People have been buzzing about Built to Last for twenty years now. So when I picked up a copy of the bestseller, first published by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras in 1994, I was relieved to discover that I agreed with the philosophies of business that this book champions. In fact, they are very much in line with the way we do business today.  

We build the clock

Living by the mantra of ‘build it and they will come,’ we know that short-term vision delivers short-sighted results – success means seeing the big picture. Built to Last describes this notion in a far more visual way, stating that the key to building a lasting company depends on whether you are a clock builder or a time teller. “Having a great idea or being a charismatic visionary leader is ‘time telling’; building a company that can prosper far beyond the tenure of any single leader and through multiple product life cycles is ‘clock building,’” wrote Jim Collins in a special issue of Inc. Magazine. “[For] those who build visionary companies, their accomplishment is not the implementation of a great idea, the expression of a charismatic personality or the accumulation of wealth.” 

We give something back

Another business virtue we live by is ‘pay it forward.’  In a profit-driven world, it is easy to forget that building long lasting relationships is of prime importance.  Our ‘pay it forward’ principle directs our focus to our valued client relationships, and the trust we gain from doing so. While we know that we can’t force a client relationship, nor can we expect them to return the favour, we can create conditions for clients to be successful. This, in turn, leads to our success.  According to Built to Last, we are on the right track. Just as Disney’s goal is to ‘make people happy’, leading companies profiled in the book focus consistently on more than making profits. They want to give something back to the society in which they live and operate.  

We settle for exceptional

In business, as in life, you get what you settle for. Most leaders tend to agree with this fact and the authors behind this book are no exception. When working with our leading clients in the luxury sector, this is brought to life in the strictest of ways. After all, only by striving for perfection can luxury brands maintain their exceptional place in the marketplace.  Jim Collins wrote: “the drive for progress promotes change, improvement, innovation, and renewal. A way to stimulate [this drive] is to create an environment that encourages people to experiment and learn—to try a lot of stuff and keep what works.” Taking this advice to heart, we have recently launched Design House, a process which allows us to continually brainstorm the best possible ideas and work with the ambitious and talented people needed to develop them.

Built to Last features some of the world’s biggest brands still going strong today – proving that its core ideas work. It is encouraging to be in such great company with respect to the business philosophies we follow.  It is also humbling to be reminded that building a company that can stand the test of time is not something that can be done overnight – or done in a vacuum. That is why Built to Last should remain required reading for some time to come. 

Stay tuned for more of our thoughts on leadership bestsellers, as well as interviews with the authors themselves. We continue the discussion in our column on The Huffington Post.