Off The Shelf

The Breakthrough Company by Keith R. McFarland

May 18, 2017

I have long had a keen interest in gaining a deep understanding of our customers’ businesses and identifying how we can enhance the value we bring to their organisations. Accordingly, when I have come across relevant books and inspiring business publications, I have on occasion purchased additional copies and sent them to several business leaders of our customer organisations. In the case of ‘The Breakthrough Company’ this was a ‘boomerang’ gift. I received a copy in the mail from a very private, successful and goal-orientated CEO. He had shared his vision for his business with me, hence I felt compelled to read ‘The Breakthrough Company’ and see what we could apply in our business. It didn’t disappoint.

Several years earlier, I had read ‘Good to Great’ by Jim Collins and absolutely loved it. Right from the introduction, Keith McFarland references how Jim Collins and Peter Drucker were instrumental in his research for ‘The Breakthrough Company’.
Keith McFarland’s research for this publication compares similar businesses over the same period and identifies why one attained greater success than its industry peer. His research was targeted at companies in the $5M-$250M range, not the behemoths who are typically referenced in mainstream business publications. Due to this focus, the outputs of nearly 1700 executive interviews conducted in McFarland’s research have relevance for avt and consequently our organisation could implement some strategies based on this content.

At avt we have long used the analogy that growing the business and implementing future strategies, whilst delivering excellence in the here and now, can often feel like you are changing the tyres of a moving car. ‘The Breakthrough Company’ provides a framework to help navigate the complexities of growth which confronts organisations of our size in order to propel the business to the next level.

Key themes highlighted by McFarland include:

Throwing the Dyno:
A rock-climbing terminology McFarland articulates well in terms of navigating business growth challenges

Crowning the Company: not the leader

Upping the Ante: knowing when to bet big

Building the Company Character: Give folks a fair deal, believe in people, be a strategic miser, make your word count.

Business Bermuda Triangle: Giving customers what they want, keeping costs low and reacting quickly

Erecting Scaffolding: Leveraging peer networks, advisory boards, investors, customers, suppliers, universities to provide sounding board, external perspective and gain vital insights

Enlisting Insultants: individuals who will challenge and question the popular and known safety zones

Graduating from Tough Times U: The lessons we grow from in difficult times

Building Breakthrough Capabilities: See something – decide something – do something, learn something

Whilst all these themes resonated with me, the key outputs we are applying at avt relate to ‘Upping the Ante’ with smart bets and the ‘Business Bermuda Triangle’ where we are investing in the organisational structure to facilitate our expansion and leverage that investment for our sustainable growth.

GEGraham Evans | CEO



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