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Getting from Good to Great

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Currently, I am obsessed with a book that isn't new or undiscovered, but speaks to me in a fresh way nonetheless. In Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don't, Jim Collins shares the results of a study of a set of elite companies, defined by tough benchmarks, that have achieved great results over a sustained period of time. In a riveting analysis of what distinguishes great companies from mediocre companies, Collins uncovers seemingly unexpected results that can be applied to any start-up looking to achieve the next level of success. Whether you are just launching or in the growth phase of your business, we can all learn from the concepts set forth in this book. I feel so strongly that Collins' findings can be applied to start-ups, that I want to share some of my key learnings along with my own interpretation and "gut check" analysis that you can do no matter what your phase of launching. Please read on:

1. Great companies are run by Level 5 leaders: Individuals who are characterized by a relentless, tireless and egoless determination to put the business first. Their extreme ambition revolves around the business and not themselves. These individuals are often described as humble, yet determined, quiet, modest, self-effacing, yet fanatically driven to product sustained results--as such, their personalities are contrary to what you might expect or assume for someone in this position.

Gut Check: Would you describe yourself as a Level 5 leader? If not that's okay, just make sure to bring someone into your company who is. Set yourself and your company up for success. Don't let your ego get in the way of taking your company to the next level.

2. Level 5 leaders surround themselves with Level 5 management teams and work tirelessly to make sure that the right people are in the right seats. Skill is less important than having a Level 5 work ethic and egoless mindset to do whatever needs to be done to fulfill on the company's mission and make the company successful. Roles and responsibilities should be clearly defined and conducive to peoples' individual strengths. Find what they are good at and let them do it.

Gut Check: In the start-up environment, we have a tendency to choose helpers who are "jacks of all trades" and can juggle and handle many different roles. This works in the beginning but not for growth. If you want to take it up a notch, give each person a crystal clear role and hold everyone accountable by establishing metrics and a strategy for each area of the business.

3. Great companies abide by a Hedgehog concept: Seeking out the opportunity to be the best at something at all costs even if it means shifting focus from current core competencies--giving up something that the company might be doing well, but is yet not hard wired to be the best at it in the climate of competitors and the market environment.

Gut Check: Consider tweaking your product or service so that you can be the best at whatever your offering is. What you started with may change. Be open. Ask yourself: What is the opportunity and is my company positioned to take advantage of this opportunity in spite of the current product or service. Then go for it and don't look back!

4. Great companies are filled with passion and with individuals who feel passionately about the company's products or services.

GUT Check: Do you still have passion for your business, your product or service? Are you excited to get out of bed in the morning to provide something of value to your customers? Have you surrounded yourself with others who are like-minded and feel passionately about what you are doing as well. Whether you are making handbags or researching a cure for AIDS, according to Collins' study, having passion for the product is key to sustained greatness.

Ladies Who Launch Founder Victoria Colligan

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