About Chris Zook

Chris Zook is a partner in Bain & Company's Boston office. He has been co-head of the Global Strategy practice for the past 15 years. During his more than 25 years at Bain, Chris has specialized in helping companies find new sources of profitable growth. A best-selling author, he is currently working on a sixth book, The Founder's Mentality. He is also the author of Repeatability: Build Enduring Businesses for a World of Constant Change, published by Harvard Business Review Press in 2012. Chris is a frequent speaker at a wide range of international and business forums including the World Economic Forum, the World Knowledge Forum, the Forbes’ CEO Conference, the BusinessWeek CEO Conference and the Economist Summit. He received a bachelor of arts in mathematics and economics from Williams College, an M.Phil. in economics from Exeter College, Oxford University, and earned master’s and doctorate degrees from Harvard University.
Dec 28

How to Super-size the Economy

By | December 28th, 2016|Frontline obsession, Insurgency, Owner mindset|0 Comments

founder-special-sauce-220x207One of the new movies on offer this holiday season is the Michael Keaton film “The Founder,” which depicts how Ray Kroc’s relentless drive turned a small California restaurant into the ubiquitous McDonald’s chain.

Earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed James Allen and I wrote called “The Company Founder’s Special Sauce” (subscription required, or view the digital reprint on Bain.com). In it, we noted that Kroc epitomized many of the traits of the Founder’s Mentality. Indeed, his autobiography, Grinding It Out, was one of many books by founders I read during our years of research for our book, The Founder’s Mentality. […]

Oct 24

The Key Traits of Great Founders

By | October 24th, 2016|Insurgency, Video|0 Comments

Most successful businesses start off with a clear insurgent mission on behalf of underserved customers. They are at war with their industry and each employee understands the company’s bold vision—and is inspired by it. Yet as a company grows over time, this insurgent mission and sense of purpose can become diluted.

Our research of hundreds of founders across more than 40 countries has shown that great founders consistently work hard to maintain that clear insurgent mission. They have a laser-like focus on the long-term goals of their business. Great founders listen to their customers and are always looking to innovate and push the boundaries to stay ahead.

May 2

Reversing Stall-out

By | May 2nd, 2016|Southward winds, Video|0 Comments

fm-crisis-stallout-220x207The prospect of stalling out is frightening for executives. We define “stall-out” as the moment a growing company with a clear growth engine begins to show signs of slowing down amid increasing organizational complexity.

And that’s scary, because most companies falling victim to stall-out never fully recover. […]

Sep 6

How LEGO revived its Founder’s Mentality

By | September 6th, 2013|Death of the nobler mission, Southward winds, The complexity doom loop|0 Comments

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. […]

Aug 27

Founder’s Mentality is a gift—with maintenance required

By | August 27th, 2013|Net benefits of scale and scope, The path to Scale Insurgency|0 Comments

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. […]

Aug 15

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

By | August 15th, 2013|The path to Scale Insurgency|0 Comments

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. […]

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