Great by Choice

“Most men die of their remedies” Moliere


As many of you know I love to read.  As you also know I like to write. and allow me to combine two things I really enjoy. I can read a book and then review what I’ve read so that others can consider picking up the book.


One of my recent reads ( actually a listen) was Great by Choice.  This was another excellent book from Jim Collins who brought us Good to Great and Built to Last. In Great by Choice Collins collaborates with Morten Hansen, a management professor at University of California at Berkeley on another great read.


Although there were numerous great points in Great by Choice two really stood out to me as a business owner.


The first major point, the concept of The Twenty Mile March, is discussed in chapter 3. Twenty Mile Marching describes a methodical approach to growth and success that focuses on a concept that I love. 20 Mile Marching is the idea that that slow and steady wins the race. Grow too fast and you outgrow staff and facilities rapidly and struggle to deliver. Grow too slow and you fail to develop as a business. The 20 Mile March is a method that we embraced as we grew Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning, although at the time we didn’t know that was what we were doing. What we did know was that although we wanted to grow our business we didn’t want to grow it too fast. I can remember once considering a television advertising campaign and then saying to my partner Bob Hanson “what if the campaign is successful?”. I’m sure that thought surprises people but my feeling was that we were growing at an acceptable rate and that a large increase in business would strain our ability to deliver a quality product. We would not have enough space or enough staff to perform at a level we were comfortable with so we did not go the TV route. Instead, we 20 Mile Marched. As Collin’s said “20 miles a day on days we only wanted to do 10 and 20 miles on days we felt we could do 30”.


In chapter six Collins introduces another concept that I loved, the SMaC Recipe. SMaC was an acronym for specific, methodical and consistent. On page 128 Collin’s and Hanson define the SMaC recipe as  “ a set of durable operating practices that create a replicable and consistent success formula”. In other words, your SMaC recipe was your plan for your 20 Mile March. The march would be specific, methodical and consistent. The SMaC recipe was the details of the 20 Mile March. Collins stated that the SMac recipe was intended to “provide guidance on what to do and what not to do”. As I read about the SMac Recipe the thought came into my mind  was “we have that” and, I liked that thought. At MBSC we are organized with daily schedules to the minute and a well thought out series of progressions and regressions for every exercise. That is our SMac Recipe.


As I read Great By Choice I couldn’t help coming back to thoughts about Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning and feeling we were in fact, Great by Choice.  Collins talks about how “managing the tension between consistency and change is one of the greatest challenges for any human enterprise”.  In order to consistently deliver a best-in- class product we need to control growth and, manage change. Great by Choice will help you to do both.


3 Responses to “Great by Choice”

  1. Great By Choice and Good to Great are some really good books, and yes the SMaC list are really someting many companies could benefit from.

  2. Great By Choice was a great read – as all the Collins books and essays are. We are embarking on our 20 mile march, building our visionary company and working towards our BHAG! I talked with Mike Alves for awhile and definitely described MBSC as a business built on 20 mile marches. Great post thanks for sharing!

  3. Mike,
    Always looking for a good read. Great by Choice appears to have made the list. Just finished Delivering Happiness.

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