a Company, Pick a Stock, and Profit

The process of business valuation lies at the core of value investing. That’s what Damodaran, longtime Professor of Finance at NYU, addresses in this book. An excellent distillation of the key business valuation approaches that are most relevant for investment, The Little Book of Valuation will make the valuation work less daunting and less arduous for the lay investor of the 21st century. 

As well, like the two previous books, this book also underscores the fact that, without a systematic approach to valuing publicly-traded stocks as if they were private companies, proper value investing is not even possible, let alone profitable. Perhaps to underscore this truth, one of the recommendation blurbs is provided by Shannon Pratt, one of the leading gurus of private business valuation and the author of my 4th book pick.


Who am I?

As an investor and a professional business valuation specialist, I have a passion for understanding the true intrinsic value of both publicly-traded and closely-held (private) companies. There’s no denying that Warren Buffett, emulating the example of his mentor Benjamin Graham, applied a private company valuation approach to the selection of publicly-traded stocks and the results speak for themselves. Furthermore, given my somewhat technical educational and vocational background, I am more comfortable than most valuators with highly technical and IP-weighted businesses. That is why I consider IP valuation to be an integral element of business valuation. 


I wrote...

The Einstein Money: The Life and Timeless Financial Wisdom of Benjamin Graham

By Joe Carlen,

Book cover of The Einstein Money: The Life and Timeless Financial Wisdom of Benjamin Graham

What is my book about?

Warren Buffett – widely considered the most successful investor of all time – has repeatedly acknowledged Benjamin Graham as the primary influence on his investment approach. Indeed, there is a direct line between the record-shattering investing performance of Buffett (and other value investors) and Graham's life. In six books and dozens of papers, Graham-known as the "Dean of Wall Street," left an extensive account of an investing system that, as Buffett can attest, actually works!

This biography of Benjamin Graham, the first written with access to his posthumously published memoirs, explains Graham's most essential wealth-creation concepts while telling the colorful story of his amazing business career and his multifaceted, unconventional personal life. The author distills the best from Graham's extensive published works and draws from personal interviews.

Valuing a Business

By Shannon P. Pratt, Alina V. Niculita,

Book cover of Valuing a Business: The Analysis and Appraisal of Closely Held Companies

Aside from valuing businesses for investment purposes, I am a practitioner of the valuation of private (or “closely held”) businesses. In my profession of business valuation, the late Shannon Pratt is widely recognized as one of the leading gurus, not least because of the six editions of Valuing a Business. I recommend this book here because, if one can master even a few of the rigorous business valuation methods detailed in this book, that will elevate one’s value investing skills tremendously. The previous books all set the stage and offer enough practical advice for one to progress from beginner to intermediate but, for those eager to master business valuation and, therefore, the determination of intrinsic value, Valuing a Business would be the next logical step. 


Who am I?

As an investor and a professional business valuation specialist, I have a passion for understanding the true intrinsic value of both publicly-traded and closely-held (private) companies. There’s no denying that Warren Buffett, emulating the example of his mentor Benjamin Graham, applied a private company valuation approach to the selection of publicly-traded stocks and the results speak for themselves. Furthermore, given my somewhat technical educational and vocational background, I am more comfortable than most valuators with highly technical and IP-weighted businesses. That is why I consider IP valuation to be an integral element of business valuation. 


I wrote...

The Einstein Money: The Life and Timeless Financial Wisdom of Benjamin Graham

By Joe Carlen,

Book cover of The Einstein Money: The Life and Timeless Financial Wisdom of Benjamin Graham

What is my book about?

Warren Buffett – widely considered the most successful investor of all time – has repeatedly acknowledged Benjamin Graham as the primary influence on his investment approach. Indeed, there is a direct line between the record-shattering investing performance of Buffett (and other value investors) and Graham's life. In six books and dozens of papers, Graham-known as the "Dean of Wall Street," left an extensive account of an investing system that, as Buffett can attest, actually works!

This biography of Benjamin Graham, the first written with access to his posthumously published memoirs, explains Graham's most essential wealth-creation concepts while telling the colorful story of his amazing business career and his multifaceted, unconventional personal life. The author distills the best from Graham's extensive published works and draws from personal interviews.

