On a whim I grabbed a copy of Jim Collins #1 business bestseller Good to Great. Collins made a name and a fortune for himself (as an author, speaker, management consultant) by embarking on detailed empirical studies of eleven of the “greatest” companies in America in order to tease out the “Seven characteristics” that made them that way. Given the reverence with which corporate America treats Collins one would think, then, that these “great” companies would have prospered in the decade since. Oops! Here’s some of them:
Fannie Mae: This financial giant fell hard from grace. Put into conservatorship by Hank Paulson in 2007, it was delisted from the NYSE in 2010 after shares languished below $1 for ages.
Circuit City: Electronics retailer. Filed for bankruptcy in 2008 and liquidated completely in 2010.
Wells Fargo: The retail banking giant lived to fight another day, but not before requiring a 25-billion dollar federal bailout to keep it alive.
Phillip Morris: Tobacco might be great business but it’s toxic PR. Not wanting to taint its other holdings by association, Phillip Morris in 2003 rebranded as Altria, a name which must have been focus grouped to determine the least memorable one possible. I suppose Collins could still argue greatness here, because earnings are good, but having to change your name to hide isn’t a sign of greatness to me.
I wonder how Collins personal brand is faring now. My hunch is that he continues raking in it telling corporate America more things they like to hear.