James C. Collins

American business consultant and writer

James C. "Jim" Collins, III (born 1958) is an American business consultant, author, and lecturer on the subject of company sustainability and growth.

James C. Collins in 2009


  • There is a direct relationship between the absence of celebrity and the presence of good-to-great results. Why? First, when you have a celebrity, the company turns into “the one genius with 1,000 helpers.” It creates a sense that the whole thing is really about the CEO. At a deeper level, we found that for leaders to make something great, their ambition has to be for the greatness of the work and the company, rather than for themselves.
    • James C. Collins, in interview in: Fast Company online magazine, October 2001.

Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras. Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies. HarperBusiness, 1994.

  • This is not a book about charismatic visionary leaders. It is not about visionary product concepts or visionary market insights. Nor even is it about having a corporate vision. This is a book about something far more important, enduring, and substantial. This is a book about visionary companies. What is a visionary company? Visionary companies are premier institutions -- the crown jewels -- in their industries, widely admired by their peers and having a long track record of making a significant impact on the world around them. The key point is that a visionary company is an organization -- an institution. All individual leaders, no matter how charismatic or visionary, eventually die; and all visionary products and services -- all "great ideas" -- eventually become obsolete. Indeed, entire markets can become obsolete and disappear. Yet visionary companies prosper over long periods of time, through multiple product life cycles and multiple generations of active leaders.
    • Book abstract, as cited in: Joe Kelly, ‎Louise Kelly (1998), An Existential-systems Approach to Managing Organizations. p. 256
  • Those who built the visionary companies wisely understood that it is better to understand who you are than where you are going — for where you are going will almost certainly change
    • p. xx
  • Core values = The organization’s essential and enduring tenets – a small set of general guiding principles, not to be confused with specific cultural or operating practices, and not to be compromised for financial gain or short-term expediency.
Purpose = The organization’s fundamental reasons for existence beyond simply making money – a perpetual guiding star on the horizon, not to be confused with specific goals or business strategies
  • p. 73
  • The good news is that one of the key elements of being a visionary company is strikingly simple: Good old-fashioned hard work, dedication to improvement, and continually building for the future will take you a long way... The bad news is that creating a visionary company requires huge quantities of good old-fashioned hard work, dedication to improvement, and continually building for the future. There are no shortcuts. There are no magic potions. There are no work-arounds. To build a visionary company, you’ve got to be ready for the long, hard pull. Success is never final.
    • p. 199

Jim Collins, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't.

  • It is better to first get the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats, and then figure out where to drive.
    • p. 41.
  • The most effective leaders of companies in transition are the quiet, unassuming people whose inner wiring is such that the worst circumstances bring out their best. They're unflappable, they're ready to die if they have to. But you can trust that, when bad things are happening, they will become clearheaded and focused.
    • p. 46
  • For no matter what we achieve, if we don't spend the vast majority of our time with people we love and respect, we cannot possibly have a great life. But if we spend the vast majority of our time with people we love and respect – people we really enjoy being on the bus with and who will never disappoint us – then we will almost certainly have a great life, no matter where the bus goes. The people we interviewed from the good-to-great companies clearly loved what they did, largely because they loved who they did it with.
    • Highlighted section cited in: Lisa Marshall (2004), Speak the Truth and Point to Hope: The Leader's Journey to Maturity. p. 32

Good To Great And The Social Sectors, 2005


Jim Collins, Good To Great And The Social Sectors: A Monograph to Accompany Good to Great, 2005; 2011.

  • Most businesses -— like most of anything else in life -— fall somewhere between mediocre and good. Few are great. When you compare great companies with good ones, many widely practiced business norms turn out to correlate with mediocrity, not greatness. So, then, why would we want to import the practices of mediocrity into the social sectors?
    • p. 1
  • A culture of discipline is not a principle of business, it is a principle of greatness.
    • p. 1
  • Good is the enemy of great. That good is the enemy of great is not just a business problem. It is a human problem
    • As cited in: Margaret A. Byrnes, ‎Jeanne Baxter (2006), The Principal's Leadership Counts!. p. 99
Wikipedia has an article about: