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Jim Collins is one of my favorite business writers. He wrote the business classic Good to Great and has developed and coined ideas and terms that have been embraced and used widely in the business world.
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Here are four pearls of his wisdom that I think can help entrepreneurs and business owners tremendously:
It’s all about 20-mile marches.
In his most recent book, Great by Choice, Collins tells the story of two groups of hikers who trekked from California to Maine. One group walked 20 miles every day. It didn’t matter whether the ground was flat, rocky or hilly, or if the weather was sunny, rainy or freezing — they still walked 20 miles every day.
The second group charged forward when the terrain was easy and the weather was nice, and they traveled fewer miles when the conditions were poor. Despite this seemingly practical approach, the first group beat the second group to the finish line by a tremendous margin.
The faster hikers were successful because they were consistent and disciplined. In their minds, the routine could not be broken. It kept them moving forward and also forced them to relax and recharge for the next day.
Business is like that — unpredictable and varied. It has green pastures and icy slopes, times when things coast along, and times when everything falls apart. Consistency, then, is crucial; so is maintaining a routine, in order to cover ground and weather the storms en route.
Be paradoxically creative and disciplined, simultaneously.
To write Great by Choice, Collins and a team of researchers studied successful companies over a period of 15 years. Their findings revealed an interesting dichotomy among the top performers: Companies that outperformed competitors tenfold showed both creativity and discipline.
Without discipline, creativity can fall short. Great ideas and great initiatives may figure in. But if implementation is poor, and there isn’t discipline, things often go awry.
Blend creativity with discipline to not only think of the next great thing, but to make the idea a reality.
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Build a wild dream and its firm foundation.
Collins writes, “BHAGs are a company’s wildest dreams. Catalytic mechanisms are their foundations. Build them both.”
A big hairy audacious goal (BHAG) is a company’s wildest dream, and a catalytic mechanism helps a business get there. As Collins says, if big hairy audacious goals are castles in the sky, catalytic mechanisms are the foundations they’re built on.
The catalytic mechanism is the driver that keeps the team motivated and accountable, to reach the BHAG. It connects goals with performance, giving tangible purpose to actions and motivating employees to put in their best work.
Core values and purpose hold a company together.
Core values and purpose hold a company together as it grows, decentralizes, diversifies and expands globally. The core purpose is the North Star — it guides the company from afar. It isn’t something that will ever be reached, necessarily, as it is too big of a mission to fully achieve — unlike the BHAG, which serves as the company’s quantifiable Everest to climb over the next 10-to-30 years.
As a company changes and grows, its core purpose and values will keep it grounded. They provide context as to what should and shouldn’t be done, and they provide a guiding vision to what the company is all about.
Do you agree with this advice? Share your insights in the comments below!
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