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Lessons from Hidden Champions: How to Innovate Deep, Vertical, and Over the Long-Haul

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Lessons from Hidden Champions: How to Innovate Deep, Vertical, and Over the Long-Haul

An Interview with Hermann Simon, author of “Hidden Champions of the 21st Century: Success Strategies of Unknown World Market Leaders”

German management authority Hermann Simon coined the term “hidden champion” to describe mid-sized companies that are first, second or third in their markets yet have little awareness outside their industries. Simon included companies with up to $4 billion in revenue, although the vast majority are under $1 billion. Over 25 years of research, he identified more than 2,700 such companies around the world and surveyed them about subjects ranging from leadership to customer relationships. He also interviewed many of their leaders in person, on visits or through consulting projects.

Simon’s research unearthed a roster of traits common to such companies, which he describes in his book “Hidden Champions of the 21st Century: Success Strategies of Unknown World Market Leaders.” Although more than half the firms discussed in that book are in Western Europe, hidden champions based in the United States and elsewhere demonstrate most of the same traits, Simon says.

Among those traits is an emphasis on innovation, which Simon calls the dominant driver of market share in such high-performing companies. The National Center for the Middle Market spoke with Simon recently about the innovation advantages of hidden champions.

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