First and foremost, you gotta know who Jim Collins is before we talk about any of his works. Jim Collins is considered today one the best business gurus and consultants in the world. It´s hard to explain what a guru or a consultant really does, because they can be very versatile differing on what they’re working on, but Jim fundamentally studies growth and the path to success of companies worldwide. Within that field, he advises several entrepreneurs and CEOs. George Paulo Lemann, for instance, is a real admirer of the guy.
Built to Last was first published in 1994 (his books are not tied to a specific era; you could call them classics), and it was written with the purpose of answering the following question: What makes a company endure hardships and changes, and thus last a really long time?
What makes Jim Collins what he is today is the simplicity and objectivity in the way he gives you the answers to the main question/thesis in hand (in this case how does a company lasts a long time?). He is able to find the real source, the true cause, for such complex issues. In a way that it all becomes black and white in a grey world. His answers are almost too simple to believe, making so much sense that it´s hard to argue back. Of course, like any other sport, to put it in practice successfully is the fortune of very few lucky ones.
Jim, similar to most of his books, likes to put forth his analysis with the use of examples and pair companies (good company A versus bad company B). In Built to Last, we see him using as example 3M, Procter and Gamble, Disney, among other giants.
Let´s go through a few of my favorite points in the book, for illustration purposes:
1. BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) – If you want to be successful for a long time, you gotta set some really hard, almost impossible, goals to achieve. Once you achieve them, you create a new set, even hairier and more audacious . That´s how Wal-Mart was able to grow from a grocery store in Arkansas to a $ 250 billion revenue mammoth.
2. Clock building not Time telling – It means a CEO/founder is supposed to focus on building the company for the long-term, not trying to achieve immediate short-term success, the sort that creates publicity and then dies down. A company and it´s CEO must have the purpose of creating a platform for success, to be successful repeatedly and sometimes not, instead of narrowing themselves in one supposedly great product or idea.
3. The Tyranny of the “Or” – People are always choosing. Choosing between cost and quality, or work and family, or short-term success and long-term success, or big stiff company and small flexible company, and it goes on… That is just wrong. No choosing should be done. Never. You gotta find a way to intertwine both options, all the time. That’s key to last a long time and keep the boat floating.
Every Jim Collins´ book is a great one, even though one may appeal to you more than the other. Built to Last really appealed to me.