Charles Ellis: What It Takes: Seven Secrets of Success from the World’s Greatest Professional Firms

What It Takes: Seven Secrets of Success from the World’s Greatest Professional Firms [Hardcover]

Charles D. Ellis (Author)

Book Description

Publication Date: February 11, 2013

Expert insights on what sets the great professional firms apart from all the rest

Having devoted a career that spans fifty years to consulting with and studying professional firms in the Americas, Asia, and Europe, author Charles Ellis learned firsthand how difficult it is for an organization to go beyond very good and attain, as well as sustain, excellence. Now, he shares his hard-won insights with you and reveals “what it takes” to be best-in-class in any industry. Enlightening and entertaining, What It Takes explores firms that are leaders in their particular field and the superior people who create and maintain them. Along the way, it identifies the secrets of their long-term success and reveals exactly how they can put your organization in a better position to excel when properly executed.

Contains many stories of achieving excellence, and addresses the obstacles that top-ranking organizations face in sustaining it

Includes insights on leaders in their particular field—from McKinsey & Company in consulting and Cravath, Swaine & Moore in law to the Mayo Clinic in healthcare

Written by one of the most experienced and respected business consultants/advisors of our time

What It Takes skillfully shows you how innovation and a commitment to excellence can drive success, while also revealing how easy it is to fall behind. With it, you’ll discover what separates the great firms from the good ones and learn how to attain, and maintain, organizational success throughout the years.

Editorial Reviews

Review

“This is the best book about corporate leadership that I’ve ever read.  Charley Ellis really knows what he’s talking about.”—John Whitehead, former Co-Chairman, Goldman Sachs & Co., former Deputy Secretary of State

“Clear, crisp, and actionable insights on leadership, which can only come from a well experienced scholar and practitioner like Charley Ellis in his usual wise simple and riveting story-telling style. And yes, simple doesn’t mean easy.”—Abdullatif A. Al-Othman, Governor, Saudi Arabia General Investment Authority

What It Takes is Ellis’ finest work on organizational excellence. He has distilled the essential principles of organizational excellence, illustrating them with potent examples and memorable anecdotes. His intimate knowledge of the organizations, deepened by 300 interviewers with insiders, imparts powerful insights and lessons for those aspiring to build and sustain great and enduring organizations.”—Ng Kok Song, Chief Investment Officer, Government of Singapore Investment Corporation

“Charley Ellis has taken an incisive look under the hood of some of the world’s greatest professional organizations and has put his perceptive finger on not only what has made them succeed but has also led them to endure.”—D. Ronald Daniel, former Managing Partner, McKinsey & Company

“Once, again, Charley Ellis has delved into the mysteries of leadership with clarity and insight.”—Jim Rothenberg, Chairman, Capital Research and Management Company

“Charley Ellis looks hard at how great firms succeed in fields as different as law, consulting and medicine . . . and finds what it takes that they have in common.”—Jeff Bewkes, CEO, Time Warner

“Charley Ellis takes us through a series of master classes on corporate leadership.  This is an outstanding contribution to help us understand that which divides winners from losers.”—Lord Myners, former UK Treasury Minister

“A very interesting study of the similarities and differences in the leadership of five very different professional firms.  Should be required reading for other firms in those professions.”—Samuel C. Butler, former Presiding Partner, Cravath, Swaine & Moore

What It Takes is a clear-eyed view into the complexities of building and sustaining great organizations. Charley Ellis’ artful storytelling imparts insights that would benefit anyone aspiring to thoughtful, effective leadership throughout markets and histories.”—Lei Zhang, Founder and CEO, Hillhouse Capital Management Group

“I cannot imagine anyone better qualified than Charley Ellis to analyze, identify and describe those characteristics which separate outstandingly successful professional firms from the merely very good ones.  This fascinating book should be recommended reading for anyone wishing to become a leader in any of the professions described and indeed for anyone with an ambition to succeed in business.”—Peter Stormonth Darling, former Chairman, Mercury Asset Management

“Of course everyone knows of the five great institutions which are the subject of Charley Ellis’ latest book. But what is it that made them outstanding? Charley in this searching and unsentimental if admiring analysis provides answers: A good idea transformed into a novel business model, passion, commitment, good judgment particularly in the early years and great people. Another Charley Ellis book to treasure.”—Sir Winfried Bischoff, Chairman, Lloyds Banking Group

From the Inside Flap

What It Takes is the story of what sets the great professional firms, the acknowledged leaders in their industries, apart from all the rest. It is a blueprint for how to create, build, and maintain such a firm.

Having devoted a career that spans fifty years to consulting with and studying professional firms in the Americas, Asia, and Europe, and developing Greenwich Associates from start-up to global leader, author Charles Ellis learned firsthand how difficult it is for an organization to go beyond very good and attain, as well as sustain, excellence. Now, he shares his hard-won insights with you and reveals “what it takes” to be best-in-class in any industry.

Enlightening and entertaining, What It Takes explores firms that are leaders in their particular field—from McKinsey & Company in consulting, Cravath, Swaine & Moore in law, Capital Group in investment management, the Mayo Clinic in healthcare, and Goldman Sachs in investment banking—and the superior people who create and maintain them, in order to identify the secrets of their long-term success.

While you might expect to find major differences, from industry to industry, in how the great firms set themselves apart, the principles they follow are few and nearly identical. What It Takes breaks them down and reveals exactly how they can put your organization in a better position to excel when properly executed. The stories of the people, their decisions, and their interactions found throughout these pages bring these seven keys to success to life:

Defining an inspiring mission

Recruiting the right people onto the team

Developing people—from early accelerated training through career-long coaching

Establishing a strong culture that unites all in teamwork to serve clients

Assuring a strong client focus

Innovation at all levels—from tactics to grand strategy

Providing leadership that brings all six together and identifies problems and corrects them quickly

And while What It Takes contains many stories of achieving excellence, this book also addresses the obstacles that top-ranking organizations face in sustaining excellence. It examines how several of these firms have handled—and mishandled—recent mishaps and are struggling to right themselves. It also includes an instructive tale featuring Arthur Andersen & Co., a leader that stumbled and never made it back.

What It Takes skillfully shows you how innovation and a commitment to excellence can drive success, while also revealing how easy it is to fall behind. With it, you’ll discover what separates the great firms from the good ones and learn how to attain, and maintain, organizational success throughout the years.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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