The making of great companies


No company ever starts out with the intention of failing. Every company hopes to become so great and successful that not only will it yield heart-warming returns to its owners, but will also become a standard for others. But neither greatness nor success responds to wishes; they are a result of doing what is right consistently. Therefore, while every company aspires to be great, only a few experience it.

Here are some features of great companies.


They have resourceful leaders

According to leadership guru, John Maxwell, everything rises and falls on leadership. This means that the fate of an organization is determined by its leaders. The successes a company records are the ones encouraged by its leaders, while the failures it experiences are the ones permitted by the leaders. Therefore, leadership is central to whether a company gets to the zenith of its aspiration or end up at the nadir. Only resourceful leadership can grow a company.

Leadership is about deploying available resources to achieve desired results. But since resources are rarely sufficient, a leader must deploy his resourcefulness in managing available resources to achieve corporate objectives. Hence, resourceful leaders redefine what is possible. They do not allow any difficult situation to box them into a corner. They do not define their aspiration by the limitations experienced by others. Resourceful leaders stop at nothing to get what they want; they either find a way or make one.

Resourcefulness goes beyond doing more with less; it is the ability to optimize available resources to achieve set objectives. Resourcefulness is coming to the realization that the leader and his team are capable of doing more than they initially thought possible. It is looking inwards and outwards to get a problem solved. Being resourceful has less to do with insufficient personnel, tools or funding but more to do with deploying available resources into finding a way out of a maze. Hence, every complaint about inadequate resource is an admission of deficiency in resourcefulness. Resourceful leaders can always get any resource they need by making use of the available ones.

In addition, resourceful leaders are adept at simplifying matters. When a challenge is left as a whole, it can be intimidating and may appear invincible. But part of the responsibility of a leader is to deconstruct problems. By breaking down a seemingly complex matter and stripping it of all the coverings, the real issue is revealed and the leader is able to deploy available resources to get the task accomplished. Leaders simplify a problem by asking some pertinent questions about the matter. By asking the right questions, the leader gets the right picture about the situation and is able to come up with the right solutions.


They have result-oriented workforce

An organization’s most important resource is the workforce. The workforce translates the corporate vision into reality by producing the goods sold by the company or extending its services to its clients, thus creating wealth for the company’s stakeholders. Therefore, the workforce is quite critical to the success of an organization. However, it is only employees that are result-oriented that are able to create wealth for the organization on a consistent basis.

A result-oriented workforce, just like a resourceful leadership, does not stop at anything until the desired end is achieved. Result-oriented employees are those who share the company’s vision and philosophy and are determined to give the whole of themselves to the realization of these. So, they are in the organization with a view to building a career by contributing their own quota to the realization of corporate goals. They are in the organization for the long haul, not just for what they can get. Consequently, they are not discomfited by temporary discomfort. They always see a silver lining in the company’s cloudy sky. They are not interested in jumping ship because they believe in the organization’s vision. Such employees are self motivated. They do not wait for any prodding; they flow naturally with the company’s tide. Belonging to the organization is enough stimulus for them. With such people on the staff, every mountain is scalable.


They don’t blame external factors

Some companies are wont to blame external factors for their failure. But external factors do not determine the success or failure of an organization. While it is indubitable that unexpected turn of events have the capacity to distort or disrupt organizational plans, such occurrences are not sufficient to determine the fate of an organization because external factors such as an unexpected pandemic, unfavourable government policies, a downturn in the economy, a disruptive technology or a shift in customers’ preferences do not affect just one organization or a set of organizations; they affect every organization that operates in an environment at a time. However, while some organizations go down on account of such happenings, others thrive in spite of them. Therefore, to blame organizational failure on external factors is to fail to accept responsibility for organizational success. External factors may facilitate or hinder success but they do not determine it. Success is a consequence of taking right actions consistently, while failure is the result of not taking right actions.

