Book Review

Built to Last by Jim Collins

built to lastIn a recent visit to Landmark, I purchased an audio book titled “Built to Last“. At the time of purchase, I didn’t realize it was the Audio version of the famous book by James C. Collins & Jerry I. Porras. Anyway, after listening to 6 hours plus of the audio I think it is one of the best purchases I ever made. The Audiobook turned out to be a more convenient format than the paper book because I could listen to it in portions every day while I drove my car. The best use of the traffic jams that are now becoming common in Chennai.

This book is a classic and reviewed many times on the Internet over the last decade, so I will keep mine very brief. The book is a result of six years of research on what makes great companies great. It does this by identifying 18 “visionary” companies and compares them systematically with “successful-but-second-rank” companies over nearly 5 decades or more of data. I wonder with the power of Internet and access to more data, what the authors could have done more (I am yet to read their sequel Good to Great). The book shatters the core myth that visionary companies must start with a great product and be lead by charismatic leaders. The book talks about these main concepts:

  • Preserve the core, stimulate the progress
  • Other than your core purpose to exist, everything else can change – have to change
  • Follow Darwin Survival Theory, try multiple things and quickly kill the non-prospective one’s
  • Have BHA (Big Harry Audacious) Goals one after the other to keep the motivation and juices in people flowing

This is a must-read textbook for anyone running a company or managing a sizeable team in an organization.


  • Vasu

    While Built to Last is certainly a great book, I think you will find Good to Great, a worthy ‘prequel’, as Jim Collins himself had observed in his introduction to this book.

    You will also find interesting nuggets to compare and contrast Ram Charan’s "know-how" with G2G, especially on getting the right people on the bus, and the stockdale syndrome.

    While I found G2G an easy read, KnowHow required a lot more effort to absorb and assimilate the concepts.Ram C is on the advisory board for the company I work for, and during a recent visit, amazed us with his simple,earthy concepts and jargon free approach to how to succeed in business.

    Enjoy the (audio)book!

  • Kiran

    Venkat –

    Running your own company and always looking at learning, i want to suggest 3 books to you. I am going through them and while useful might be even more relevant to you. They are all by Ram Charan

    1. Every Business is a growth business (very useful for Vishwak to identify the next big thing)
    2. Profitable growth is Everyone’s business
    3. Know-How


  • Kiran

    Venkat –

    I tried sending you a few emails over time but they always bounce at your id (even when i remove the NOSPAM prefix). Any alternate ID?


  • Venkatarangan TNC

    Kiran: Regarding the DVDs of Everybody Loves Raymond – I bought it during my US trip. You might want to check it out in Chennai Burma Bazaar or some DVD markets locally. Singapore & UK also carries this, but I found US to be cheaper. And I only have 2 of the series. Yes, I do watch Will & Grace, enjoy the humour but sometimes I find the content to be little unacceptable to me.

  • Kiran

    Also, i recall one of your earlier posts where you wrote about your Everybody Loves Raymond collection. Can you help me?
    1. How many seasons do you have
    2. How many DVD’s per season
    3. Where did you purchase them (don’t seem to be available in India)
    4. How much was it (per season)

    Also since you have similar interests, i suggest you watch Will & Grace, though the humor is more sarcastic, rapid fire and more in sync with US happenings

  • Kiran

    Venkat –

    Quick correction it’s Hairy and not Harry (BHA). Also how much did you pay for this audio book?

  • Krishna Kumar

    You should probably also take a look at the hard copy book of this as well as "Good to Great" because they have some graphs and illustrations which are not so clear in the audio book.