Built to Last by Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras – Summary and Review


While there are many profitable business, and some that earn twice or more above industry averages, there exists an elite class of “visionary” corporations which go far beyond financial performance. According to authors Collins and Porras, such companies impact society at large in a profound way. Not only well-known, not only leaders in their industry, not only long-lasting, they become woven into the fabric of society. Built to Last is a semi-scientific attempt to determine what distinguishes this premier category of companies from the rest.

Update 6 January 2016: Added image, links, and tags; no change to article content.


Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies (1997) James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras.

The authors performed a retrospective cohort study of 18 businesses. Nine “visionary” companies, as identified by a survey of hundreds of CEO’s were “carefully matched” to nine “comparison companies.” To satisfy the longevity criterion, only businesses founded prior to 1950 were considered. Selection criteria for comparison firms included: 1) Highly profitable company (average performance above general stock market by factor of two), and 2) Similar origins, both geographically and in offerings to the paired visionary company. After the selection process, the authors performed a comprehensive analysis of each pair of companies throughout their entire history in several broad dimensions, looking not only for elements common to the visionary companies, but more importantly when such features were noticeably lacking in the comparison companies. The authors openly admit that a retrospective cohort can only establish correlation, not causation. However, they are very proud of the “scientific” selection criteria which should enable the research to be reproduced.

Their findings run contrary to commonly held business theories, namely that great ideas (products / services) and charismatic leadership are necessary for a great company. “The data,” write the authors, do not support the theory. Rather, visionary companies, when compared to others, are distinguished by one overarching principle: They preserve a core ideology while simultaneously stimulating progress. This is the unifying theme and message of the book.

The authors develop this theme with various methods and principles, each of which is supported in “the data” as a distinguishing characteristic of visionary companies:

  • Overtly teach and “indoctrinate” the core ideology to all employees, at all levels, creating intense loyalty and a sense of belonging to something special. Reject those who do not “tightly fit” the core values, beliefs, and behaviors, while rewarding those who do.
  • Set “big hairy audacious goals” (compatible with the core ideology) which not only motivate, but also inspire
  • “Evolutionary” exploration yields revolutionary discoveries and progress. This exploration creates a “tree” of options. The decision of which branches to prune and which to pursue is determined by the core ideology and not by market opportunity or even current business strategy. Leaders may leap through risky, narrow windows of opportunity, sometimes altering the entire nature of the business (as when American Express became a financial institution by inventing the “float” as a simple add-on service to it’s travel services business, despite previous promises that it would not engage in that industry).
  • Promote from within and prepare for multi-generational leadership steeped in the core ideology; as with audacious goals, the organization is far more and outlives any individual leader, even if considered one of the greatest CEO’s of all time (Jack Welch of GE)
  • “Good enough never is.” Constantly strive for personal, professional, and organizational improvement. Plenty of “good, old-fashioned hard work.”

It is not enough for the top-level leaders to follow these practices; rather, visionaries companies create financial, social, and procedural systems “with teeth” to execute the above practices. Collins and Porras carry a hopeful message that such wonderful results are within the reach of any who will seriously and diligently pursue these principles.


I was quite impressed with the attempts to be exhaustive in studying the long history of all 18 companies, through both internal corporate documents as well as outside observations. Accordingly, the text is extensively referenced. The narratives and message are motivational and inspiring. But more than just feel-good success stories, the authors explain the reasons for the success, which rings true. The writing is engaging, rich, and intriguing, yet applicable for the business reader who wants to apply the findings to a living organization.

However, throughout the book, I was repeatedly unsettled with the idea that present-day CEO’s, when asked “Which companies are visionary?” would produce a solid data set in which to mine for nuggets of ageless business wisdom. Furthermore, the potential for bias in the selection of comparison companies troubled me as well. While I cannot provide a better search criteria, I feel there must be one.

While the methodology may be imperfect, the book is quite helpful. I recommend Built to Last to those who want to climb the Mt. Everest of business development. Not for those who want to “go big, sell out, and die with the most toys.” Not for those seeking a great individual legacy. No, the vision held by Collins and Porras is that the greatest contributions to society come through organizations which are greater individuals. For the humble leaders seeking to build an institution to serve others for decades after they, individually, are gone. For those looking to follow shining star examples from the past. For those who share this noble vision, Built to Last will serve you well.



Health Awareness Day in Aurora Oct 30th.

Our clinic in Aurora, Illinois is hosting another Health Awareness Day in Aurora, IL this month.

Receive four services for five dollars.

Please call 630-898-7979 today to schedule your appointment.  Details below.

Health Awareness Day-Whole Health Center Aurora

National University of Health Sciences
Date: Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Time: 11:30 am — 6:00 pm
Services Include:
  1. Cholesterol test
  2. Blood pressure
  3. BMI & Body Composition
  4. Foot scan and Postural Analysis
Cost: $5.00, paid in advance or at time of service.
Location: 1055 N Farnsworth Ave, Aurora, IL 60505
We are located one mile south of I-88 tollway on Farnsworth Ave; south of Indian Trail Rd, north of Sheffer Ave, next door to AutoZone.
Contact: Dr. Sonia Joubert, D.C., 630-898-7979

If you go

Please call 630-898-7979 to schedule your appointment.

