What It Takes to Go from ‘Good’ to ‘Great’

The Right People

In his book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap . . . and Others Don’t, author and researcher Jim Collins discusses seven key traits of highly successful companies. 

  1. Level 5 Leadership
  2. First Who, Then What
  3. Confront the Brutal Facts
  4. Hedgehog Concept
  5. Culture of Discipline
  6. Technology Accelerators
  7. The Flywheel

In this article we’ll take a look at the second characteristic that’s critical for going from good to great.  


Collins advises business owners to put “who” questions before “what” decisions. “What” decisions—strategy, vision, tactics—will be easier to tackle when a company has the right people on board.

Whether a contracting business has a handful of workers or hundreds of employees, having the right people on a team can make or break productivity and performance. A good—even a genius—leader cannot compensate for the problems created by hiring individuals who are not a good fit. 

Consider a business with four workers. . . one “bad apple” represents one-quarter of the workforce. The company’s owner or a supervisor will have to spend a lot of time managing that person. Also, that individual’s poor attitude or shoddy work can quickly hurt the company’s reputation and lower employee morale. 

How can you avoid this trap?

  • Focus on building a team of capable people who share your company’s values and work ethic. 
  • Be choosy about whom you hire. Don’t be in a rush to fill open positions with “warm bodies.” With labor shortages hurting our industry, it may be tempting to hire the first applicants in the door. Instead, take your time and assemble a team that will work well together for the long haul.
  • Hire for the attitude, train for the skill. While people can learn many trade skills, a positive outlook and motivation to do an excellent job come from within.  
  • Compensate your employees at or slightly above the “going rate.” Remember that no matter how much you pay, the right people will perform their best, and the wrong people won’t care about their impact on your business. 

Stay tuned for more about going from good to great! Next time, we’ll talk about the third characteristic, “Confront the Brutal Facts.”

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