Corporate Lifecycles

By Ichak Adizes,

Book cover of Corporate Lifecycles: How and Why Corporations Grow and Die and What to Do About It

The framework presented in Corporate Lifecycles deals with the same core issue of Stages and Challenges of Organizational Growth as dealt with in my own book, but from a different perspective. The author is a former academic who has developed his own framework of corporate lifecycles and his methodology of organizations working through them. The book presents a different framework of corporate life cycles and emphasizes the managerial styles that are appropriate to reach stage of the corporate lifecycle. The author has seen and worked with a large number of companies that have employed his methods. He presents his perspective and insights for this role as a participant-observer. 


Who am I?

I'm Professor Emeritus at UCLA and have also been on the faculty of Columbia University and The University of Michigan, where I received my PhD degree. I founded Management Systems Consulting, which works with entrepreneurial firms in the US and globally to scale up, in 1978. I've served on the board of a firm (99 Cents Only Stores) that scaled up and was a NYSE listed firm. I've advised CEOs who have created global champion firms and been recognized as leaders in their space. I've authored or co-authored several books including Creating Family Business Champions; Corporate Culture: The Ultimate Strategic Advantage; Changing the Game; and Leading Strategic Change.


I wrote...

Growing Pains: Building Sustainably Successful Organizations

By Eric G. Flamholtz, Yvonne Randle,

Book cover of Growing Pains: Building Sustainably Successful Organizations

What is my book about?

This book is about managing the stages of growth successfully from a start-up to a sustainably successful organization and/or even becoming a global champion or recognized leader in your space like Starbucks, which was one of the author’s clients during its early years from 1994-97. The book provides a framework and template to create a road map for organizational development and a set of methodologies to help scale up and become a sustainably successful organization and/or even become a global champion. It presents a framework of the key stages of organizational growth and identifies the set of variables that must be managed as well as their relative importance at each stage. The book provides advice for the CEO and founder of entrepreneurial companies undergoing the process of scaling up.

Infomocracy

By Malka Older,

Book cover of Infomocracy: Book One of the Centenal Cycle

Infomocracy has one of the most original science fiction concepts that I’ve read in in a very long time. It’s set in a grounded near future with a radically different, but still democratic, global governance system. The story and characters are engaging, but what really stood out for me is how well Older has thought through this new form of geopolitics. It’s a fascinating read, and if you’re like me, you’ll be thinking about whether this is a good and workable solution long after you’ve finished the book.


Who am I?

Back in college, I switched from being an astrophysics major to computational neuroscience. The reasons are complicated, but suffice it to say that I found the human brain to be as big of a mystery as black holes. I’ve worked as an engineer for two decades on applications ranging from medical devices, to digital music recognition, to high speed chip design. Writing science fiction is the second act of my life, and I love drawing on my science background to inform my stories. I especially love taking cutting-edge technology and thinking about how it could impact future society, from the global to the individual.


I wrote...

Machinehood

By S.B. Divya,

Book cover of Machinehood

What is my book about?

It’s 2095, and humanity is entirely dependent on pills that not only help them stay alive but allow them to compete with artificial intelligence in a ubiquitous gig economy. Welga Ramirez, executive bodyguard and ex-special forces, is about to retire early when her client is killed by the Machinehood, a new and mysterious terrorist group. Their operatives seem to be part human, part machine, something the world has never seen. They issue an ultimatum: stop all pill production in one week. 

Welga, determined to take down the Machinehood, is pulled back into intelligence work by the government that betrayed her. But who are the Machinehood, and what do they really want? A thrilling and thought-provoking novel that asks: if we won’t see machines as human, will we instead see humans as machines?

