Reasons underlying exceptional success

Some companies experience a phenomenal rate of growth using strategies which do not bear out the advice of current strategic thinkers, according to Carol Velthuis in her book Surfing the Long Summer: How Market Leaders Grow Faster Than Their Markets. The book, which refers to these exceptional performers as “summer champions” (as opposed to declining companies which are in autumn or winter and fast-growing-but-not-leading companies which are in spring), goes on to describe the strategies which summer champions pursue:

  • Making financial goals secondary to client satisfaction and long-term success
  • Having exceptional insight into the motivations of clients and of employees
  • Paying sharp attention to both quality and costs
  • Using discipline and team spirit to make high demands, delegate responsibility, create tightly knit teams and provide inspired coaching

It is a lot easier to analyse the reasons for success of extraordinary companies such as Google and Amazon than it is to imitate their success. It is obvious that long-term success comes through pursuit of long-term goals, but the daily pressures on managers of companies – particularly publicly owned ones – are to maximise short-term financial returns, usually at the expense of long-term success. Everyone want to have exceptional insight, but few manage to demonstrate it. Those who pay sharp attention to quality or costs often do so at the expense of other factors vital to the company’s success.

In my opinion the book provides a helpful analysis of the reasons underlying the exceptional success that some companies have managed to achieve, and it also provides some useful suggestions concerning the steps that other companies can take to improve their performance. However, those who are expecting a surefire set of instructions designed to transform them from winter wanderers into champions who “surf the long summer” are likely to be disappointed.


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