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The Breakthrough Company: How Everyday Companies Become Extraordinary Performers Hardcover – January 15, 2008

4.2 out of 5 stars 45 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Keith McFarland is about to be added to the list of the top business thinkers--Tom Peters, Jim Collins, Ken Blanchard and Stephen Covey.  If you buy only one business book in 2008, this one should be it." 
—Harvey Mackay, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive

"Greatly needed! Features marvelous analysis of the principles that enable entrepreneurial enterprises to survive and thrive. It will inspire those in charge to become true leaders by rejecting 'small' goals rooted in ego and embracing visionary values that impart moral authority up and down the organizational ladder. I urge you to read this book: it's impressively researched, beautifully illustrated, and clearly written."
—Stephen R. Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

“McFarland successfully tackles the ever-present question for ambitious entrepreneurs: just how do you go from small to big–and prosper?  This book has the makings of a classic.”
—Steve Forbes, President & CEO, Editor-in-Chief, Forbes

“THE BREAKTHROUGH COMPANY is a book that refreshingly and persuasively backs up -- with a wealth of hard evidence -- its contrarian claims regarding how to elevate a growing business to undreamt of levels…Think GOOD TO GREAT for those still small enough to think big.”
—Bob Eckert, Chairman & CEO, Mattel, Inc

"Disdainful of  too-easily-accepted 'common wisdom,' zealous at getting to the real facts of what makes some companies stall out and others thrive, Keith McFarland's THE BREAKTHROUGH COMPANY offers a goldmine of insight to anyone who's ever dreamed that the business they lead can become a 'player.'"
—The Honorable Jack Kemp, Former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Former Vice-Presidential Candidate, Former US Congressman.

"A seriously great book…Drawing from an unusually detailed and careful study of both excellent and average performers, McFarland offers a set of powerful insights into building a breakthrough organization. Managers and employees alike will find his conclusions at once provocative and useful, since they focus on the ways that ordinary people combine to do extraordinary things.”
—William Barnett, Thomas M. Siebel Professor in Business, Leadership, Strategy & Organizations, Graduate Business School, Stanford University

“The Breakthrough Company rocks!  Start this book and you’ll find yourself looking forward to evenings, weekends and plane flights so you can read more!  More than even the iconic books in this category, this look at the key issues for growing companies provides a deep dive in terms of substance and real-world examples.  The margins of my own copy are quite literally covered with notes on ideas inspired by what McFarland has to say.”
—Brad Duea, President, Napster

This book is unique.  Every paragraph has tucked within it one jewel of insight—- and sometimes more. Fair warning to anyone who immerses himself in this analysis: you’ll find yourself underlining every page!”
—Bob Galvin, formerly, CEO Motorola

“THE BREAKTHROUGH COMPANY is in-your-gut persuasive. The best books, like this one, change your mind about something important–and with each rereading prove freshly inspirational.  McFarland's insightful drill-down doesn't just answer the questions that keep growth-company leaders up at night, it’s an invaluable compass pointing the way to best-in-class performance."
—Bob Geiman, Partner, Polaris Venture Partners

“In THE BREAKTHROUGH COMPANY Keith McFarland gives us the clever metaphor of the Business Bermuda Triangle. The book provides insightful observations and advice that will help guide a business leader through pivotal times of a company’s growth. McFarland’s focus on the realities of managing costs, listening to customers and responding with agility to external factors makes this book a compelling “how to” on thriving in today's business world.” 
—Shantanu Narayen, President and COO, Adobe Systems

“I loved THE BREAKTHROUGH COMPANY…it’s a cornerstone business book and a must read for any senior executive.  McFarland, backed by considerable research, describes the characteristics that allow a small to medium size company to grow into a breathrough company --one that’s significant, lasting and influences the market.”
—Caroline Little, CEO & Publisher, Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive (WPNI)

“Most business books really should really be articles–THE BREAKTHROUGH COMPANY is different.  As a CEO of a company approaching a billion in revenues, I can tell you that his book passes the ‘Monday Morning Test’–you’ll finish it with a list of things you’ll do differently on Monday morning.  I only wish Keith had published the book years ago!
—Scott Olivet, CEO, Oakley Inc.

