Three counties' chambers rally around 'Good to Great' philosophy
By Tom Harlan
Teachings from a popular business book were used at a June 17 Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce luncheon to rally more than 350 South Florida business and civic leaders to work together.
Members of Boca Raton and Fort Lauderdale chambers of commerce and the South Florida Business Alliance presented a unified front and joined the Greater Miami chamber at its annual goals conference, encouraging members to follow the philosophy of Jim Collins' business book "Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make The Leap... and Others Don't."
The 2001 book highlighted 11 companies that had a corporate culture with hard-working employees who acted on solid principles.
Selfless leaders and committed employees dedicated to confronting a business' greatest obstacles through embracing core values and planning for the future are most likely to achieve greatness, said Barbara Liberatore Black, chairman of the South Florida Good to Great Awards committee.
"To quote Jim Collins, the real path to greatness as it turns out, is by simplicity and diligence," she said. "It demands each of us to focus on what is vital and to eliminate all extraneous distractions."
AutoNation COO Michael Maroone, a self-proclaimed "Good to Great disciple," said more than 300 AutoNation executives have read the book and made decisions based off its principles.
In a "Good to Great" themed speech, Mr. Maroone described how AutoNation took a $20 billion slice of the $1.4 trillion automotive retail business in 30 months based on a philosophy of strong customer service.
AutoNation executives worked to improve customer satisfaction, he said, because industry surveys reported that only one in four customers return to the same dealership for their next purchase, and 70% of customers don't return to their service departments after their warranties expire.
AutoNation sells about 650,000 cars a year and services about 25,000 cars a year, Mr. Maroone said, thanks to its decisions to acquire dealerships in key markets, reduce costs and employ a highly trained and motivated workforce.
But the company still has to improve to be a great company, he said, adding that the company is improving one transaction at a time.
"We do not today see ourselves as a great company," he said. "We are a good company. Some days we are a very good company. But we have a very strong desire to be a great company."
The luncheon also recognized marketing company InterMedia, condominium developer Altman Cos. and technology leader Citrix Systems for being great small, medium and large South Florida businesses.
Three South Florida university programs, including Florida International University's College of Business Administration, used "Good to Great" as a guide to develop local criteria for the awards.
The awards were based on applicants' revenues during the past three years, their total employment over that period, their percentage of payroll dedicated to employee training, and development and contributions to charitable organizations.
University officials and executives from American Airlines, Regions Bank and NCCI Corporate Communications chose the winners.
"We had looked at creating an award program that reflected our service
area - all of South Florida," Barry Johnson, chamber executive vice president, said in a June interview. "We wanted to be in partnership with some of the other chambers who do as Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce does, and promote regionalism."
The chamber has moved this year to more aggressively encourage regionalism across South Florida's counties. Its annual goals conference, often held in Miami-Dade County, this year was at The Harbor Beach Marriott Resort & Spa in Broward County.
"We're the South Florida marketplace," said the chamber's outgoing chairman Allen Harper in a May interview. The conference was part of an effort to network to build ties for future efforts like the Free Trade of the Americas, Scripps Florida and transportation objectives.
Mr. Harper opened the conference by asking all attendees to shake hands with their neighbors, exchange business cards and promise to work together to improve the region.
The chamber made a similar promise, he said, by partnering with the Greater Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce and the South Florida Regional Business Alliance.
"At the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, we consider ourselves the voice of business," Mr. Harper said. "We are particularly proud that we have partners in this voice of business. This partnership that's been formed on a regional basis is the future of South Florida."