So many startups have these notions in their mission statement, company vision, or values:
“Ship excellent product”
“Have the best X in the industry”
We empathize; excellence is also one of our values at Blue Seedling: We strive to be the best at everything we do. Life’s too short for mediocrity.
What does it practically mean though, to be world-class at something?
Recently I’ve been on a tear of reading books about world-class operations outside the tech / startup world, or even the business world. Here are a few warm recommendations:
- Ritz and Escoffier by Luke Barr : The story of the famous hotelier who founded the Ritz-Carlton hotel brand (and was the inspiration for the adjective “Ritzy”), and his chef business partner (who basically codified modern French cuisine). They created the best hotel in the world back then with extreme attention to detail, investment of time & money into what matters, and… personalization. (If you thought personalized products and marketing were new, we’re talking 1890s here!)
- Beaten, Seared, and Sauced: On Becoming a Chef at the Culinary Institute of America by Jonathan Dixon : Memoir of a student at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in New York, arguably the country’s best culinary school. What’s best according to CIA? Work hard, get faster, perform countless repetitions every single day, and perhaps most importantly, take no shortcuts, even when nobody’s paying attention.
- Legacy by James Kerr : Life and coaching philosophy from a coach for The New Zealand All Blacks, the world’s best rugby team. I’m not a sports person (to put it mildly), but the lessons here are applicable for any team or company aspiring for excellence. “Aim for the highest cloud,” “If you’re not early for a meeting, you’re late,” and “Champions do extra” are some of my favorite Kiwi / Maori phrases from this book.
- Confessions of an Advertising Man by David Ogilvy [1963 – yes!]: Considered “the father of advertising,” Ogilvy can definitely teach us about building best in class companies. His lessons are still very much relevant today: set high standards. Constantly test and learn. Choose listening over talking.
In tech and startup land, we’re often so focused on the mission at hand and our own product bubble, that we often develop tunnel vision about the world at large. I always find it valuable — and fun — to branch out to other industries and time periods through well-written (world-class!) books.