Ten Characteristics of Great Companies

Yesterday I got to do one of my favorite things. Our portfolio company Etsy invited me out to their new offices in Dumbo to talk to the entire team. Since they didn't ask me to talk about anything in specific, I picked a topic and composed some thoughts on the F'd train ride out to Brooklyn.

The topic I picked was "What Makes A Great Company?"  I picked that topic because I think Etsy can be a great company and in fact is already well on its way to becoming one. I thought it would be good to share with the team some traits I see in many "great companies."

So here are the ten characteristics that I jotted down on my blackberry on the subway. This is not meant to be a comprehensive list. It is the ten traits that came to me on a 15 minute subway ride. And it is also true that great companies don't hit every single one of these traits. But they hit most of them. And some do hit all of them.

So with that caveat, here is my list of ten traits I see in great companies. This is aimed at web/tech companies but I believe it can and should be applicable to all companies.

1) Great companies are constantly innovating and delighting their customers/users with new products and services.

2) Great companies are built to last and be independent and sustainable. Great companies don't sell out.

3) Great companies make lots of money but leave even more money on the table for their users and partners.

4) Great companies don't look elsewhere for ideas. They develop their ideas internally and are copied by others.

5) Great companies infect their users/customers with their brand. They turn their users and customers into marketing/salesforces.

6) Great companies are led by entrepreneurs who own a meaningful piece of the business. As such, they make decisions based on long term business needs and objectives not short term goals.

7) Great companies have a global mindset. They treat every person in the world as a potential customer/user.

8) Great companies are attempting to change the world in addition to making money.

9) Great companies are not reliant on any one person to deliver their value proposition.

10) Great companies put the customer/user first above any other priority.

So there it is. The Q&A session after the talk was quite stimulating and I expect the comment thread here will be equally so.