Se Habla Español


Invitation: General Conference–Sunday October 6, 2013

The Lord has called men as apostles and prophets in our day. As we heed their words, we will drink from living waters. I invite you to join me in listening to men and women, chosen of God, to lead us in our day. I know that Heavenly Father loves His children and that Christ watches over us as the Good Shepherd.green-general-conference

Invitation to Celebrate “A Century of Honor”–100 Years of Scouting in the LDS Church

The following event was announced over the pulpit in church on Sunday.  I invite all scouts–old and young, members of the LDS Church as well as friends of other faiths–to join with us in celebrating the “A Century of Honor,” with music, history, and inspirational words from scouting and LDS Church leaders.

Boy scouting made a tremendous, positive impact on my life, and I look forward to serving and paying it forward to other boys who will become men through the powerful programs of the Boy Scouts of America.

Event to Celebrate 100 Years of Scouting in the Church – Church News and Events

From the article:

All Scout troops in North America are invited to participate by viewing the broadcast live at a local LDS stake center or online during or after the broadcast at scouts100.lds.org. Continue reading

Free Software Computer Workshop: Session 3

Third and last session of Free Software Computer Workshop today; register now and attend at noon in Janse D-117. Register now: http://goo.gl/zzeJS

via James Carroll (@jf_carroll) September 9, 2013, #NUHS

UPDATE: [9/9/2013 8:41 am] We will cover the following topics today:

1. Advanced commands in MS Office (Workshop)
  • Create custom keyboard shortcuts in Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook)
  • Create custom toolbars and custom buttons in MS Office
  • Record and use Macros in MS Office (optional topic for interested students)
2. Why is my Computer Slow?  Four common causes–and remedies–for slow computer syndrome. (Lecture)  
3. Advanced Web Search (Workshop)
  • Perform Google Web Search with results focused to a single website or domain
  • Filter Web Search results by filetype (pdf, ppt, etc.)
If you haven’t attended the previous sessions, that’s fine–just come!  If registered but can’t make it today, that’s acceptable, but my feelings will be hurt.  If you come, that’s great!  See you (all) at 12:00 noon in Janse, D-117 (Computer Classroom)

Learn More about the workshop.

The Role of Science

Encountered this thought-provoking anonymous quote:

The role of science is not to provide everlasting truth;

but rather, to provide a modest obstacle to everlasting error. 
– Author Unknown

Quoted by Nansel and Szlazak in Somatic Dysfunction and the Phenomenon of Visceral Disease Simulation: A Probable Explanation for the Apparent Effectiveness of Somatic Therapy in Patients Presumed to be Suffering from True Visceral Disease.

A couple of searches lead me to a reliable source of the quote

“The aim of science is not to open the door to infinite wisdom, but to set a limit to infinite error.” 
― Bertolt BrechtLife of Galileo

via GoodReads

Highlights from Homecoming 2013

NUHS inaugurates its sixth president, Dr. Joseph P. D. Stiefel

NUHS inaugurates its sixth president, Dr. Joseph P. D. Stiefel | Photo from nuhs.edu

National University of Health Sciences Homecoming 2013 was wonderful.  I was blessed to be invited to participate thanks to the generous offer of Bart Green, DC, MSEd, DACBSP. Three days of continuing educational lectures, from basic science (neurology of food addiction) to ethical considerations of practice; delicious food and fine dining; impressive ceremonial events—the weekend was full of many memories.  I felt impressed to share some of them with you, so I’m taking some time to do so.

The most inspirational event of all of Homecoming was clearly the Inauguration Ceremony of the new President Joseph Stiefel.  The two talks that touched me deeply were the Ceremonial Address given by visiting president Joseph Brimhall from University of Western States, and President Stiefel’s speech following his inauguration.

Wisdom from President Brimhall

The message from President Brimhall was two-fold: first, Wisdom is the application of knowledge to create a better world, to make the world a better place, to learn what is of value. He quoted a poem from T.S. Eliot’s 1934 play The Rock:

Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?

Source: Post by gruseom, YCombinator discussion board 

Second, in the storm-winds of the changing healthcare landscape, in the uncertainty of the current economic challenges, we must not stand back, afraid; we must work together to not only survive, but to thrive.  On this note, he shared the inspiring thought:

Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass;
it’s about learning to dance in the rain.

Source: Vivian Greene quotes, GoodReads.com

President Brimhall concluded his remarks with the following insights:

  1. Today matters; the choice you make today will determine if the world is—or is not—a better place tomorrow.
  2. People matter; “every person in this room matters,” said President Brimhall.

This resonated with me profoundly.  To these inspiring words, I feel to add that each person has unique gifts, individual contributions to make; therefore, each of us has the responsibility to make decisions and take actions today so that the world will be a better place tomorrow.

Esse Quam Videri!

Update [24 Mar 2016]: Removed unfulfilled promises of future posts (sorry!). Mild formatting changes; added “Wisdom from” to President Brimhall heading.