Book: Practical Financial Management (with Thomson ONE – Business School Edition 6-Month Printed Access Card)
Publisher: South-Western College
The fifth edition of Practical Financial Management is the latest milestone in a 35-year journey in education that began when I was a corporate executive teaching finance as an adjunct professor.
Not long after starting down that road I realized that I might be able to improve on the approach taken by most finance texts. It was true then, and it’s still true today, that most finance texts are harder for students to understand than they should be. The issue is relatively unique to the field. No other business discipline seems to have finance’s reputation for unfathomable reading material.
I eventually came to the conclusion that the problem lies in the fact that textbook presentations are inconsistent with the background knowledge and abilities of typical business students. That isn’t to say that the texts are poorly done. By and large, finance texts are good books. They’re logical, well written, and comprehensive. But they’re consistently off target in several key areas with respect to the students who read them.
The first problem has to do with student background. Texts tend to introduce topics using a voice that assumes the student already has some grounding in the area to be studied. Even bright students are confused and intimidated by this practice, because most don’t know anything about the subject area when they start a chapter.
The second issue relates to quantitative material. A great deal of finance is grounded in math and statistics, so students have to take prerequisite courses in those areas. But most business students aren’t really comfortable with quantitative methods, even after they’ve had the courses. This leads to the biggest pedagogical problem we have. Textbooks assume business students are better at math than they are. As a result, most readers can’t follow textbook presentations of quantitative material without an inordinate amount of time and study.
Finally, there is a troubling lack of practicality in much of this literature. For example, texts present techniques like NPV and IRR implying hair-splitting accuracy that doesn’t exist in the real world, where results often depend on biased and uncertain inputs. Textbooks are also silent on the behavioral problems that financial managers deal with every day. For example, the conflict between sales and finance over receivables can tear a company apart, but it is rarely mentioned in textbooks.