Accidental Entrepreneur | CeSI’s Review of “Good to Great” by Jim Collins

I am one of those somewhat accidental entrepreneurs.  I never wanted to own a business.  Owning a business was my husband’s idea and even that was not something I knew about until after we had been married for seven years. When we started the business we were intentional about following advice from our business’ attorney and accountant.  We found a business niche that we were passionate about and paid for consultants who helped us build skills aimed at delivering effective and affordable services to small businesses.  From the start, we knew we wanted to build a business that would last beyond us. And yet I knew that my path to entrepreneur-ism was not typical. My double major in Early Childhood Education and Music had not included courses in business management, accounting or finance.  So sometimes I refer to my path to business ownership as a backwards approach. Now some 18 plus years into business ownership and leadership, I am doing the things that many people do before they form a business.  My husband and I have entered the “empty nest” phase of life and so I have simply begun asking what comes next. I am finding that I don’t want to radically change my life, I just want to continue to get better at what I am already doing. Recently one of our clients, a second generation business leader, encouraged me to read “Good to Great” by Jim Collins.  Once I had finished reading the book, my husband and co-executive asked “What have you learned from reading it?” I answered him that I have learned that:

  • I may not be the leader our company needs to get from good to great.  It’s not that I don’t want to be or won’t strive to be, it’s just that I don’t see myself as a Level 5 Executive Leader at this time.  However, I will continue to work towards becoming that type of leader and/or preparing for the right person to take my place.
  • We need to continue to build a superior executive team by getting the right people in the right positions as we continue to grow.
  • We need to continue to “Confront the brutal facts and yet never lose faith.”  I am hyper-analytical and yet still very much an optimist, so this one doesn’t feel heavy or hard. Except that it’s not always easy for a teacher personality like me to state the facts to others plainly.
  • We need to continue to develop a group of people who periodically question, engage in dialogue and debate regarding where our A. unique, core competency, B. economic drivers and C. passions meet, make executive decisions, and analyze the impact of decisions made.  This group looks very different for us than for a large public organization.  Because we are very small, we include input from one or more clients in this group as part of our advisory team.
  • We need to be disciplined people in thought and action.  This will entail making a “stop doing list” in order to focus on the services and tools that are most beneficial, and budgeting to the intersection of a, b and c stated above.

While it is not our current goal to become a large, great public organization like those described in “Good to Great”, it is our goal to become increasingly better.  Our goal is to help our clients, our staff, our community and our families can continue to prosper. I will start by getting back to the client who encouraged me to read this book to learn what he learned from the book and how it is impacting his business leadership.  Next, I will share what I have described above and key points from our client’s feedback with our staff to engage them in the questioning, dialogue, debate, and analyses of the work that lies ahead. I will also continue to read books that are recommended by clients and colleagues.  Next on my list of reading is “Book Yourself Solid” by Michael Port, which was recommended to me by a fellow consultant who is growing his own business.  After that will be “Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business” by Gino Wickman, which was recommended by a colleague who comes alongside owners to help them use a simple system to improve their businesses. I’m looking forward to this period of discovery as I more and more embrace my role as a business owner who is also enjoying life as a grandma.  You can expect more business book reviews in the future and feel free to recommend your favorites to me.