The Writings Of Jim Collins – From Good To Great

Every entrepreneur dreams of getting their business from good to great. Countless famous leaders have introduced different large-scale corporate change tactics that aim to bring the great out of businesses. Sadly, all these endeavors failed to bring sustainable growth and success.

Among the best thought leaders in growth, only Jim Collins discovered the secret to making companies soar to the heavens. His most popular book, “Good to Great,” unearthed the key factors that carry businesses to greatness and sustain success.

In your quest to become the leader in your industry, paying attention to Jim’s teachings is a big eye-opener. Jim’s research-based approach and clever analogy provide a fresh perspective on creating a thriving business.

So, who is Jim Collins and what secrets does he reveal in his writings?

That’s what we’ll uncover in this article. If you want to learn more about him and his nugget-filled and business-nurturing ideas, keep reading.

Who is Jim Collins?

James C. Collins, more popularly known as Jim Collins, is a researcher, lecturer, and author. He is best known for his popular business books such as “Good to Great,” “Built to Last” and “Great by Choice.” 

In his biography, Jim describes himself as a teacher and student of what makes great companies tick. This is an ode to his tireless devotion to understanding the tipping points of companies to greatness.

Jim spent more than 25 years in rigorous research that allowed him to author and co-author seven best-selling books. He gained recognition for his unique approach to studying successful companies and leaders. Often in his writings, he emphasized the need for disciplined people, thoughts and actions.

In his book “Good to Great,” he takes a deep dive into why some companies make the leap from good to great while others do not.

One key idea introduced in the book is the “Stockdale Paradox” quote which underscores the need for two things:

  • Unwavering faith that you will prevail to the end, despite hardships and difficulty
  • Tireless discipline to face the harsh realities of your current situation

Jim also discusses the importance of “productive paranoia.” This means obsessively asking “what if?” in order to fend off complacency and prepare for the worst. Productive paranoia breeds proactivity. By preparing ahead of time, you give your company leeway to handle unexpected disruptions from a position of strength.

Jim’s books offer valuable insights for leaders and companies, as his findings are backed by rigorous research and case studies. His approach is unique and thought-provoking. This pushes readers to reflect on their own practices and how they can strive for greatness.

Wizard of Sales® has invested years perfecting the principles of Jim Collins to help smaller companies acquire the same leadership expertise. If you want your business to jump from good to great, we can help mold your team into operational excellence. Book a call with Ryan Chute of Wizard of Sales® and let’s make greatness a reality.

Jim Collins’ Research and WritingJim Collins’ Research and Writing

For decades, Jim Collin has engaged in intensive research and writing that has been both lauded and criticized. Through those years, he managed to author and co-author seven books that sold 10 million copies worldwide. Each reveals insights and wisdom on how businesses and leaders can achieve (or lose) greatness along the way.

Here is a quick run-through and synopsis of his publications:

1. Good to Great

Good to Great” aims to address one question: can good companies become great ones, and if possible, how? This book is the product of a five-year study that compared companies that took the leap of faith and didn’t.

Jim Collins explains that greatness is not a product of circumstance. Being great is a conscious choice made by leaders through immense discipline. Within the book, he highlights different ideas like the Flywheel Concept, the Hedgehog Concept and Level 5 leaders. All of these are crucial in understanding the path to greatness and we’ll tackle them later.

2. Built to Last

In every company, the helm of leadership gets transferred from one person to another. But why do some businesses remain visionary even after multiple generations of leaders through the years? 

Jim Collins and his co-author Jerry Porras investigate this question. Among their findings, they realized that having BHAGs or Big Hairy Audacious Goals is one key to preserving progress. “Built to Last” dissects the difference between great and good companies in terms of their longevity and survival.

3. Turning the Flywheel

“Turning the Flywheel” is the fruit of Jim’s 20-year observations of leaders using the Flywheel Concept to accelerate momentum. The Flywheel Concept suggests that there is no big break that makes companies successful. Success is a product of a constant and tireless effort to build momentum turn after turn, just like a flywheel. He studied the cases of both massive corporations and small companies, non-profits, schools and hospitals to make his point.

The book shares practical wisdom to help leaders in their flywheels to harness the full potential of the Flywheel Effect. This is a state where change is realized and normalized without much effort.

4. Great by Choice

Do you ever wonder why some companies thrive in uncertainty and amidst catastrophe? 

Jim Collins and co-author Morten Hansen answer this question in this book. “Great by Choice” is the result of a nine-year study understanding the principles of a great enterprise. These are businesses that thrive and survive during fast-paced and chaotic times.

The book is filled with rigorous analysis along with stories that make the book uplifting to readers. Moreover, they take a contrarian stance against popular opinions on how great businesses came to be.