Nigerian companies had it quite rough in 2008 as a consequence of the global financial meltdown. The global economic downturn resulted in the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) losing about N7.6trillion (about 60 per cent) of its market value, while prices of shares quoted on the NSE crashed by about 400 per cent with investors losing about N400billion. Banks and other financial institutions also lost a lot of money, importers of fuel ran into serious crisis because of the meltdown and so did airline operators who witnessed about 30 per cent reduction in patronage. However, while many companies posted losses or a huge slide in profit, a number of companies ended the financial year on a strong note. In 2008, First Bank of Nigeria grew its earnings by N51.3 billion from N79.299billion in 2007 to N130.6 billion. Similarly, the bank grew its profit after tax from N18.3billion in 2007 to N30.4billion in 2008.

So, external factors do not consign a company to failure. Companies that want to go far do not use it as an alibi for condoning failure.


They avoid cognitive dissonance

Companies that are success-minded avoid cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is a psychological term used to explain variance between beliefs and behaviours. Cognitive dissonance comes into play when activities of an individual or organization are contrary to the expressed goals or visions. A company that wants to achieve certain results would be expected to put in place specific measures which would facilitate the accomplishment of the stated goal. But when the actions of the company do not align with the goals it hopes to achieve, there is cognitive dissonance. Many companies are deep in cognitive dissonance because though they desire to get far, they do not act in a manner that would make this possible. So, at the end of the day, though they have goals and visions, these are not better than mere wishes because they fail to work in line with their expectations.

But companies that want to go far do not travel that route. Their actions are guided by their aspirations. They know that success does not happen by happenstance. Therefore, they know that getting what they want will cost them something and they are willing to pay the price. They eventually become successful because their actions are in consonance with their vision.


They are customer-centric

Businesses exist to satisfy customers. Without ensuring customer satisfaction, achieving long-term corporate objectives will be a mirage. The customer is the oxygen that keeps any organization going. As a result, customers should be treated as the essence of the business. Everything that is possible should be done to make the customer comfortable. One thing that any company that wants to go far should not underrate is customers’ convenience. Research has shown that many customers will change their service provider if their convenience is not of utmost importance to the provider.

One other thing that should be of great concern to companies is customer service. Customer service is the process of ensuring customer satisfaction with a product or service. This usually takes place during a transaction, which may be in form of an in-person interaction, a phone call or self-service systems.

According to experts, it costs five times more to get a new customer than to retain the current one. One way of retaining current customers is through customer service. If properly handled, customer service can result in an increase of the customer base. Poor customer service is the major reason for customers calling it quits with a company and its products.

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, 68 per cent of customers leave because they are upset with the treatment they’ve received.  Harvard Business Review also states that 48 per cent of customers who had a negative experience told 10 or more others. That means, not only did the customers leave the company, they took others with them.


They seize opportunities

One feature that stands out successful companies is their knack for sniffing out opportunities. They do not wait for their ship to come in, they swim to meet it. Every company that aims to achieve success must always be on the lookout for opportunities and should be able to identify same before they become public knowledge.

The population of alcohol-consuming Nigerians is quite huge but no company in Nigeria was fast enough to break into the bitters market despite the well known fact that Nigerians on the lower rung of income ladder go more for the locally produced herbs and bitters. A Ghanaian company, Kasapreko Company, took up the challenge to package the local bitters in a modern way with the introduction of Alomo Bitters. Alomo, which is now a global brand, records about 50 per cent of its sales in Nigeria. So successful has Alomo Bitters become that a recent CNN Money report, referred to it as one of the top five emerging brands in the world.

All the signs were there for Nigerian companies but they failed to seize the opportunity. Now, they are doing catch up after Kasapreko, a small company, has taken the lead. In business, opportunities are never lost. The opportunities that are overlooked by some companies are seized by others.


Last line

Organizational success is a choice. By its actions and inactions, every organization chooses whether it will fail or succeed.




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