Last Man Standing – Duff McDonald

This book was referred to me from a friend. He is in finance, so that explains the pick, but he is one of the smartest and hardest working people I know. He has also well read so he has some great book recommendations.

This book covers Jamie Dimon’s growth from his high school and college years, but it is more about his growth from a cocky fresh face in the finance industry, to a industry titan. There’s lots of great information in here. Even if you do not enjoy finance, you may enjoy this book. It shows how business at the highest levels operates. Also, there is countless lessons about leadership in here as well. Here is the rundown…

Dimon’s Traits
Even as a kid he was very headstrong and stuck up for himself. When a partner at Management Advisory Consulting asked him to work on a project over the weekend and have it done by Monday morning, he did so. When the partner came in and Dimon showed him the work, the partner only said that he wanted to make sure he could do it. Jamie told him he ruined his weekend and because of that he would never work on a project for him again.(p.8)

When at Harvard students would be overly eager to answer questions in classes based on participation. When Dimon was speaking another student started waving his hand wildly. Dimon turned to him and said “Put your fucking hand down while I’m talking.” This just shows how assertive and slightly arrogant he was. (p.11)

Dimon knows the details of situations as can be seen on p. 63: “If Dimon had 10 meeting a day with six people at each meeting coming to brief him on topics x, y, z, Paul watched in awe as it became painfully clear that Dimon invariably knew more about every topic then anyone else in the room, including those presenting.”

Dimon is a no nonsense kind of guy: “Coworkers came to see in Dimon a man both impatient to get the job done and able to relax when the time was right. ‘He worried a lot about substance, not so much about form.’ ” This is similar to what Bill Gates thinks about leadership. He doesn’t care how it gets done, as long as it gets done. Letting people do it themselves allows them to be creative and they are happier about working. Dimon continues by saying “I just need to know the facts. I don’t want to hear some long story. Just give me the facts.”

Lesson’s from the Big Business World
– “If there’s something that almost all CEOs like to do, it’s to dump some underperforming division right from the get-go, allowing them to start their tenure with a clean slate and solidly performing businesses” (p.59)
– Dimon said: “It’s more important to do ten things and get eight of them right than do five and get all of them right” (p.63)
– Dimon stuck up for his beliefs and the company by firing his boss’ daughter… This eventually deteriorated his relationship with his boss. His coworker actually told him “As businessmen, we all have to live with this stuff occasionally.” (p.81)
– Jamie expected a lot of other people. His secretary says he would giver her ten things to do. An hour later she would have nine done and we would pound and pound until the tenth was complete. (p.83)
– He used a tactic to get information when he skipped layers of reporting to find the exact person who might have the answer he was looking for. This is an efficient tactic even if it “causes consternation in the ranks.” (p.83)
– “Dimon utilized management tactics similar to those Weill employed, including shifting the most promising underlings around to ensure the broadest learning experience.” Anyone you want to train to become the best, they should know every area of the business. (p.84)
– Jamie stood up to his boss, Sandy Weill at this time. A fellow coworker said Dimon would make his decisions “Without any fear. For the right reasons.” This is we should all make our decisions. (p.85)
– Dimon realized when a title wasn’t taking him where he wanted to go. When Dimon was being promoted to President of Traveler’s, but being kept from the board and not running all areas of the congolmerate as a single CEO would. He knew his worth, he knew he would be a better CEO than the other possible co-CEOs and this drove him to move out on his own.(p.106)
– Is a tri-CEO, Dimon learned what Gerry Tsai learned before: “Do it yourself. Two men can’t play a violin.” (p.115)
– One of the best traits about Jamie is his resolve. He does not stop until he has accomplished what he wants. Even after receiving a payday of $30 million.
– Dimon was a serious reader too. This is more a personal note, but the books he recommends every CEO to read are: Shakespeare, Built to Last, Only the Paranoid Survive, Warren Buffet’s Letters, and Security Analysis. Some of the biographies he read include: Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, Napoleon, Nelson Mandela, and presidents including George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. He especially liked Ulysses Grant and said “They say his success on the battlefield boiled down to the sheer clarity of his orders.” (p.136)
– Jamie tries to make sure he returns every phone call and every email within 24 hours. Especially when he was unemployed. (p.140)
– Jaime was able to hire away great talent (and pay them 2/3 their previous salary), by giving them a piece of the upside. (p.150)
– Don’t expect people to believe your word. Convince them through action (p.153)
– Take care of problems quickly and decidedly. Jaime says “Problems don’t age well; denying or hiding them guarantees that they will get worse.” “Bureaucracy, silos, and politics are the bane of large corporations; they must be combated vigorously and continually.” (p.160)
– When Jaime became #1 at Bank Once, he had to hire trusted friends and colleagues to work with. It is different to be doing it by yourself. This may seem contradictory to the above lesson, but it means to surround yourself with good support.(p.165)
– Don’t feel pressured to do what everyone else is doing. When everyone else was dong M&As Jaime used this to his advantage during his deals with Bank One (p.175)
– People will speculate as to why you did things. You must make them beneficial to you but not only you. It has to be for a greater cause.(p.178)
– Stick to your guns. “Don’t change your mind unless you change your mind.”(P.194)
– Be prepared for the worst. Jaime always ran his businesses tight and diversified to avoid any down cycles. “You don’t run a business hoping you don’t have a recession.” (p.206)
– All the great CEOs that I’ve ever seen… spend a lot of time at 50,000 fee, they spend significant time – although not too much – on the ground, and not much time in between” Bill Campbell (p.215)
– Jaime is always trying to get better. One of his favorite sayings is “More, better, faster, quicker, cheaper.”
– What is amazing about Jaime is that he managed to follow himself and not the crowd. He said that a company doesn’t always need to grow. When everyone else was frightened, he kept open eyes. Like JP Morgan himself in 1907, when “he saw the panic as a time for both statesmanship and personal gain.”
– “Most people try to figure out what they want and how to get it. Jaime is one of a small number of people trying to figure out what the other guy wants and how to give it to them. It’s a mind-set.” (p.264)
– Never get too sure of yourself. Dick Fuld, Lehman CEO was quoted as saying “We have access to Fed funds. We can’t fail now.” (p.279)
– The healthy banks didn’t want the TARP money because they would look weak. (p.313)