5. Good to Great and the Social Sectors

Following the success of “Good to Great,” Jim Collins succeeds it with this masterpiece. This book explains how good to great concepts can be used not only in business but in all other industries. “Good to Great and the Social Sectors” rejects the idea that social sectors should operate like businesses. Instead, Jim clarifies that greatness can be adopted in areas where success is not measured economically.

6. How the Mighty Fall

Great companies always have great leaders. These leaders are equipped with skills to counteract decline and even reverse the course if they find themselves failing. Jim Collins shares the five step-wise stages of decline he observed through four years worth of research for the book.

There is one reality. Decline is inevitable, no matter how great a company is. However, what he shares in this book is that decline is self-inflicted. With that, reversing the course or recovering from decline is within reach. According to him, there is always hope so long as we don’t give up. 

Even the mighty can fall, but they rise back up again.

7. BE 2.0 (Beyond Entrepreneurship 2.0)

As the name suggests, BE 2.0 is part two of Jim Collins and Bill Lazier’s first book “Beyond Entrepreneurship”. This book is simply a new edition that adds four new chapters and 15 essays to the first one.

This book offers practical guidance if people want to be great leaders. Like a roadmap, he shares a compelling vision and effective strategies to achieve tactical excellence.

Jim finally honors Bill, who departed in 2004, through a chapter that shares life lessons he learned from Lazier.

One common theme across Jim Collins’s books is that he aims to answer a single question throughout the book. This is why Jim describes himself as a Socratic adviser, thereby following the principles of Socrates. Historically, Socrates would always ask his students questions to lead to the answer rather than giving the answer right away.

Unlike other authors, Jim Collins spend years in rigorous research before producing a book. That sets him apart and makes his book a reliable source of nuggets for business leaders. For your questions about business leadership, Jim’s books are a great practical read.

The Myths in Large-scale Corporate Change

You’re a business owner. 

It’s not hard to imagine that you may have sought tips on how to produce radical changes for your company. Every entrepreneur does that. However, Jim Collins swoops in and tells you all those large-scale corporate changing tips are no more than unfounded myths.

Here are some common corporate change myths that “gurus” try to feed people with:

  • The Myth of the Change Program. Jim Collins insists that one change program like a launch event or tagline is not enough to bring about great changes for a company. It takes constant, consistent effort and discipline to implement small changes over time.
  • The Myth of the Burning Platform. Jim Collins debunks the idea that a company must be in dire straits for change to occur. Employees don’t need a crisis to feel motivated and accept the need for change. Any moment could be a radical step to greatness.
  • The Myth of Stock Options. Jim Collins asserts that giving employees stock options, incentives or even bonuses does not grease the wheels of change. They don’t automatically commit to the company’s success in light of an incentive.
  • The Myth of Fear-Driven Change. Jim Collins argues that fear may drive short-term change, but it is not sustainable. A culture of fear can lead to quick decisions and rash actions. Instead, he advocates for a culture of discipline and innovation. A place where employees are able to make decisions within a framework that allows for calculated risks.
  • The Myth of Acquisitions. Jim Collins contends that acquisitions (or buying growth) may lead to short-term financial gains. The problem is that you cannot buy your way to greatness.
  • The Myth of Technology-Driven Change. Jim Collins says banking on technology could streamline some processes but is not enough to leapfrog your competition. Change is about values and principles shared within the team.
  • The Myth of Revolution. Jim Collins opposes the idea that a gut-wrenching and painful break needs to happen to stimulate change. His book “How the Mighty Fall” explains that business decline can be counteracted and reversed.

Many business owners fell victim to these myths. Despite their hopes that change will naturally come as a result of their circumstance, it didn’t. As Jim emphasizes in the Stockdale Paradox quote, hope simply is not enough, rigorous discipline is also required. Moreover, change is not a result of unfortunate circumstances but a product of active decision-making and effort.

That said, let’s explore below the timeless principles that Jim Collins shares in his most popular book, “Good to Great“:

Jim Collins Egg Analogy

Picture an egg that silently sits in a warm and snug corner. No one takes notice of this egg until one day, it suddenly hatches into a chicken. All of a sudden people are intrigued by the overnight sensation. Pictures here and there, and the chicken made headlines.

From a chick’s point of view, the outside realm has always dismissed the seemingly dormant egg. They only saw the visual transformation in their eyes– the results. What people didn’t detect is that this “change” was brought about by non-stop internal development and evolution. The chain of long steps led to the change, not one big step as people would think.

Jim Collins explains that change doesn’t happen overnight although people would like to think so. Everyone is fixated on that one miracle moment, but there’s no such thing. Even good-to-great leaders, when asked, don’t know what specific moment initiated their change to success. Instead, after consistent and tireless efforts pushing for change, it all came to fruition. 

