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Built to Last

Successful Habits of Visionary Companies

By Jim Collins
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  • Contains 10 key ideas
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Built to Last by Jim Collins

Built to Last (1994) examines 18 extraordinary and venerable companies to discover what has made them prosper for decades, in some cases for nearly two centuries. This groundbreaking study reveals the simple but inspiring differences that set these visionary companies apart from their less successful competitors.

Built to Last is meant for every level of every organization, from CEOs to regular employees, and from Fortune 500 companies to start-ups and charitable foundations. The timeless advice uncovered in this book will help readers discover the importance of adhering to a core ideology while relentlessly stimulating progress.

Key idea 1 of 10

Visionary companies can teach us through their enduring success.

So-called visionary companies have a lot to teach us. They are companies with long track-records for success and widely admired as the crown jewels of their industries. What’s more, their success is enduring – they prosper even as great leaders retire and individual hit-products become obsolete.

To properly study and learn from these companies, the authors first had to identify them by surveying hundreds of prominent CEOs for the names of companies they considered visionary. The 18 most commonly mentioned firms – including such venerable names as the Walt Disney Company, Marriott Hotels, and Merck – were included in the study. The visionary companies were then paired up with comparison companies: firms that shared similar products and markets but which, while not being outright poor performers, were called “visionary” far less often in the CEO survey.

Both groups of companies were then examined across their considerable life spans (the average founding date lay in the 1890s for both groups). Based on massive amounts of data from interviews, annual reports, financial statements, news articles and many other sources, all aspects of these corporations were studied, ranging from their ownership structures to their cultures.

To understand the extraordinary success of the visionary companies, consider this fact: if you had invested a dollar in their shares in 1926, that dollar would have been worth $6,356 by 1990. Compare that to $955 if you had invested in the comparison companies, and only $415 if you had invested in the general market, and you’ll see just how impressive the visionary companies’ performance is.

No wonder that all manner of Fortune 500 companies have been fascinated by the findings of this study.

Visionary companies can teach us through their enduring success.

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