"They do all sorts of things 'wrong,' and yet measured by any yardstick you care to name, they nevertheless run laps around the competition," say management researchers Donald Clifford Jr. and Richard Cavanagh, in their book, "The Winning Performance."
In their research on more than 6,000 midsize companies, Mr. Clifford and Mr. Cavanagh unearth key success strategies.
Size or niche? During the 1980s, niche clearly won over size. More than 90 percent of the successful companies studied were niche players. Rather than compete on a broad scale, they narrowed the market and served the special needs of a few.
Price or value? Companies that delivered value for their customers grew much more rapidly than those that competed on price. While the successful companies watched their costs, almost 75 percent did not deliver the lowest-priced product.
Innovation or security? More than seven of 10 successful companies in the study started with a new product or service. Further, most grew by creating additional products and services rather than merely enlarging their markets.
Employees or shareholders? The most effective way to have employees share in the owner's vision apparently was to make them owners. Most successful CEOs in the study encouraged employees to become owners.
Working at home
An increasing number of Americans these days are operating businesses out of their homes. Fed up with long commutes, a lack of job security caused by the recession and corporate downsizing, a growing number of former corporate types are PTC trading in their corner offices for kitchen tables.
"It just makes sense," said Coralee Kern, executive director of the National Association for Cottage Industries. "Instead of spending two hours going back and forth to work, you walk 50 feet into the next bedroom or downstairs -- and you don't have to dress up."
In 1989, 27 million people, or 22 percent of the American work force, worked from their homes. That increased to 28 percent in 1990 and to 31 percent in 1991, according to Link Resources Corp., a New York-based consulting firm.
Researchers predict that by the year 2000, 50 million or more Americans may work from their homes. The trend is being fueled in large part by the proliferation of personal computers and other home-office technologies such as fax machines and laser printers.
"I think that people are much more concerned about their own personal satisfaction," said Cynthia Brower, regional director of the National Association of Home-Based Businesses.