Legendary organizational researcher Jim Collins (Good to Great, Built to Last) invested decades into understanding what makes a business successful. His group has gathered data from tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of organizations.

On the Tim Ferriss Show, Collins shared one key element the most successful business leaders share:

The big winners aren't lucky... The big winners get a higher return on their luck in comparison, but they don't get more luck per se.

Maximizing opportunities

It's not the opportunities you are given, but maximizing the opportunities that come your way. You could be sitting by your next big customer at the coffee shop, or be one social media post away from getting a new lead, or ignore a golden business opportunity because it doesn't give you immediate rewards.

Your curiosity is your strength.

My son's social life is now part of my social life, as it is with most parents, and I recently took him to an extracurricular class. Another parent was talking about how his new schedule limited time with his own son. I asked why.

"I made a career change."

"Wonderful! What are you doing now?"

"Oh. I became a freelance marketing and PR consultant."

"That's great! What do you focus on?"

"Different things... [silence]"

At that point, I stopped asking questions. I wanted to share that I know founders whose companies need representation, journalists that are looking for new goods and services to cover, and fellow PR people who could give him insight on his journey. But he didn't give me permission to do so. So I stopped.

I've done startups, I am connected in media and I help guide new business owners and entrepreneurs.  We were lucky enough to connect. I could have helped. They did not give me the opportunity to do so.

It doesn't mean you have to be a social maven or constantly hawking your wares. It just means being aware enough of your environment to spot an opportunity.

You are resource wealthy

There is a reason why Collins doesn't weigh in financial advantages or superiority into business success. The excellent book Good to Great is filled with cautionary tales: Companies with remarkable advantages that fell to the underdogs.

According to Collins, the key is having a continual, often slow drive towards excellence and service. He calls it the flywheel:

The Flywheel effect is a concept developed in the book Good to Great. No matter how dramatic the end result, good-to-great transformations never happen in one fell swoop. In building a great company or social sector enterprise, there is no single defining action, no grand program, no one killer innovation, no solitary lucky break, no miracle moment. Rather, the process resembles relentlessly pushing a giant, heavy flywheel, turn upon turn, building momentum until a point of breakthrough, and beyond.

I equate this with maximizing the resources one has, not just acquiring more. There is no safety in having more financial resources, just as there is no safety in being number one.

Success comes from you taking full advantage of what you are given. In short, making the most of your luck. As I said in a previous column:

True wealth isn't just based on dollar amount. It is based on the resources necessary to make things happen.

How are you taking advantage of the cards you've been dealt today? That very well could determine your success tomorrow.

Published on: Feb 28, 2019
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