Summary: Built to Last by Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras

Summary: Built to Last by Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras

In entrepreneurship, the quest for a formula for enduring success is never-ending. Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras presented a blueprint in their seminal book, "Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies." This guide is more than just business rhetoric; it is a detailed analysis based on rigorous research of what separates visionary companies from their peers. Here, we explore these principles in depth to provide entrepreneurs with actionable insights on building successful and enduring companies.

Audio Summary: Built to Last by Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras

Embrace and Define Your Core Ideology

A core ideology is at the heart of every enduring company—a consistent set of values that acts as the company's backbone. This isn't about catchy slogans or marketing campaigns; it's about defining what your company stands for beyond making money. These values influence every decision and strategy, acting as a compass during times of uncertainty. As an entrepreneur, identify and solidify your core values early. They will help maintain your company's identity and integrity through the fluctuations of the business landscape.

"Core ideologies are not created; they are discovered. The task is to discover your core ideologies, not to invent them." - Jim Collins.

Balance Tradition with Innovation: Preserve the Core while Stimulating Progress

Visionary companies excel in maintaining a delicate balance between staying true to their foundational principles (preserving the core) and embracing change to improve and innovate (stimulating progress). This dual path ensures that while the company evolves with market and technological changes, its essence remains unchanged. For entrepreneurs, you should be steadfast in your values yet flexible in your strategies. Use your core ideology as an anchor, but do not resist change; instead, lead it.

"A visionary company doesn’t simply balance between preserving a core ideology and stimulating progress; it does both to an extreme." - Jerry I. Porras.

Set Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAGs)

BHAGs are ambitious goals that are mighty in unifying and motivating your team. These long-term goals are clear and compelling and seem nearly impossible to achieve until you achieve them. They push your company beyond the ordinary and into the realm of the extraordinary. As an entrepreneur, I dare to dream big. Set goals that force you to stretch beyond your current capabilities and rethink the status quo. This audaciousness is what separates the good from the truly great.

Cultivate a Cult-like Culture

A strong, aligned, cohesive culture can drive consistency and longevity significantly. Visionary companies often have cultures with rigorous standards for fit and alignment with core values, which might appear cult-like. These cultures are potent mechanisms for attracting and retaining the right talent—those who are skilled and believe in what the company stands for. Build a culture where employees don't just work for you; they believe in your mission as passionately as you do.

"The key is not to let the tail wag the dog—do not let cult-like mechanisms of socialization become an end in themselves." - Jim Collins.

Experiment Relentlessly and Learn Religiously

Visionary companies don’t just stick to the tried and tested—they innovate through constant experimentation. They adopt the philosophy of "try a lot of stuff and keep what works." This approach encourages resilience and adaptability. For entrepreneurs, it means fostering a culture where innovation is the norm, not the exception. Encourage your team to experiment fearlessly and, equally important, to learn from both successes and failures.

"It is better to try and fail than to never try at all." - Jerry I. Porras


Building a lasting company isn’t just about having a great idea or entering the right market—it’s about constructing a solid foundation based on timeless principles. As you embark on or continue your entrepreneurial journey, take these lessons from "Built to Last" to heart. Define your core ideology, balance adherence to this core with necessary innovation, set audacious goals, cultivate a strong culture, and commit to continuous learning and experimentation. These are not just strategies; they are commitments to a way of doing business that can lead to enduring success.

About the Authors

Jim Collins is a renowned business consultant, author, and lecturer. Known for his keen insight into business management and leadership, Collins' research has significantly influenced corporate executives and leaders worldwide. Before starting his writing and consulting career, Collins earned an MBA from Stanford University and worked at McKinsey & Co. His other notable works include "Good to Great" and "Great by Choice," where he explores why some companies leap to superior results and others don't.

Jerry I. Porras is a distinguished academic, author, and emeritus professor of organizational behavior and change at Stanford University Graduate School of Business. He co-founded the Stanford Technology Ventures Program, which focuses on helping students develop their entrepreneurial skills. Porras’ research has extensively covered the characteristics of high-performing organizations, including the role of vision, mission, and values in corporate strategy. His partnership with Collins in writing "Built to Last" has placed him among the elite thinkers on corporate longevity and success.