Jim Collins and Walmart

Newsweek writes about how Jim Collins’ book “Good to Great” has achieved success outside the business world, too.

Its gone through 48 reprintings, and just inked its millionth hardcover. Collinswhose first book, Built to Last, sold about 200,000 hardcover copieshas received thousands of e-mails and roughly 250 speaking requests from people outside the business world, including orchestra managers, church leaders, principals and hospital chiefs (the list goes on). Whats the attraction? Many of the books findings are counterintuitive. The companies that made the leap are low-profile firms. Abbott, Kimberly-Clark and Nucor are among those that overcame average stock performance for a 15-year run that far outpaced the broader market. None were run by flashy CEOs from the outsidethey were led by quiet insiders who inspired with standards and goals. They determined what their company could do better than anyone else, figured out the smartest way to measure progress and stayed focused.

There’s an article by Jim Collins in Fast Company on Walmart (thanks to Abhay Bhagat and Karthik for the link):

It is entirely possible for a company to grow to 1.4 million people and retain much of the vibrant culture and sense of purpose created by its entrepreneurial founder. I must admit, I hadn’t thought that that was possible. By the time most companies reach $10 billion or $20 billion in revenue, they have long ago lost the entrepreneurial zeal that fueled them in the first place. By $50 billion, they have gone fully corporate, and their very success has made them complacent, dull, and slow. The usual story is that what was once a fast company — in its attitude, its values, its spirit, and its execution — eventually succumbs to inertia and spirals into a doom loop of mediocrity.

Yet if anything, Wal-Mart is gaining momentum. This fast company is becoming a faster company. Wal-Mart grows a Fortune 100 corporation each year. The company’s culture is as strong as ever. And Wal-Mart has yet to reach the larger world outside of the United States. Here is the most startling fact of all: If Wal-Mart were to maintain its average growth rate from the past 10 years, it would become the world’s first $1 trillion company within a decade.

Sounds astonishing – a trillion dollar enterprise. But so was the possibility of it becoming quarter trillion dollar company a decade or so ago.

A few points to note from Collins’ article:

When you combine a consistent direction with substantial speed, you achieve something greater than either of those elements alone: momentum.

The key to change is first to understand what not to change and then to feel free to change everything else.

Never think of your company as great, no matter how successful it becomes . Instead, always stay irrationally worried that it is never really measuring up to its potential.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.