Book Review: "BE 2.0: Turning Your Business Into an Enduring Great Company"

This article is part of NASFAA's occasional book review series, where members share their reflections on books, published within the past five years, on higher education themes of interest to financial aid professionals. The opinions offered and statements made do not imply endorsement by NASFAA or the authors' employers and do not guarantee the accuracy of information presented. Would you like to suggest a book for a future review? Email us at [email protected] with your recommendation.

In general, I prefer to read fiction — a lot. But when I see a book by Jim Collins, I purchase a copy and read it from cover to cover. Then I go back and read all the points I highlighted. And then I tell colleagues about the book, because what Jim has to say teaches me, inspires me, and gives me insights into how I can help improve my corner of higher education. The more colleagues who know about Collins’ research and read his books, the better.

Angela Cockrell

Reviewed by Kathleen Tesar, associate dean for enrollment management at The Julliard School.

Jim Collins is known for writing Good to Great (and its companion monograph, Good to Great and the Social Sectors). He also wrote Built to Last, Great by Choice, and How the Mighty Fall. These books are meant for business leaders, but what has always struck me is how Collins’ books are based solidly on research data. For example, in Good to Great, he selected 28 companies to answer the question of why some companies went from good to great over a long period of time while other comparable companies stayed at good or declined. Collins and his research teams did the hard work of coding documents, analyzing spreadsheets, interviewing executives, and analyzing each industry to draw their conclusions. That was the first Jim Collins book I read, and it opened my eyes to the power of data to make convincing arguments on any topic.

BE 2.0 — the subject of this review — is different. In 1992, when Collins was teaching at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, he co-authored Beyond Entrepreneurship with Bill Lazier “to create a road map for leaders of small to mid-sized enterprises who want to build enduring great companies” (p. ix). Collins updated their work in BE 2.0 in 2020, after Bill Lazier died, to include the complete text of Beyond Entrepreneurship plus Collins’ thoughts after years of research into what makes companies great. Using Beyond Entrepreneurship’s original data to define corporate greatness, in BE 2.0 Collins reexamined the issue from a 21st century perspective based on nearly 20 years of additional experience, research, and reflection. In other words, he transformed the earlier work into an inspiring master class, delivered in a straightforward style, that not only explains what it takes to achieve greatness but also inspires. For me, the inspiration in BE 2.0 is all about leadership.

As an example, early on in the book Collins writes, “The function of leadership — the number-one responsibility of a leader — is to catalyze a clear and shared vision for the company and to secure commitment to and vigorous pursuit of that vision” (p. 40). To provide leadership within an office of financial aid, we must think clearly about our priorities and hold to a vision that inspires people “to want to do what must be done” (p. 44). Yes, the FAFSA rollout has been a mess, but we can deal with the mess by adhering to our vision of serving students, and that will give us the energy and focus to want to do what must be done — to get past the technical challenges of the rollout and provide students with the information and assistance they need.

Another example of Collins’ writing about leadership appears in Chapter 6, “What Makes Great Companies Tick – The Map.” Collins notes that the Map is all about what it takes to build an enduring great company; or, in our case, a great financial aid office. The path to building a great company, he says, is made up of specific inputs: disciplined people, disciplined thought, disciplined action, and building to last (p. 153). These inputs are fundamental principles, based on research into what makes great companies, and they apply equally to major companies and to our offices. Collins also notes outputs that define great organizations (p. 168). These outputs are superior results, distinctive impact, and lasting endurance.

In a financial aid office, building a great team with dedicated and adaptable people is one input to greatness. This team and its leader must believe that they will succeed, while at the same time acknowledging the truth of situations. (The 2024 FAFSA rollout is a great example of this!) And acting with “consecutive consistency” will result in “short-term performance and long-term building” (p. 162). The outputs that result for financial aid offices — those things that define a great organization — include superior results (exceptional student service), distinctive impact (more students completing their degrees), and an enduring legacy of excellence.

While BE 2.0 doesn’t explain changes to the FAFSA or provide strategies for awarding institutional funds, it does provide data-driven inspiration for becoming great. On those days when our every-day work in the financial aid trenches wears us down, the inspiration found in BE 2.0 can sustain our psyches and help us to make our corners of the world just a bit better.

"BE 2.0: Turning your business into an enduring great company" by Jim Collins and Bill Lazier. Published December 2020 by Portfolio, pp. 352.


Kathleen Tesar, BM, MM, EdD, is the associate dean for enrollment management at The Juilliard School. A former professional violinist, she was previously the associate dean at the Colburn School Conservatory of Music in Los Angeles, and director of admissions at the Eastman School of Music of the University of Rochester. She presents frequently on topics related to performing arts admission, and co-authored the book College Prep for Musicians with Anne Bosler and Don Greene. She holds a doctorate in organizational change and leadership.


Publication Date: 4/4/2024

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