The Good to Great venture


The Good to Great venture

Many business people throughout the country refer to the book Good to Great (HarperBusiness, 2001, by author Jim Collins as a roadmap for how to grow their companies. Of course, no single book can hold all the right answers to all the right questions. However, Collins’ book and its tenets provide a starting point for an enlightening discussion on the strategies that can help a "good" company develop into a "great" company.
It is within that context that Small Business Times presents its annual Ventures: A Guide for Growing Business.
With a nod to Collins, this special report includes the stories of the leaders of several companies in southeastern Wisconsin who share with us their insights about how they’re growing their companies. To be sure, some of these local corporate leaders have never even read Good to Great, but they have instinctively deployed many of the book’s philosophies, including:

  • "Level 5 leadership" – Such leaders have ambition about the cause, the company and the work, not themselves. They build a strong leadership team that can function without them.
  • "First who" – They focus on getting the right people on their "bus" and getting those people into the right seats on that bus. Hiring the right people is critical to building a successful organization and enables a company to then define the "what" of a company’s mission.
  • "Confront the brutal facts" – Many of these leaders have empowered the people in their organization to identify the bad things, those things that need to be changed or eliminated before the company can fully prosper.
  • "The hedgehog concept" – The companies of these leaders often operate like a hedgehog, rather than a fox. In the fable, the fox is nimble and cunning, and he devotes his day to devising different schemes in which he will attack the hedgehog.
    By contrast, the hedgehog is plodding, deliberate and has a singular purpose. When the fox attacks, the hedgehog rolls up into a sphere of sharp spikes, repelling the fox. The hedgehog has a singular purpose. He does it well, and he does it over and over again. And he wins the battle.
  • "Technology accelerators" – Technology does not tend to make or break a company’s level of greatness, but it can accelerate its greatness or its demise. These companies tend to use technology to their benefit, rather than be distracted by its promises, bells and whistles.
  • "Flywheel" – Think of a giant, heavy, cumbersome flywheel. It’s several feet in diameter. It’s made of concrete. It takes all your effort just to spin it a couple of feet. Now, think of what happens when, after several tries, you get that flywheel moving. It becomes much easier to keep it in motion than to start it. The leaders of these companies tend to have their flywheels in motion, building momentum.
  • "Preserve the core/
    stimulate progress" – These leaders tend to have a core value, a mission that is beyond that of just making money. What’s your company’s "BHAG" (big hairy audacious goal)? Does your company have any practices or strategies that should be changed or eliminated because they distract from the core mission?

    May 30, 2003 Small Business Times, Milwaukee

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