Hidden Champions reveals the strategies and practices of hundreds of low-profile super-performers. While most of our role models for excellence are large or growing companies that create highly visible products and services, behind the headlines lies a group of global competitors-unknown even to the general business community-that have attained global market share of over 70 percent. These companies-small and mid-size niche firms that make products like buttons, harmonicas, and gummi bears-are all great innovators. Many have created their own markets. They avoid outsourcing, diversification, and strategic alliances. Instead, they have developed unmatchable internal competencies.
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German business consultant Simon suggests that there is much to learn from studying the practices of lesser-known companies that have quietly succeeded in unique or specialized market niches. Because Simon is based in Bonn, most--but not all--of his examples are German. They all are, however, relatively unknown, small or midsize, and worldwide leaders in their markets, making mundane products, such as bottle-labeling machines, model railways, incense, potting soil, and museum display cases. Using secondary sources, printed company materials, a mailed questionnaire, and personal interviews, Simon discovered that these companies grow slowly, compete in stable markets, are long-lived, tend to be family owned or closely held, and prefer to shun publicity to avoid attracting competition. They also concentrate on developing their own specialties, avoiding such currently popular management practices as diversification, strategic alliances, and outsourcing. Simon's findings run counter to much of what today's management literature advocates, and they should attract attention! David Rouse
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