About Chris Zook

Chris Zook is a partner at Bain & Company, splitting his time between Boston and Amsterdam. During his more than 20 years at Bain, his work has focused on companies searching for new sources of profitable growth, in a wide range of industries. He's co-head of Bain's Global Strategy practice and co-author, with James Allen, of Repeatability (HBR Press, March 2012) and Profit from the Core (HBR Press, 2001 and 2010).

How LEGO revived its Founder’s Mentality

LEGO block

When large, successful companies lose their way and begin to decline, they do so almost imperceptibly. Complexity and the weight of bureaucracy blur their vision. Their Founder’s MentalitySM fades: They lose sight of their core value proposition, and their customer connections begin to fray. Too often, they become distracted by expansion, hoping to find new growth outside of a business that has matured and slowed. The decline may start off slowly and quietly, but left unchecked, it soon accelerates into a full-blown crisis.

In our experience, this spiral downward doesn’t have to mean “game over.” But as we’ve demonstrated in our book Repeatability, it does require that the company find a way to regain the focus, flexibility and intensity that were so central to its early success. In short, it must revive its Founder’s Mentality and return to the core. Earlier this week, we saw a reminder of just how powerful that can be when news broke that Denmark’s LEGO Group had vaulted past Hasbro to become the world’s second-largest toy company behind Mattel. Continue reading

Founder’s Mentality is a gift—with maintenance required

Founder's MentalityThough there are many ways to estimate the success rates of start-up businesses in the world, there is no doubt that all of them produce an extremely low number. We estimate that only one in 500,000 businesses started by founders actually grow to be $100 million or more in size, with a decade of sustained growth and profitability. Those that make it through the gauntlet will have experienced some fantastic luck and good fortune. More important, they also will have fought their way through no shortage of difficult and predictable challenges faced by every new business trying to survive, adapt and scale in size.

While every successful founding team is different, we believe that there are some common strengths that carry them through the fragile start-up stage to achieving self-sufficient scale, often fighting as David did against enormous and well-funded Goliath. We call these strengths the Founder’s MentalitySM. Continue reading

In praise of spikiness: How Founder’s Mentality companies create an edge

in-praise-of-spikinessThe best-performing companies in the world today are earning above-average returns, gaining rapid market share, having lasting competitive advantage and creating jobs in a world that desperately needs them. And four out of five of them have clear elements propelling them that can be traced back to something special about their founders (whether still there or not): A Founder’s Mentality℠ that somehow survives and persists, defining what made that company special in how it competes, or excellent in how it behaves.

During the past two years, my co-leader in Bain’s Global Strategy practice, Jimmy Allen, and I have held more than 450 meetings and workshops in more than 50 countries in our pursuit of what makes these companies special, lasting and repeatable. We have identified a set of behaviors called the Founder’s Mentality, which define in a pure way the attributes of these companies. Continue reading