Appleseed

By Matt Bell,

Book cover of Appleseed

This remixing of the American legend of Johnny Appleseed with climate science, ecoterrorism, and elements of Roman mythology results in a very big book — literally. At almost 500 pages, there’s a lot of, well, everything. But at its organic core, this is a story about the preservation of our most basic and necessary elements. As the story moves further into the distant future, the fight to protect the scraps and slivers of non-robotic life becomes more focused as it does urgent. By the end, what emerges is the gnawing sense that perhaps the mythology we’ve constructed around technology as our salvation is inhibiting the mysterious yet ultimately more powerful magic of a natural world quite capable of re-propagating itself if only we humans could bring ourselves to stand aside.

Who am I?

I’m a science communicator turned fiction writer with a special interest in the impact of environmental crises on small towns and overlooked places. My short fiction has appeared in various journals, including The Fiddlehead, Nimrod, Barren, and Reckon Review. I’m currently writing a novel about hurricane chasers along the Gulf Coast.


I wrote...

Everything Change: An Anthology of Climate Fiction

By Angie Dell (editor), Joey Eschrich (editor), Sandra K. Barnidge (contributor)

Book cover of Everything Change: An Anthology of Climate Fiction

What is my book about?

Albertine’s Watch is a fictional town on the Gulf Coast that is now permanently underwater thanks to sea-level rise. One family continues to live in the town, despite many logistical and emotional hardships. They survive by giving boat tours of their ruined town to occasional tourists who come to gawk at their way of life, and eventually, the main character is forced to confront an impossible question: when will she finally decide it’s time to leave her beloved but untenable home?

This story is available for free as part of Everything Change: An Anthology of Climate Fiction

The Informant

By Kurt Eichenwald,

Book cover of The Informant: A True Story

There is a partial myth, eagerly promoted by corporate interests and their lawyers, that federal prosecutors are frighteningly all-powerful and basically cannot be defeated. The veteran financial and legal reporter Eichenwald knows otherwise. The Informant, in contrast to the almost farcical (if enjoyable!) Stephen Soderbergh movie based on the book, lays out a textbook case of how prosecutors can blow an important case due to infighting, problems with unreliable informants, and clever high-priced defense lawyering that exploits every error that less-than-superb prosecutors might make. Here we have a tale of CEO-level officials at major global corporations caught on videotape flagrantly conspiring to violate antitrust laws and, in the end, almost no one ends up in prison. Eichenwald details the countless blunders by many Justice Department lawyers spread across several offices, and the clever maneuvering throughout by crack corporate defenders. He too, by the way, paints a fascinating portrait of…


Who am I?

I teach the law and enforcement of corporate crime as a law professor. At the outset of the course, I tell the students that corporate crime is a problem, not a body of law. You have to start by thinking about the problem. How do these things occur? What is the psychology, both individual and institutional? What are the economic incentives at each level and with each player? What role do lawyers play? When do regulatory arrangements cause rather than prevent this kind of thing?  If the locution were not too awkward, I might call the field “scandalology.” I love every one of these books because they do such a great job of telling the human stories through which we can ask the most interesting and important questions about how corporate crimes happen.


I wrote...

Capital Offenses: Business Crime and Punishment in America's Corporate Age

By Samuel Buell,

Book cover of Capital Offenses: Business Crime and Punishment in America's Corporate Age

What is my book about?

At the heart of the dilemma of corporate crime sits the limited liability corporation and the structure of financial markets, simultaneously the bedrocks of American prosperity and the reason that white-collar crime is difficult to prosecute. The corporation is a brilliant legal innovation that, in modern form, can seem impossible to regulate or even manage. By shielding managers and employees from responsibility, the corporation encourages the risk-taking that drives economic growth. But its special legal status and its ever-expanding scale place daunting barriers in the way of federal and local investigators.

Explaining in a breezy style the complex legal frameworks that govern both corporations and the people who carry out their missions, this book shows both the specialist and general reader how deciphering business crime is rarely black or white. 

A Spy in the Struggle

By Aya de Leon,

Book cover of A Spy in the Struggle

At this point in the reading list, hopefully, you’re feeling more grounded in your climate grief and energized to fight for what’s left of the natural world. A Spy in the Struggle is a fast-paced novel about activism at the intersection of racial and environmental justice. Yolanda Vance is a ruthless, capitalist FBI agent who infiltrates a Black activist group organizing against a biotech corporation that’s poisoning their neighborhood. 

