To be a great company a company must first be a company. Companies that redefine industries were first good at one simple thing.
Southwest changed how people view airlines and set an entire industry on a destructive course correction. Before it did that, it flew a few cheap flights, on-time, between medium-sized Texas cities.
Patagonia challenged what it meant for a business to do good. It elevated the importance of supply chain transparency resulting in a wholesale change in how companies source their products. Before it did that it made a few very good products that customers couldn’t live without.
Before either company made their mark on the global economy, they were strong businesses.
Consider the greatest human business and industrial advancements of the past century. The overwhelming majority of them were made by companies who first built scale in a focused market.
Only with their scale and demonstrated success could they turn to the rest of the world and encourage them to follow their lead.
They were able to say, “look at us, we’re successful, we’re doing it differently, why aren’t you?” The argument would have been very different if they had said, “look at us, we’re going to do it differently” and never built a business.
If they weren’t strong companies first, none of us would know who Southwest Airlines and Patagonia are.
First published on February 15, 2016