Getting ready for tomorrow's seminar with John Laing Homes in Costa Mesa. These folks clearly set the standard for Excellence in home-building—though at the moment they have their hands full with the implosion of the housing market. Thinking about them got me thinking about Excellence in general, and a list I put together in 2004 of "companies-organizations I love." (And even a couple of people fitting that same description.) I pruned a few and added a few, and you'll see the result, "X.06," below. My "excellence criteria": "I know it when I see it." (Take it or leave it. Your choice.) (A couple of entries are in parentheses ( ); they screwed up—but there is still much to learn from their glory days.) (A few are "obvious," such as Starbucks & Apple—can't be helped; most, however, are other than the "usual suspects," which is part of the point of the exercise.) The first paragraph below is the list. The second is the list with dominant excellence attributes in parentheses. And paragraph three is an extracted set of success factors.
X.06/List: Whole Foods Market ... Starbucks ... Wegmans ... Commerce Bank ... Apple ... London Drugs ... Griffin Hospital/Planetree Alliance ... The Met School/Big Picture ... Carl Sewell ... Progressive Insurance ... Stanford women's sports ... Stanford D-School ... HSM ... Washington Speakers Bureau ... Build-A-Bear ... RE/MAX ... Donnelly's Weather Strip Service ... Jim's Group ... Cirque du Soleil ... U.S. Grant ... Horatio Nelson ... (Stew Leonard's) ... (DeMar Plumbing)
X.06/Success Factors: Whole Foods Markets (high-end, experience-design, demographic) ... Starbucks (people, experience) ... Wegmans (people) ... Commerce Bank (nuts about customers, WOW, people, execution) ... Apple (design-experience, breakthrough, "virus management," resilience, talent, "seriously cool") ... London Drugs (design-experience, people, "solutions") ... Griffin Hospital/Planetree Alliance (customer-centric, "whole person") ... The Met School/Big Picture (engagement, self-control) ... Carl Sewell (experience!) ... Progressive Insurance (speed, IT) ... Stanford women's sports (demographic, Blue Ocean) ... Stanford D-School (design-biz-engineering, Blue Ocean) ... HSM (execution, experience) ... WSB (integrity, broad view of customers, execution) ... Build-A-Bear (experience) ... RE/MAX (people/"create success stories") ... Donnelly's Weather Strip Service (high end, execution-reliability, simply the best) ... Jim's Group (imagination-Blue Ocean, demographic, customer-centric) ... Cirque du Soleil (talent, R&D, Imagination, resilience, design-experience, partnering) ... (U.S. Grant/execution, delegation, people, K.I.S.S., action-at-all-costs, win, bold ) ... (Horatio Nelson/execution, delegation, people, K.I.S.S., action-at-all-costs, win, bold) ... (Stew Leonard's/people, experience-design, Wow) ... (DeMar Plumbing/experience, people, Blue Ocean)
Crazy for customers!
Crazy for Patients! ("Whole person").
People first, second, third.
Breakthrough or bust.
"Solutions," not "just" "satisfaction."
Self-control. (Customer/Patient/Student control.)
"Mundane stuff" made great.
The best. Period.
Play to win. (Offense > Defense.)
You could call this "success factors," "contributors to excellence" list a "laundry list" too general to be helpful. I agree to some extent. On the other hand, I think there is a commonality or three worthy of mention:
Focused on growth and revenue and "offense," not defense and cost containment.
Provide mind-bending experiences. (Driven by design primacy.)
Nuts about customers.
Happy to use words like "Wow."
Pretty close to the high end of the market.
(Ability to make silk purses filled with gold out of sows' ears: Wegmans-Whole Foods-Stew Leonard's and groceries; Jim's Group and dog-walking; Donnelly and weatherstrip installation; DeMar and plumbing.)
As to the "more later" in the title of the Post, 2007 is the 25th anniversary of In Search of Excellence—and my mind is very much pre-occupied with Excellence these days. ("Excellence": One Very Cool Word! Whoopee!)