Blair Cook – Author of “The Illiterate Executive: An Executive’s Handbook for Mastering Financial Acumen”

Transform Your Business: Lessons from Blair Cook’s The Illiterate Executive

Mike interviews Blair Cook.

We had the incredible pleasure of sitting down with Blair Cook, the author of The Illiterate Executive: An Executive’s Handbook for Mastering Financial Acumen. We dove deep into strategies for turning your business around and catapulting it to new heights. If you’re an entrepreneur, a business owner, or someone passionate about making smart moves, this episode is for you. Let’s break down the gems from our conversation.


Blair kicked things off with a powerful insight – the importance of cross-functional experience. He’s learned from his mentors that employees need to immerse themselves in different divisions to truly understand and grow a company. This isn’t just about having a well-rounded team; it’s about fostering a deeper understanding of how each part of the business operates. When employees can see the bigger picture, they make better decisions, and this holistic perspective is crucial for top-level leadership.

Though Blair didn’t specify if job swapping is detailed in his book, he fully endorses the concept. He’s seen firsthand how exposing employees to various roles within the company enhances their problem-solving abilities and prepares them for future leadership positions. Blair’s strategy as a CFO has always been to rotate his critical people through different functional areas. This approach not only builds a stronger team but also ensures that everyone is prepared for the challenges that lie ahead.

Blair’s experience spans across a dozen industries, and he’s observed that financial challenges are universal. Whether you’re dealing with real estate, food manufacturing, or services, the primary business model remains the same – money comes in, something happens in the middle, and hopefully, profit is generated. Understanding this “magic formula” is crucial. Blair shared an amusing anecdote about transitioning from a highly regulated utility company to a more laissez-faire fishing business. His disciplined approach brought much-needed structure and risk management to a company operating on handshakes and loose agreements.

Change is never easy, especially in established businesses. Blair shared his experience of introducing formal customer contracts in a company that previously operated on informal agreements. Predictably, he faced resistance. However, Blair emphasized the importance of articulating the benefits of these changes. It’s essential to show how these adjustments will improve everyone’s life in the long run. As a leader, you must be ready for pushback but remain committed to the process. Change might be challenging initially, but the rewards are worth it.

One of the standout points from our conversation was the importance of transparency. Blair is a big advocate for sharing financial data with the team. It’s about creating a sense of ownership and urgency. Sure, there are risks – some might misuse the information – but the benefits far outweigh these risks. Drawing inspiration from Ray Dalio’s principles of radical openness, Blair believes that dealing with the brutal facts of reality is essential for turnaround success.

Blair shared a gripping story about a CEO who had to create a sense of urgency to drive change. By threatening to shut down a struggling division, he shook things up and instilled a real sense of urgency among the employees. This drastic measure led to significant changes and, ultimately, success. Sometimes, it takes a bold move to wake people up and get them to see the need for change.

True leaders advocate for their teams. Blair talked about the importance of supporting good ideas from middle management. This builds trust and encourages proactive problem-solving. When employees see their ideas are valued and implemented, it creates a culture of innovation and continuous improvement.

Blair stressed the importance of early intervention. At the first sign of trouble, it’s crucial to consider bringing in a turnaround expert. Waiting too long can make the situation worse. Recognizing the signs and taking timely action can differentiate between success and failure.

Many executives lack sufficient financial understanding, which is a critical gap. Blair’s book emphasizes that financial literacy is not just a nice-to-have but a must-have. Knowing your numbers, keeping things simple, and understanding the financial nuances of your business are essential skills for any leader.

Mike Fallat and Blair Cook talk about the book The Illiterate Executive: An Executive’s Handbook for Mastering Financial Acumen.

Blair has been involved in numerous turnarounds, sometimes taking company equity positions. His role involves introducing new systems and processes and often changing the existing management to steer the company back to profitability. It’s about making intelligent business decisions and setting the company on a path to sustained success.

So, if you want to master financial acumen more deeply, Blair Cook’s book The Illiterate Executive is a must-read. Whether you’re looking to turn around a struggling business or simply sharpen your financial skills, this book offers invaluable insights. Check out his website at, and don’t forget to catch his popular YouTube channel, Learn Finance Today, for more great content.

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About Mike Fallat

Mike Fallat, aka The BookMan, is the owner of Dreamstarters Publishing and the Million Dollar Book Agency. They have helped 300+ entrepreneurs become bestselling authors. His goal is to help 1,000 entrepreneurs publish books and teach them how to use their books as a gateway to generating 7-figures.

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About Dreamstarters Publishing

Dreamstarters Publishing offers ghostwriting, cover design, and everything that is required to take an idea to a finished book (kindle, paperback, hardcover, and audiobook).

The Million Dollar Book Agency is the ultimate marketing CRM system for author-preneurs. Services include automated funnels, lead generation campaigns, book fulfillment, podcast management, press releases, virtual assistants, course development, and more.

Mike also hosts a podcast known as Million Dollar Stories and runs a membership-based site known as Million Dollar Circle. In addition to owning the book business, he invests in self storage real estate.

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