For example, look at Walgreens which was no more than an average company for more than 40 years. Then in 1975, Walgreens began to climb and win its industry. Jim Collins asked a key Walgreens executive when this change occurred and his answer made Collins lose a few neurons. He said “somewhere between 1971 and 1980,” well that sure narrows it down.

The point is that there is no miracle turnaround. You will never pinpoint change because change is a process. Change is a series of steps leading up to that one big thing.

The Flywheel EffectThe Flywheel Effect

First, let’s describe a flywheel:

  • A massive metallic disc that is mounted horizontally on a spindle
  • About a hundred feet in diameter
  • 10 feet thick
  • Weighing around 25 tons

Jim Collins says your company is like a flywheel. Achieving your desired change is like getting the flywheel to move as fast as possible. Why? In this case, doing it generates superior economic results. Before initiating the change, you are like a flywheel at a standstill.

To get it moving, you push with all your strength and the flywheel inches forward. With sustained effort for several days, you got the wheel to complete a full single spin. Your relentless efforts lead to a second, third and fourth turn as the wheel rotates at a faster pace. At some point, you make a breakthrough. 

The momentum of the initial spins kicks in your favor. The flywheel now spins from its own weight with no longer much effort from your end.

That’s the Flywheel Effect. Spinning the flywheel, or in your case, implementing radical change is a product of sustained effort. There’s not a single event controlling it, rather you have to be consistent until the change is realized and normalized. Otherwise, without sustained momentum, you fall into the Doom Loop. Jim Collins describes the Doom Loop as a state where no sustained momentum is built, thereby limiting change.

Look at Warner-Lambert & Co. In 1979, they aimed to be the leading consumer-products company. But after a series of CEO changes and three major goal restructurings between 1979 and 1998, no improvement happened. Each new leader halted the momentum of the previous predecessor. Finally, on a grim day in 2000, Pfizer swallowed them whole and they got lost in oblivion.

Jim Collins says the Flywheel Effect works because people want to be a part of radical change. When momentum begins and it bears positive fruits, people want in on it. Tangible results speed up the process and everyone becomes a part of those that spin the wheel.

Good To Great – “WHO” then “WHAT”

The goal is your what and the people who will press on toward that goal are your what

Jim Collins stresses the importance of getting the right people on the bus first BEFORE deciding where the bus goes. Jim urges that those who are not the right fit be removed from the equation.

Spinning the flywheel only works when everyone is on board and willing to get down and dirty for the goal. People who refuse to take part will only be deadweight in achieving the goals.

Good-to-great leaders understand and embrace this concept like a doctrine. It will be a tough ride. If people cannot active contributors to change, they better step off the bus.

Jim Collins shares the story of David Maxwell, Fannie Mae CEO in 1981, and his WHO-then-WHAT bus ride. Facing a $1 million loss daily and $56 billion in mortgages, Maxwell made the tough decision to sift the team. He said he wanted to keep the A-level people to produce A-level efforts. Those who cannot share the burden were free to leave. A total of 14 out of his 26 executives got off the bus, but this kickstarted their change.

With radical modifications consistently implemented here and there, they went from losing a million to earning $4 million per day.

The Hedgehog Concept

Are you a hedgehog or are you a fox? This is the famous question that Isaiah Berlin left people based on a popular Greek parable:

The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.

Jim Collins used this concept in Good to Great. He discusses how companies should focus on just one core thing and become the best at it.

Some companies may seem successful by diversifying and expanding their business. However, Jim argues that it’s better to be deep rather than broad. 

One example he gives is a comparison between Philip Morris and Kimberly-Clark. Both companies were in the tobacco and paper products industries. However, Philip Morris focused more on tobacco which led to its success. On the other hand, Kimberly-Clark who tried to be a jack of all trades did not have as much success.

This idea may seem counterintuitive at first glance. Still, Jim’s research and examples make a convincing argument for the importance of being deeply committed to a specific field. Jim also highlights the need for strong and capable leadership as well as discipline. This will let your team stick to your core values and objectives even in dire times.

From Good Company To Great Company

From Good Company To Great Company

All entrepreneurs hunger and thirst for one big change: transforming their companies from good to great. The good news is that whoever you are, whether a massive corporation CEO or a small entrepreneur, change is possible. Initiating that change? Well, that seems to be the problem.

The best way to introduce positive radical change to a company is through consistent efforts. Small step-by-step goals that all add up to that one big idea. Now, the question is what are those steps? More importantly, where exactly do you begin?

For decades, Wizard of Sales® has been a part of lighting the flames of change in residential home service businesses. I have guided business owners and their teams to achieve radical change in their culture and sales process. Infusing my ageless methods with the principles of Jim Collins, transforming companies from good to great is possible.

It’s possible for your business too. All it takes is booking a free call with me. Let’s talk about the change you want.