Every week, another consultant runs a study so they can announce the factor that makes companies most successful.  Every month or so, a wildly successful executive puts an end-cap on their career by writing a book explaining the one factor that helped them become fabulously rich and well-respected.

Unfortunately, every book and article reveals a different factor.

The reason, of course, is that so many people seek the magic secret, the quick fix that will take their company from a middling-growth hometown contributor to Unicorn startup.  And even if you know that McKinsey’s study on the topic probably won’t be any more eye-opening than the last hedge-fund billionaire’s revelation, it’s hard not to at least look at the article and ask the question, “am I doing that thing?”.  “Should I be?” 

Probably not. 

But despite all of this noise, there are a handful of serious people who have studied the topic. These people have poured thousands of hours of research into the question – not so they can write an article that will increase site traffic for 48 hours, but because they’ve made it one of their life’s goals to help define the answer as best as they can.  And even those people don’t agree entirely – but they agree enough to matter.

Here are three serious studies of the question, and what they determined.

Jim Collins – Business consultant Jim Collins and his research team studied 1,435 companies and their performance over 40 years to find out what caused 11 of them to rise above the rest.  He discovered plenty of things that don’t necessarily lead to greatness, including the most painful theories of revolution, crisis, and fear.  Successful companies were led by executives that created steady, consistent growth. These companies’ leaders didn’t allow their continued growth to spiral out of control, and they didn’t allow big new ideas to shift the direction of the company every few years.  They defined true north and they aimed the company in that direction. Then they hired people who had the discipline and focus to stay on course, and collectively they pushed forward, and only forward, for decades.

Navelent – Consulting firm Navelent conducted 2,700 interviews of executives and ran the data through multiple statistical analyses to determine which traits rose to the top.  Again, they found no pattern of organizational crisis leading to dramatic change.  What they found was that the best executives know their own business, and their own industry, extremely well.  They make great decisions, and they make sure those decisions are implemented by setting priorities and keeping them.  Above all, the best executives understood that doublespeak was fatal, and created trust by genuinely caring for the people who helped them deliver consistent results.

Fred Reichheld – Bain Consultant Fred Reichheld discovered that Enterprise Rent-a-Car was asking customers only two questions to determine how well they did, instead of the traditional long customer service survey.  This led him to wonder if there was one customer-service question that was most predictive of future corporate success.  He followed 4,000 customers’ actual buying habits to determine if there was one, and the study led to the Net Promoter Score (NPS).  Extensive further research indicated that a positive NPS was also predictive of future revenue growth at the company.

Ultimately, he determined that success for a company came down to the pursuit of “good profits” (those that make customers more likely to recommend you to others) and the avoidance of “bad profits” (those that make them less likely to recommend you).  Companies that focus on making customers happy will thrive, and those that focus on profit-gathering using any other technique will be less successful over time.

What’s the One Factor for Business Success?

The factor that makes businesses successful is delivering on a promise, and doing it consistently.  Delivering on a promise works much like compound interest.  Keeping a promise for one year doesn’t lead to stratospheric growth, but companies that keep their promise over decades will eventually become too large to ignore.

Companies that deliver what they promise to their employees will earn their trust and devotion. These employees will continue with the expectation that delivery on that promise is always possible and always required.

Companies that deliver what they promise to customers will earn their recommendations – and this benefit multiplies exponentially for as long as they continue to deliver on that promise every day.

Companies that deliver on their promises to employees and customers will deliver fantastic results for their shareholders over time.  These shareholders must understand that present value comes from future profits, and future profits come from meeting promises today.

If your Managed Service Provider is heavy on promises and light on delivery, email us at Team_WingSwept@WingSwept.com or give us a call at 919-779-0954.