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The Big Picture

Want to build a great company? Learn from those who have already done it.

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Want to build a great company? Learn from those who have already done it. InBuilt to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies (HarperBusiness), co-authors James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras reveal the reasons behind long-term American corporate success stories. They offer these tips to help keep your company successful for the long haul:

Be a clock-builder, not a time-teller. A time-teller is a charismatic leader with great ideas but someone on whom the company relies to operate; a clock-builder builds a "clock" instead, which runs itself even in his absence. "Most entrepreneurs and small-business owners are time-tellers," says Collins. "To create a great company, you have to make the shift from being a time-teller to building a clock that can tell the time whether you are there or not."

Build your company on core values. "All great companies, big or small, without exception, are built upon a rock-solid set of core values," says Collins. "Many of them also have a clear sense of purpose that is beyond just making money."

Be willing to change everything--except your core values. Consider how different many of today's corporate giants are from when they started, in terms of products, strategies and methods. As an example, Collins cites Motorola Inc.'s history: Once a leading TV and radio manufacturer, the company no longer makes the products that led to its early success. Motorola is now thriving as a two-way radio, semiconductor products, and cellular paging and equipment manufacturer. "One of the reasons many small businesses never become great companies is they become too fixated on their first products and first business strategies," Collins says. "You have to be willing to change, to make progress, while simultaneously remaining true to your basic value systems."