Mark Richardson's Think Business: Great to Good

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If you take some inventory of your team, it will help you understand the great factor.

September 27, 2012

Most of you have heard of or have read Jim Collins’ business book classic, Good to Great. In it, Collins focuses not only on what it takes to be great, but also how to create a culture of greatness in your organization. He also highlights that greatness is not just a destination it is also a journey. Greatness is not static, rather it is dynamic and should be watched carefully.

I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to create and touch greatness in both my business life and my personal life. If you are a parent, you might have memories of moments of greatness in the lives of your children. If you are an athlete or have been a part of an athletic team, you may have experienced greatness. If you can find that memory stick of greatness in your life, you will better appreciate the translation of it into business. And with that memory stick, you can better understand how great can recede to good before you know it.

If I ask a group of business leaders if they have a great company, many of their hands will go up. If I ask whether they are greater now than they were in the past, many of those same hands will go down. If they were great, and now they are less than great, maybe they should be calling themselves good. Maybe they should try to focus on getting back to great, where the magic was? I would like to at least share some insights on how a business could move from great to good.


One common denominator of great businesses is great leadership. This leadership has a clear sense of purpose, a passion for all aspects of the business (team/clients/success). They are usually great communicators, but not necessarily a great public speaker. Rather their leadership touches the minds and hearts of others. They have a clear vision and strategy that a team can get behind. They “walk their talk.” Sometimes when there is a change in leadership or a leader loses some of his or her passion, a business will slip from great to good. With the right leaders and their commitment to being great, this can shift back but it is not easy.

The businesses culture

Culture is what defines us. Culture is what guides the really tough (not black-and-white) decisions. Culture is the difference between many good businesses and great businesses. Culture can take years to develop and minutes to go down the drain. Great business cultures are synergistic, are creative, and make clients and team members raving fans of the business. Growth is often dependant on having a great culture and without it, business growth is more a product of the environment.

A great team

Think about great baseball or football teams and you will remember its great players. Then try to remember the players on the average or good teams. You can have a great product, strong leadership, and a gung-ho culture, but without a great team, it is hard to be, or stay, great. During the last several years less time has been devoted to developing great players. In many cases, business have looked at training and care-and-feeding of good players as an expense rather than an investment. One of the best ways for a business to move from great to good is to lose a top gun player or have not invest the time and money in the growth of individual team members.

A good question I ask “is Bob’s stock rising or falling?” If the answer is falling, then it is generally the bosses fault (a bad hire or bad training). Also, just like in sports, great players can become irrelevant. Today’s sales person needs to be a hunter, not a farmer (like they could be in the past). If you take some inventory of your team, it will help you understand the great factor.

One could argue that there are other greatness factors like the product or client experience, and you would not be wrong. However, if you want to move from great to good, and see the stock start to slip the three factors – leadership, culture, and team – are the quickest way to get you to good. PR


Mark Richardson, CR, is a member of the NAHB Remodeling Hall of Fame and a Fellow on the Remodeling Futures Steering Committee at Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. Richardson is the author of the best-selling book, “How Fit is Your Business,” and a forthcoming book, “Fit to Grow,” to be published this fall.

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