The management book "Built to Last," written by James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras, draws on a six-year research project at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business where the authors studied the traits of 18 successful businesses. They looked for common practices that made the companies "exceptional" and offer hundreds of examples that managers can apply themselves.
"My favorite business book is 'Built to Last,'" Bezos told Fast Company in 2001, back when Amazon wasn't even a decade old. "The key thing about a book is that you lose yourself in the author's world," he told The Washington Post in 2013.
Here are three key takeaways.
There's a difference between speed and efficiency. Many companies know that, and so does Bezos.
Aside from landing a big windfall, it's hard for businesses, and for investors, to get rich overnight. The motto for Blue Origin, Bezos' space company that recently landed a $579 million contract from NASA to work on a lunar lander, is the Latin phrase "gradatim ferociter."
That "means step-by-step, ferociously," Bezos told Four Peaks TV. "Basically, you can't skip steps. You have to put one foot in front of the other. Things take time. There are no shortcuts."
If you want to boost your chances of success, you have to have tenacity, write the "Built to Last" authors. That's because, according to the book, "Luck favors the persistent. ... This simple truth is a fundamental cornerstone of successful company builders."
Not every new project you take on will succeed, but it's important to take risks in order to gain knowledge that can help you flourish the next time.
"As extraordinary as they are, the visionary companies do not have perfect, unblemished records," Collins and Porras write. Think about the companies you see as successful: "We suspect that most if not all of them have taken a serious tumble at least once during their history, probably multiple times. ... Yet — and this is a key point — visionary companies display a remarkable resiliency, an ability to bounce back from adversity."
Bezos holds that same belief. "I've made billions of dollars of failures," he said at the IGNITION conference in 2014. "One of my jobs is to encourage people to be bold. It's incredibly hard. Experiments are, by their very nature, prone to failure."
Video by Courtney Stith
Amazon likely wouldn't be the second-most valuable company in the United States, worth more than $1.7 trillion, if Bezos dragged his feet or got distracted.
He has said he succeeded because he stays keyed in on one task at a time until it's done. "When I have dinner with friends or family, I like to be doing whatever I'm doing," he said, according to TechCrunch. "I don't like to multitask. If I'm reading my email, I want to be reading my email."
Staying focused on one goal can help you be more perceptive and build important skills.
"Visionary companies focus primarily on beating themselves," write the "Built to Last" authors. Success "comes to the visionary companies not so much as the end goal, but as a residual result of relentlessly asking the question 'How can we improve ourselves to do better tomorrow than we did today?'"
Overall, whether you're starting a small business, launching a new side hustle, or diving into the stock market for the first time, sticking with your goals and staying focused can help you get ahead.
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