What can serious entrepreneurs do to move their business to the next level? That’s the question best-selling author Jim Collins has been answering in his collaborative books and speaking engagements over the past several years. He kept to that business critical theme in his keynote at Ingram Micro ONE, highlighting a number of questions that company executives need to be answer if they wish to advance their organization.
Collins included a number of personal and professional examples is his presentation, with detailed stories explaining the importance of each specific point. None of the ideas are what many would consider unique. As a matter of fact, he covered the same concepts in his book “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't” and freely shares the same 12 questions on his website (get more details here).
After all, the ingredients for success haven’t changed much over the past few decades. Technology may simplify some of the processes and provided access to more resources, but it hasn’t significantly altered the core fundamentals. Companies that have strong leaders, the right support personnel and a consistent focus on their goals typically do better than those that don’t noted Collins.
Speaking of his work with other business scientists he’s worked with over the years, Collins emphasized, “We believe it is dangerous to simply study success. It’s far more powerful to study the contrast that exists between success and failure.” Their research has shown that some are more capable of building formidable organizations than others are, regardless of environment conditions. “Our methodology is to look at those in the same circumstances and see why one rose while the other failed. You come to the conclusion that the root cause cannot be attributed simply to circumstance. Choice and discipline play a role.”
Collins also stressed a high correlation between great results and lasting endurance. When managers abandon their core principles or waiver in their support of the company’s long-term objectives, they’re more likely to experience mediocre operational and sales results, or simply fail. Those who are willing to strive for level 5 leadership typically have a greater chance of success.
What other ideas did Collins have for improving an organization’s odds of making it big (or at least viable)? Here are some of the highlights he shared with ONE attendees:
- Get the “right people on the bus and in the right seats. People are not your most important asset, the right people are.” Organizations that make incredibly good people decisions tend to succeed much better than those that don’t.
- “Know and accept the brutal facts.” Come to terms with the situations your company faces and build action plans based on reality, not myths and misconceptions.
- Know your hedgehog concept. “Ignore all the chaos and focus on one central idea,” then build consistency to start gaining momentum. For example, you can set a goal of making your IT firm an irreplaceable part of your clients businesses. That’s a long-term objective that could take years and a host of resources to realize (but well worth the effort, nonetheless).
The remainder of Collins’ questions and advice are available online and recommended reading for any prospective (or experienced) entrepreneur. Before concluding his presentation at ONE, Collins left the audience with one final point to ponder:
“How will you change the lives of others?”
That question touches on much more than business; it emphasizes the limited time we have to make a difference in this world. Some entrepreneurs get it. They learn how to become successful in business while making a positive, significant impact on the lives of others. That’s a perfect opportunity to move yourself and your organization way beyond “great.”