Book review: Islands of Profit in a Sea of Red Ink, by Jonathan L S Byrnes

Determining which parts of a business make money and which don't is all very well, but what do you do with the unprofitable bits?

by Andrew Wileman

'Islands in the stream, that is what we are.' The main propositions of this book go something like this: It's astonishing but true that nearly 40% of almost every business is unprofitable, while 20% to 30% is so profitable it provides all the earnings. It offers a systematic approach to determining which bits of the business are which. Key reasons for this split, says the author, are that most businesses have not adjusted from the Age of Mass Markets to the Age of Precision Markets and from product-driven competition to customer-driven competition. Islands gives a set of 'profit levers' to create and improve profitability.

And here's my freshly minted list of things to consider when deciding if a new business book merits more than an exasperated 60-second flick-through and a tossing in the bin: Is it true? Is it new? Is it actionably true and new? Is it a good read?

Let's take the message in the title first: 'it's astonishing but true' that nearly 40% of almost every business is unprofitable, while 20% to 30% is so profitable it provides all the earnings.

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