Built to Last — Book Summary

Built to Last Book Cover

Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies

by Jim Collins

Published: 1994 | 368 pages
Rating Amazon:  stars rating 4.6 
Rating by reviewer:  stars rating 4.6 
Author of the article: Rafael Peduti
Date of the summary: Oct 27, 2020

Do you want to achieve goals you never imagined in the business world? Build to Last is a book that will show you the values of the most successful companies.

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The author of the book examines the main success factors of the 18 companies such as Boeing, General Electric, Walmart among others. Studying the list of successful companies, the author defines the keys to their success: processes, people management, strategies, and other aspects.

How many companies do you know that were founded before 1950, had countless generations of executives, and continue to be successful today? Yes, they are few. These companies are in a select group, which for decades has been innovating and adapting to the world and the market.

In this way, you may apply the teachings here in your company.

If you are an entrepreneur who wants to start a company, or already has one and wants improvements, this book will help you to achieve your goals and explain the secrets of the most successful companies in the world.

Interesting quotes from the book

Visionary companies are so clear about what they stand for and what they’re trying to achieve that they simply don’t have room for those unwilling or unable to fit their exacting standards.

— Jim Collins, Built to Last

When in doubt, vary, change, solve the problem, seize the opportunity, experiment, try something new (consistent, of course, with the core ideology)—even if you can’t predict precisely how things will turn out. Do something. If one thing fails, try another. Fix. Try. Do. Adjust. Move. Act. No matter what, don’t sit still.

— Jim Collins, Built to Last

The only truly reliable source of stability is a strong inner core and the willingness to change and adapt everything except that core.

— Jim Collins, Built to Last

Summary of the book Built to Last

It's not What You Thought

What does an entrepreneur need to be successful?

During the studies, several myths about the success of large companies werediscovered.

Myth: you need to be revolutionary.

You don't need to be a genius to start a successful company. It is all about adapting to the problems. This adaptation will make it possible to overcome adverse situations, which is essential for long-term success. Often visionary ideas can be difficult to accept by the market, so we must avoid it sometimes.

Myth: the most successful companies exist first and foremost to maximize profits.

Despite being an idea imposed by today's world, most successful companies are not just about money. Instead, they focus on their principles. Through the excellence of services, profits are made.

Myth: highly successful companies make their best moves by brilliant and complex strategic planning.

They plan by trial and error. If it works, very good. If not, try again until it works.

Myth: the most successful companies focus primarily on beating the competition.

Their focus is always to excel and constantly improve. There is no point in focusing on the competition when you have a flawed and inefficient product.

There's no Need for Charismatic Leaders

Contrary to common sense, you don't need to be a charismatic leader for the company to succeed. Many successful entrepreneurs do not appear in magazines and have extravagant lifestyles. The majority of them are reserved and have a peaceful life. According to them, this flashy style consumes a lot of energy, which can be used to improve business and make money.

Visionary Companies Are Great Places to Work for Everyone

Companies do not adapt to unskilled employees in any way. If the employee is not willing to adapt to the company's rules and goals, he will be fired or have a poor career.

What Makes a Successful Entrepreneur?

Skills aren't the only things that matter: having the skills to perform better than most people will benefit you. However, having talent is useless when there is no hard work. Excellence can only be achieved through hard work. In the book, the author shows the steps made by big companies to achieve excellence.

Planning: it is necessary to systematically study the best techniques that improve the company's performance.

Repeat until it works: the processes must be repeated until perfection is reached; if it doesn't work, try again. The continuous repetition of processes that bring consistency.

Need for improvement in technical knowledge of the market: the entrepreneur must be a specialist in the field in which he operates. Therefore, the importance of reading, taking courses, and learning from those who have already reached the top.

It requires a lot of dedication: success requires heavy and constant work.

Unfortunately, becoming a reference and being one of the best is not usually a lively and fun activity. You need to study, work, and prepare 80% more than the average person.

Wanting Is not Enough. You Need Ambition!

For many, the term ambition is used as an insult. For them, the ambitious are greedy and unreliable people, in search of a selfish goal (usually money or power). But according to the author's studies, in successful companies, this means having a strong desire and setting it as a goal. Companies that combine ambition with teamwork will achieve incredible results. In the professional world and business world, it is healthy to be ambitious. Understand how far you want to go in your career. Find out what your main goals and interests are. Ambition is an essential characteristic of success. A company that has no ambition, does not take risks, and does not try to leave the comfort zone, ends up not achieving success.

You Need to Change Your Perspective from Time to Time

We have been going through constant changes and advances in the world. Look at the constitution two hundred years ago and the current one. Was there any change? Why did this happen? Because we need to change. The financial market is no different. A few years ago, Blockbuster dominated its market with stores spread all over the world. Then, because they did not make a simple change, the company filed for bankruptcy. The economic market is constantly changing. That way, leaders must constantly reinvent themselves too!

High-performance Employees Are Promoted in Successful Companies

Recognizing the good work of employees is essential to motivate and engage teams. The lack of this incentive can end up harming the quality of work and productivity of the group, thus impacting the results of the organization. Therefore, every company must promote actions for the recognition of employees.

A discouraged professional does not produce the quality and quantity of someone motivated. This state generates several problems for the company, such as reduced productivity, dissatisfied customers, and last but not least, the departure of a talented employee with great potential. Recognizing the good work of employees helps you to be motivated in your job. Motivated employees raise the spirits of the team, increasing the team's performance.

Business Model

When starting a company's operations, you must have an efficient business model. The model must meet the demands and needs of the market, in addition to being based on the current structure of the company. What do you do better than others and guarantee you a sustainable competitive advantage? How do you look for partnerships and investments? How will you manage employees? This is a very technical part and your competitive advantage is here. The development of a good business model is crucial because it enhances the chances of the long-term success of the company. Besides, the business model is relevant because it contains the mission, vision, and objectives of the business. Managers, employees, and other partners know exactly what to expect from the organization and what it wants them to produce based on the business model.

Review of the book Built to Last

When I finished reading this book, I was impressed! His way of thinking is similar to the author of Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill: direct and ambitious. I also realized that acting in the right way and without rushing it is possible to be successful regardless of the area of activity. Do you know how to become a successful entrepreneur? The book Build to Last has many answers you need to achieve success.


If you want to become a successful entrepreneur, you need to challenge yourself. Nobody else is going to pressure you, so you have to do it yourself. A successful entrepreneur is the result of hard and constant work. Challenges keep entrepreneurs agile and in line. If you are constantly looking for the next challenge, you will always be prepared for what is to come. Besides, to succeed in the business world, perfection is not a requirement. It takes purpose, hard work, a good project, and people willing to work as a team. As the author states, these are the pillars of a company. Without that, there is no success.

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