Thursday, January 24, 2008

Fw: Harvey Mackay's Column--The 'breakthrough' book for a breakthroughyear

Harvey Mackay's Column This Week

The 'breakthrough' book for a breakthrough year
I just finished reading a great new business book that really breaks new ground, and I am recommending that my readers put it on their 2008 reading list. That book, The Breakthrough Company by Keith McFarland, examines nine companies which found ways to grow exponentially, while others like them settled for merely succeeding.
Did you know that just one-tenth of one percent of U.S. firms achieve revenues of more than $250 million in sales? Almost all books and media focus on these sizable companies, but this new work takes you through the steps from a one-person shop to the big time.
McFarland took five years out to "Catscan" and "MRI" more than 7,000 growth companies seeking to become powerhouses in their industry. He narrowed his study to nine breakthrough companies—ADTRAN, Chico's, Express Personnel, Fastenal, Intuit, Paychex, Polaris, SAS Institute and the Staubauch Company. His goal: To identify the secrets of breakthrough, which enable a firm to grow to $1 billion in sales and beyond.
In interviewing more than 1,500 executives on four continents, McFarland discovered that much of what is believed about what it takes to build a breakthrough company is just plain wrong. Included among his myth-busting insights, McFarland says that breakthrough companies:

* Discover profitable niches where others see only challenges. I call this "nitch picking."
* Focus on building an organization where you can hire ordinary people who can do extraordinary things. They've got some surprising ways of doing it too. It's essential to have quality people, which becomes less of a challenge when you build a great company, because the best people have a way of finding you.
* Spend less time worrying about corporate culture than they do corporate character. You can't fake character.
* Point to difficult times as the periods when their organizations learned the most and made the most progress.
* Surround yourself with insultants. Yes, I said insultants. You must always have people who question your ways of doing business.

Perhaps my favorite chapter is "Crowning the Company," where "leaders serve their company rather than have the company serve them." These companies might have started out as one-man bands, but they grew into sovereign organizations where "they honored the organization more than the individuals in it."
For example, if you visit Roger Staubach, NFL Hall of Fame Dallas Cowboys quarterback, at his commercial real estate company, you'll notice that something is missing—practically anything relating to football. Ask him why and he'll tell you, "It's because we are building something here that is bigger than Roger Staubach."
If you choose to crown your company, here are some of McFarland's tips:

* Crown the customer first. "If everyone in the organization is taught to view their own departmental activities as always secondary to the needs of the customer, then employees will consider the customer their top priority."
* Avoid the trappings of corporate royalty. Breakthrough execs are paid market rates, but they tend to receive the same treatment and benefits package as any other employee.
* Shift from commander to coach. Leaders must adapt their skill-sets to begin coaching and developing new capabilities throughout the organization.
* Encourage chaotic communication. You need to have an open-door policy. Everyone in an organization should be encouraged to talk to anyone at any time.
* Cut employees in on the action. And it doesn't always have to be money. It can be benefits like flexible workdays, on-site health care, fitness center or day care.

McFarland says that breakthrough companies continue to up the ante to increase the size of their bets to match the growing stakes of the game in their industries. Many companies fail to break through because they fall into the trap of playing it safe. As I always say, sometimes it's risky not to take a risk. The key is knowing how to tell the difference from a good bet and a merely risky one, and the author gives you a detailed plan of action.
But what makes this book stand out from so many others is the simple, straightforward language and the proof that many companies, no matter how mundane or unglamorous the product, have the potential to break through.
Mackay's Moral: If you're looking for a breakthrough, break open this book.
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Harvey Mackay | MackayMitchell Envelope Company | 2100 Elm Street S.E. | Minneapolis | MN | 55414


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