What it Takes to be Best in Business

One of the most enjoyable aspects of my position as a business school professor is interaction with the business community. Our mission is to prepare the next generation of business professionals, and I find a great deal of inspiration in learning about successful companies and leaders in the Nashville area. For seven years, I have worked with the Nashville Business Journal as a judge for its Best in Business Awards. In that time, I have had the good fortune of meeting entrepreneurs in health care, financial services, marketing services, and many other industries. Their accomplishments and vision are nothing short of amazing.

We have just concluded judging for this year, and I realized that companies named as finalists for Best in Business Awards share three common characteristics:

1. Passionate – Most of the companies were started by people who had worked in a corporate environment and saw unmet needs or a better way to solve customers’ problems. Rather than maintaining status quo, they ventured out on their own to make a difference.

2. Intentional – Strategic decisions and direction are the result of careful consideration of what the companies wanted to be… and not be. For some companies, being intentional meant not chasing business that would force them to stray from their strengths. All aspects of the business including branding, products and markets, and resource acquisition were carefully planned. Yes, mistakes were made occasionally, but the best companies learned from mistakes and overcame them.

3. Caring – In addition to being good at what they do, the best companies have a culture of caring for people- customers, employees, and communities. It begins at the top of the organization with leaders who are advocates for caring, and practices such as donating a percentage of profits to charities or giving employees paid time off for volunteerism reflect a commitment to the world outside their organizations.

Awards are presented in five categories: 1-25 employees, 26-100 employees, 101-500 employees, 500+ employees, and non-profits. While the winners will not be named until April 19, it is evident to me that all companies named as finalists are winning in their respective industries. When passion, intention, and caring are prevalent in an organization, being Best in Business is an attainable destination.

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