Fun Fact:
Passed in 1933, Glass-Stegall was intended to prevent deposit-taking banks from incurring too much risk and, specifically, they could no longer speculate in the stock market. Also, no nonbank company would thereafter be allowed to own a bank. (p.87) Of course, all of that changed when banks started screaming at Alan Greenspan to loosen regulations. He did, and the Great Recession hit much harder than it otherwise would have if Glass-Stegall had stayed enacted.

And a list of words that would serve me well to use more often…

Invariably, Audacity, Ignominy, Outsize profits, Anteroom, Swashbucklers, Exhortation, Prescient, Succinct, Nuanced, Rebuffed, Carping, Eschewed, Rapprochement, Beset, Lauded, Aggrandizing, Balked, Infighting, Albeit, Perquisites, Diktat, Antipathy, Scotched, Erstwhile
Postulated, Apace, Shysters, Parlance, Hagiography, August, Paragon, Forthright, Ensnared, Extralegal, Nary, Incredulous, Amorphous, Decamping, Obfuscation, Latent, Deadpanned, Preponderance, Lexicon, Grandoise, Tenets, Bonhomie, Evocative, Haute, Nascent, Spurned, Anachronism, Candor, Monotonous, Arbitrage, Neophyte, Tranches, Kibosh, Poignant, Ominous, Beseeching, Palatable, Amuch, Annals, Asymmetric, Ameliorate, Obviating, Pervaded, Mea Culpa, Erstwhile, Vaunted, Warring, De Rigeur, Penchant, Atwitter, Confab, Novation, Beleaguered, Consternation, Moot, Apprised, Brinksmanship, Chafed, Luxuriates, Paramount, Whiphand, Non-recourse, Collateralized, Sardonically, Apt, Indignation, Conciliatory, Dais, Despairing, Vilified, Monarchal, Quash, Cabal, Fount, Respite, Gadfly, Warren, Burnished, Conservatorship, Consortium, Scuttlebutt, Reprise, Largesse, Vestige, Animosity, Fiduciary, Contagion, Bon Mot, Daisy Chain, Decamped, Buffeted, Insolvency, Unambiguous, Auspicious, Aflutter, Plaudits, Unabated, Fawned, Congenital, Awash, Conjecture, Apoplectic

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