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Book Review: Islands of Profit In a Sea of Red Ink

Author Jonathan L. S. Byrnes addresses why 40 percent of your business is unprofitable.

Anthony Verde

Author Jonathan L. S. Byrnes

Courtesy subject

Author Jonathan L. S. Byrnes


The book: Islands of Profit in a Sea of Red Ink: Why 40% of Your Business Is Unprofitable, and How to Fix It, by Jonathan L. S. Byrnes; Portfolio; October 2010.

The big idea: Most companies sit atop rich veins of untapped profits that can be made to pay off handsomely with a little imagination and reinvention.

The backstory: Byrnes, a consultant and lecturer at MIT, is the Prophet of Profits. His column, The Bottom Line, which appeared in a Harvard Business School online newsletter, was for years a must-read.

Don't mail that tuition check: Islands delivers an executive-ed program's worth of insight. Most CEOs know that some kinds of revenue are more profitable than others. Byrnes explains in great detail how to turn that knowledge into action.

If you read nothing else: The sample profit map in Chapter Six reveals neglected opportunities. Chapter 15, "Is Your Organization Reptile or Mammal?," memorably compares Dell to a platypus.

Pass-along value: Islands assigns new roles to everyone in the company. Salespeople should clamber over procurement officers to reach decision makers, operations folks should hang out with customers, and CFOs should ensure potential profits are realized.

Rigor rating: 8 (1=Who Moved My Cheese?; 10=Good to Great). Byrnes is familiar with the inner workings of many companies, large and small, but it's too bad he wasn't able to name more of his case-study subjects.

Last updated: Oct 1, 2010

LEIGH BUCHANAN | Staff Writer | Editor-at-large, Inc. Magazine

Leigh Buchanan is an editor-at-large for Inc. magazine. A former editor at Harvard Business Review and founding editor of WebMaster magazine, she writes regular columns on leadership and workplace culture.

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