Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Good to Great to Gone

The other day I sat in the examining room of a physician and picked up the only magazine in the room. It was the May 2008 FORTUNE 500 issue. In it was an article called “The Secret of Enduring Greatness” by Jim Collins of “Good to Great” fame.

Some facts are eye-openers and offer lessons for agency and other business leaders.
• Of the 500 companies on the original Fortune 500 list in 1955 only 71 remain.
• Nearly 2000 companies have appeared on the list and most are long gone.
• Some of the most powerful companies (Apple, Microsoft, Google) emerged from new technologies replacing old-line technologies
• Some of the best-known, traditional companies are no longer in existence.

These facts boost the argument that there is no such thing anymore as “enduring greatness.” But, Collins argues differently and points to a number of companies – P&G, GE, Nucor, Xerox, Wal-Mart (we all can name others) – that have endured and continue to be great.

He writes, “Whether you prevail, or fail, endure or die, whether you make it onto the Fortune 500, and whether you stay there, depends more on what you do to yourself than on what the world does to you.”

He goes on to say, that “throughout history the greatest companies have used adverse times to their advantage … The best corporate leaders never point out the window to blame external conditions; they look in the mirror and say we are responsible for our results.”

I’ll bet Mr. Collins shares that view even today.

We know that during the last recession of 2001-2002 a number of agencies departed this earth. Probably a few of them were really good, maybe some in their space were even great. Today they’re gone.

Great leaders create great agencies. They innovate, they invest, they take risks, they plan, and they create – even in the hardest of times.

Competition has never been fiercer. Now is the time to re-commit to being great – because “good” just won’t make it today.

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