"In an increasingly entrepreneurial economy, fast-growing, innovative firms will be absolutely central to future economic success. With keen insight and extensive analysis, McFarland helps to fill a gap in our
—Carl J. Schramm, President and CEO, Kauffman Foundation, and author of The International Imperative

About the Author

At the age of twenty-six, KEITH R. McFARLAND was named associate dean of one of the nation’s leading business schools. He went on to serve as CEO of two top technology firms prior to establishing McFarland Strategy Partners, where he has advised hundreds of growth companies as well as industry leaders such as Microsoft, Motorola, and Morgan Stanley. Currently, McFarland is a columnist for BusinessWeek. He and and his family live just downhill from the ski lifts at Snowbird, Utah. For more information about Keith and this book go to breakthroughcompany.com.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Business; 1st edition (January 15, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307352188
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307352187
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,153,365 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on February 13, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The Breakthrough Company does for smaller businesses that want to improve growth and profitability what Good to Great did for larger businesses. Keith R. McFarland has mostly duplicated the Good to Great research methodology except to look at those companies which have broken-out among smaller firms.

Like Good to Great, The Breakthrough Company focuses on leadership style and company culture. A number of the findings seemed no different from Good to Great, but different titles were used in this book.

The book suggests six fundamental transitions:

1. From having the leader be sovereign to putting the company's development ahead of the leader's interests.

2. Rather than making incremental improvements in response to market changes, make a few large bets that offer huge potential rewards.

3. Instead of having the company's culture be determined by whoever is there, build a company around an integrity-filled commitment to doing a good job.

4. Go from succeeding by being small and agile to succeeding because of proprietary advantages you develop.

5. Stop relying solely on internal ideas by getting help from wherever you can.

6. Encourage people internally to challenge assumptions in constructive ways rather than blindly following a narrow vision.

If you like your information compact, each chapter is summarized in detail at the end. You could get an overview of the book that way in about 30 minutes and decide if you want to read more.

So what is he really describing? To me, it all sounded like continuing business model innovation . . . an area I've studied and written about for 30 years. Yet, the book doesn't describe the business model innovation literature.
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Format: Hardcover
Did I say this was repetitive? Its repetitive. Obnoxiously so. I'm not sure why.

Other than that, the book was decent. It gave eight or ten insights into organizational behavior, generating certain responses from leadership behavior and rallying around a given mission.

I'm not sure it is quite as prescriptive as the author may intend even if the chapters were oriented to do so; however, there are some good stories about different organizations and how they achieved growth.
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You can think of this as the replacement book for Jim Collins' Good to Great. As a 20 yr business-owner, I could relate to everything contained in the book. I loved the chapter on crowning the organization. It's so true that many leaders/owners run their business as a job for themselves or for their family with no intention of it growing beyond that. I think that is really short-sighted. I also loved the chapter on insultants, or internal consultants. How few good leaders exist that are willing to hear what they need to hear, but don't want to hear. Frankly, I'm tired of primadonna business owners who make their staff walk on eggshells to accommodate their rage-a-hol (that's like being addicted to rage). These poor leaders think that the way to get things done or to motivate people is to throw hissy fits, get all emotional, yell and scream, and generally act like 4 yr olds. It's just pathetic. They are the ones most in need of insultants. I'm sure no one is willing to give them the corrective feedback they need because they have sent out signals specifying that they would hang anyone who attempted to provide them feedback.

I think this book should also be mandatory reading for any MBA students. There is a clear delineation between companies who are really truly successful and those that make money in spite of their own idiocy. Successful companies have similar attributes, and these should be strived for and the value systems promoted.

Another thing that really stuck out for me is how good businesses have a great system for taking and using customer feedback. I deal with 100+ companies in my business, and I can attest to the detriment of most of these companies for not taking and using customer feedback. In marketing management terms, you can think of these as your MVC or most valuable customers, the ones who are willing to help you find solutions to your problems! Yes, relish and reward these customers. Don't ignore them.
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The authors do a great job of bringing the almost ethereal ideals of Good to Great, a stalwart business book, and translate it for companies that operate on a more human scale. The companies they profile aren't dissimilar to the thousands of small and medium-sized business dotting our communities across the country. They write in a very approachable style, avoiding research jargon and academic vernacular. I strongly recommend this book for anyone leading a business of any size. It's a great practical tool for just about any industry.
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Jim Collins "Good to Great" is a classic book reporting the research findings on the qualities and actions a company needs in order to go from being just "good" to becoming "great."

The challenge to a reader of the book is how does a small company, without the resources, legacy and positioning of the Fortune 500 companies Collins researched, go from good to great, go from being a small entrepreneurial company in the markets it serves to being a powerhouse in its markets, achieving sustainable, significant profitable growth?

McFarland's book has the answers, providing principles and examples of how certain Inc. 500 companies breakthrough their entrepreneurial status to become formidable organizations while their Inc. 500 counterparts failed to make the breakthrough. A wealth of practical, logical and doable principles/secrets on how to and what not to do to make the breakthrough.

I've now added The Breakthrough Company to The E-Myth as must-read books I recommend to clients and business associates for any company seeking to go from small to great.
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