Good to Great by Jim Collins

Enjoy this guestpost by Dave Baldwin

Good to Great by Jim Collins: The Key to Keeping the Faith

Before I read Good to Great, I was seriously beginning to doubt my decision to leave my corporate job. Good to Great not only spurred me forward and encouraged me to press on, but it also taught me how to develop a sixth sense about what was likely to work and what wasn’t. After my fifth reading of the book, I’ve only just begun to tap into the raw power at the core of this remarkable piece of literature.

Flashback: I was sitting in my car outside the parking lot at the Barnes and Noble, with the shrink-wrap from the newly-purchased audio book still sitting on my passenger seat, thinking to myself, “Just what do I think I’m doing, anyway?”

I’d flat-out walked away from a job that was paying me a good salary. I’d had the opportunity to travel on the company’s dime. They had paid for my meals. I was generally free to come and go on the work sites when I wanted, as long as I got the job done. I had been living a 5-star resort lifestyle! I’d had it better than 98% of the planet, and I’d just quit. No backup plan, no trust fund, and not a whole lot of savings. Was I stupid?

By the time I’d finished listened to the first CD of the Good to Great audio book, I had undeniable confirmation that I’d done exactly what needed to be done.

I felt my first twinge of encouragement during the introduction, when Collins shared a brief story. He mentioned having asked himself, “How much would someone have to pay me not to publish Good to Great?” I felt spurred on by this question, and just a tiny bit more motivated to move forward with what I knew in my heart to be my calling.

Collins’ research team spent five years looking at 11 companies, all of which shared a single objective characteristic. They had showed a 15-year track record of mediocre performance (stock valued at or below the general market) followed by a 15 years of sustained “great” performance (stock valued at least three times greater than the general market). Out of over 1,000 companies, these 11 were the only ones that met the team’s criteria.

The book explores the inquiry: what accounts for the difference between “great” companies and “mediocre” companies? Likewise, what drives an individual to live a comfortable and mediocre life instead of shooting for the stars?

The very first assertion that Collins made: “Good is the enemy of Great.” In other words, if you do what you’re “good” at doing, you’ll likely never become “great.” I was guilty as charged. I was “good” at computer programming and working with electronic equipment. I was definitely not the best at either, nor would I ever be. I didn’t need to be the best in order to make a living, though. I just needed to be good enough. The “good to great” companies in Collins’ study were not satisfied with being “good enough.” One common thread that tied them together: they were willing to play big, even if it meant walking away from steady sources of income.

I could write a whole book about the insights I’ve gotten from reading Good to Great, but for now, I’ll just say that I’ve become a lifelong student of Good to Great. I have gotten my life from the powerful teachings in this book, but I still have a lot to learn about being great. In fact, one of the key traits of great companies in Collins’ study is that they were lifelong seekers on the quest to becoming great. They all recognized that you’ve never really “made it” to being great. In fact, as soon as you think you’ve made it to the top, you’ve already begun to slide backwards. In other words, considering oneself to be accomplished is an indicator of mediocrity. (If you have to tell people that you’re great, you’re probably not.)

If you haven’t read Good to Great, I strongly urge you to put this book on your “must-read” list. Whether you’re in business for yourself or not, the concepts in this book are life-altering and universal. Give it a read and tell a friend about it. You’ll be glad you did.

Dave Baldwin is a writer who has lived and worked in Raleigh, NC since 2007. He has self-published two books:
Pied Piper Entrepreneurship (2009) and Get That Book Out of Your Head! (2009).

Thanks, Dave for that awesome guestpost! Now we want to hear from you! Let us know if you’ve read Good to Great and what wisdom/insights this book brought you! Comment freely below.