By making the protagonist start off as an enemy of the climate movement, De León demonstrates the kinds of experiences and messaging that can win over new allies. This book also centers the Black communities that are doing some of the most critical organizing against environmental racism in the U.S. and reveals the interconnectedness between police brutality, racial capitalism, and the climate crisis. In most cities in the U.S., you’ll find communities of color organizing against environmental racism, and I hope…


Who am I?

I’ve been panicking about environmental destruction ever since a fateful day in eighth grade, when I stayed home with the flu binge-watching Animal Planet, realizing that every ecosystem on earth was in decline. In college, unable to hack it as an environmental scientist, I switched majors to writing, and now I tell stories to try and help the planet. I’m an environmental journalist for One Breath Houston, covering the racist, illegal polluting of the petrochemical industry in Houston, Texas. I’m also a climate fiction author, and my debut novella, Depart, Depart! was an Otherwise Award Honor List book. The first installment in my YA cli-fi trilogy Seeds for the Swarm is forthcoming from Stelliform Press in Fall 2022.


I wrote...

Depart, Depart!

By Sim Kern,

Book cover of Depart, Depart!

What is my book about?

When an unprecedented hurricane devastates the city of Houston, Noah Mishner finds shelter in the Dallas Mavericks’ basketball arena. Though he finds community among other queer refugees, Noah fears his trans and Jewish identities put him at risk with certain “capital-T” Texans. His fears take form when he starts seeing visions of his great-grandfather Abe, who fled Nazi Germany as a boy. As the climate crisis intensifies and conditions in the shelter deteriorate, Abe’s ghost grows more powerful, and Noah must decide what he’s willing to sacrifice in order to survive.

“Kern shows the necessity of compassion, empathy, and community in the face of crisis.” — Publishers Weekly starred review

Three Strikes

By Stephen Franklin,

Book cover of Three Strikes: Labor's Heartland Losses and What They Mean for Working Americans

In the early 1990s, Decatur, Illinois was a “time-battered” town, in the words of indefatigable labor journalist Steve Franklin, where factories hunkered amid grungy bars, a forlorn old motel, and prison. Unions had largely capitulated to global capital, as wages and jobs were slashed across the industrial heartland and families suffered in silence. In Decatur workers made a last stand at three eponymous employers – Firestone, Staley, and Caterpillar. Franklin – at the Chicago Tribune, one of the last labor journalists nationwide -- brings us evocatively to the front lines of these three strikes, weaving accessible socioeconomic analysis through the landscape of a bittersweet Bruce Springsteen song.

Who am I?

Fresh out of journalism school I stumbled on a strike at a machine shop in Pilsen, a neighborhood once home to Chicago’s most famous labor struggles, by then becoming a hip gentrified enclave. Drinking steaming atole with Polish, Mexican, and Puerto Rican workers in a frigid Chicago winter, I was captivated by the solidarity and determination to fight for their jobs and rights, in what appeared to be a losing battle. After covering labor struggles by Puerto Rican teachers, Mexican miners, Colombian bottlers, Chicago warehouse workers, and many others, my enthusiasm for such stories is constantly reignited -- by the workers fighting against all odds and the writers telling their stories, including those featured here.


I wrote...

Revolt on Goose Island: The Chicago Factory Takeover and What It Says About the Economic Crisis

By Kari Lydersen,

Book cover of Revolt on Goose Island: The Chicago Factory Takeover and What It Says About the Economic Crisis

What is my book about?

Workers were suspicious; machinery had been strangely disappearing from the window factory on an island in the Chicago River. Then right before Christmas in 2008, the factory closed and they lost their jobs, their health insurance, and all their vacation time and benefits. The sudden closure violated labor law, and the owner was secretly moving the equipment in a criminal scheme that would later send him to prison. The workers refused to take it.

They occupied the factory and captured the public’s imagination at a period of anxiety and resurgent class consciousness in the early days of the economic crisis. The mostly immigrant and Black workers were the new face of the nation’s labor movement, and their scrappy independent UE union was willing to fight in ways mainstream labor unions no longer are. 

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