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Transforming Clinical Trials

By Study NeedBy Study Role

December 15, 2021

Aiming for Greatness: When “Good” Just Isn’t Enough

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      Gary Hughes

      Gary Hughes

      CEO & Co-Founder


    In my most recent podcast, I discuss mission and leadership and how important it is for leaders to set the tone from the top to create a strong sense of purpose among employees. All of this is easier said than done, which is why being a CEO can be so challenging and exciting. It is certainly not for the fainthearted, which is why strong leaders need to embrace the ride and be comfortable with taking risks.


    When I think back to my early 20s, entrepreneurship wasn’t as popular as it is today. “Start-up culture” did not really feature in the daily lexicon of young, enthusiastic job seekers. For many college graduates, it was about finding a secure role in a corporate company where they could successfully progress over time. But around the time of the dot-com boom, I came across someone who fit the classic entrepreneur stereotype. The encounter had quite a profound effect on me. To meet someone who was so prepared to take risks, to forge a different path and start a company to achieve their goals definitely struck a chord.

    A few years later, I happened to pick up the acclaimed management book Good to Great by the legendary Jim Collins. The fundamentals covered really resonated with me. The author tracked 11 companies over time and how they went from average to exceptional, creating three mental models to explain their success:

    • The Hedgehog
    • The Bus
    • The Level 5 Leader
    When Good Just Isn't Enough

    The Hedgehog

    The idea of the hedgehog and the fox comes from an ancient Greek parable. This was later turned into the essay The Hedgehog and the Fox by philosopher Isaiah Berlin, in which he referred to the styles of different writers and thinkers. The concept is that a fox knows many things, but a hedgehog knows one big thing. Every time the fox thinks it will catch the hedgehog off guard with a new tactic, the hedgehog rolls into a ball and becomes a sphere of spikes.

    When I think about this, I reflect on how the idea of a unifying mission, our “one big thing,” has ensured Teckro’s rapid growth over the last few years. To modernize and simplify clinical trials is our end goal and anything that deviates from that is a distraction.

    In the book, Collins explains that the fully developed hedgehog concept flows from the intersection of three circles:

    • What you can be best in the world at (which also means knowing what you can’t be the best at)
    • What drives your “economic engine”
    • What you are deeply passionate about

    One example he gives is of American multinational financial services company Wells Fargo during the 80s and 90s.The CEO realized that the company would never succeed as a mediocre global bank and turned its attention to what it could be the best at – running a bank like a business with a focus on the western United States.

    If I consider Teckro, we fulfill the criteria of all three circles. We are deeply motivated and passionate about what we do. We have a 180-degree understanding of our customer and what drives them. And we have a unique value proposition that we are best placed to deliver.

    The Bus

    The second mental model referred to in the book is the bus, an analogy for how companies manage their staff. Great companies hire those with an entrepreneurial spirit. That is not to say that they have to be entrepreneurs. Rather, employees should be intrinsically motivated and there should be no need for micro-management. Collins says that it is crucial to ask, “First Who, Then What?” Taking a company from good to great means that you need to ensure the right people are on bus. If you have the wrong people on the bus, it doesn’t matter if you go in the right direction, you won’t have a great company. A great vision without great people is irrelevant. So, it is key to get the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats.

    If I think about how we hire at Teckro, the bus model makes sense. The leadership team firmly believes that if you let people have the freedom to be creative and give them accountability and autonomy, the results come back tenfold. We have not got this 100% right, but that’s the approach we’ve taken, rather than “come in to work and do what we say.” It’s up to the individual to take ownership and contribute to drive the company forward.

    Level 5 Leadership

    The third concept is Level 5 Leadership. Collins emphasizes that Level 5 leaders show a powerful mixture of personal humility and will power. They are ambitious for their organization and want the best for the company; it is not all about themselves. Every good-to-great transition starts with a Level 5 leader who motivates the company by example.

    The good news is that many people can become Level 5 leaders if they have the drive. Few will because it is difficult. But that doesn’t mean they cannot.

    Nothing worth doing is easy. Success is never guaranteed. But with great risk comes great reward, and I am tremendously proud of Teckro’s progress. Of course, it is a team effort, and I am lucky to have a strong leadership team who want nothing more than Teckro to become a “great” company.