High-Growth Business:

Fast Company

Case Study:  Charles Schwab

Creating a Fastest and Innovative High-Growth Firm

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"A man to carry on a successful business must have imagination. He must see things as in a vision, a dream of the whole thing."Charles R. Schwab

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Charles Schwab's Cause

"To be the most ethical and useful financial services company in the world."

The Schwab philosophy – Your needs first.

Customer Care

Charles Schwab's Major Financial Achievements

  • Market capitalization increased from US$500,000 in 1979 to US$51 billion in 1999

  • Client assets increased from US$48 billion in 1992 to app. US$ 1 trillion in 2004

10 Rules for Building a Great Business

 

Charles Schwab's 9 Guiding Principles

Inspirational Quotes

Charles Schwab Quotes

  • Lead the life that will make you kindly and friendly to everyone about you, and you will be surprised what a happy life you will lead.

  • You've got to start with your gut, with something you are really passionate about, for a good reason. You won’t get there by sitting in a closet and thinking, ‘Boy I know the world must want this.’

  • A man to carry on a successful business must have imagination. He must see things as in a vision, a dream of the whole thing.

  • The fact that I was out here and scrambling around as a little entrepreneur with no resources was fortuitous. I wasn’t encumbered by those old guys telling me what to do.

  • I feel good every day about helping people invest; helping them achieve financial independence.

  • I took anybody. They were a full collection of people. They took risks in their careers. Some were misfits at other places. I took a lot of misfits in. There were some strange people. Anybody who was a reasonable person and communicated well, I hired. I was one of the first businesses to hire women.

Smart Executive

 

More About Charles Schwab

Charles Schwab Timeline

Creating Customer Value

Changing Directions Based On the Guiding Principles

 

Fast Company

Setting Guiding Principles

Owning Your Competitive Advantage

Noble Failure

Jack Welch's 3Ss of Winning: Self-confidence, Simplicity, Speed

Charles Schwab: From a Small Firm to the World's Leader

Charles Schwab pioneered seamless stock trading on Internet in 1996. They went from a tiny firm to the world's largest financial services company. On their journey, first, they developed criteria – Charles Schwab's Guiding Principles – for making fast decisions. Second, they realized that they should own their competitive advantage to be able to bring financial products to the market faster than their competitors. They did so, and proved their ability to innovate faster that others. Finally, they managed to institutionalize innovation.

3 Strategies of Market Leaders

By late 1994, Chuck Schwab, the firm's Founder and  Chairperson, and Dave Pottruck, President and co-CEO of the company believed that online trading was going to become huge and created the Project Hawk. Acting with lightning speed, Charles Schwab introduced online trading service e.schwab to the market in May 1996 – within months of conception. The company signed up 25,000 customers within two weeks – their target for the full year. Being fast made paid off for Schwab. By the start of 2000, Schwab had an average 25% market share, was handling one of four stock trades in the United States, was receiving nearly 80 million hits on pick days, had open up more than 3 million online accounts, and was doing more than $10 billion weekly in e-commerce. In 1999, market capitalization of Charles Schwab reached US$51 billion. On January 1, 2000 the market capitalization of Charles Schwab surpassed that of Merrill Lynch, and Schwab became the world's largest financial services company.1... More

Charles Schwab's Guiding Principles

Charles Schwab his company from being a one-man startup to the world’s largest financial services firm in record-setting time.

How?

He wanted to build a fast company, one that could respond to changes in the market before they even happened, and to maintain its velocity throughout. He believed that by following a strict process and adhering to strict requirements, he would be well-prepared ahead of time in order to act with lightening speed. So, Schwab established 9 guiding principles for his company, and checked every strategic move against them before proceeding. These guiding principles allowed Charles Schwab and his management team to make quick decisions. Instead of having to go through a complex process in order to determine his company’s next strategic step, he simply had to ask one question: Does it fit our guiding principles?

Acting with lightning speed in accordance with Charles Schwab's Guiding Principles – always own the core technology; reinvent the business; and constantly improve what you do, – the company made fast decisions and was able to introduce online trading service e.schwab to the market within months of conception... More

Owning Competitive Advantage

Initially Charles Schwab, a discounted stock brokerage company, routinely outsourced, like other financial services firms, their back office information technology to other companies. By 1979, Chuck Schwab, the founder of the company, realized that if he was going to quickly grow the company and gain a competitive advantage, he had to own the technology. So, in 1979 he acquired a back-office computer Beta System for US$500,000 – a big bet as at the time, the net worth of the entire Charles Schwab company was only US$500,000.

Given their in-house computing capabilities, owning the technology – their competitive advantage – provided Schwab the ability to:

  • Push every known boundary and constantly ask the "what if we could do this for our customers" question without regard what can't be done

  • Have the technology and other resources ready by the time people knew they wanted it

  • Be faster than competitors in getting to market.

As a result, Schwab started unleashing innovations on the market one after another and became the leader in the new market niches it created.

Differentiating Between Noble Failure and Stupid Failure

Freedom To Fail

David Pottruck, co-CEO of Charles Schwab, says: "The idea that failure is okay is ridiculous. I am not going to go around the company and reward someone for failing. But here at Schwab we differentiate between noble failure and stupid failure."1

Charles Schwab has a set of criteria for defining noble failure. Noble failure occurs when:

  • you have a good plan and know what you're doing, you've thought everything through carefully, and have implemented with sufficient management discipline, that if you look back in review, you'd conclude it was thoughtfully done

  • you have a reasonable contingency plan to deal with any initial failure and the contingency plan must have been implemented

  • you need to debrief yourself and ask what you can learn from the experience that will lead your company to be smarter next time.

Charles Schwab journals their failures and lessons they've learned. They maintain also a display of failed innovations and created a videotape for employee orientation. "When celebration of noble failure becomes institutionalized, people within the organization are more willing to reassess earlier decisions1" and take corrective measures... More

The Jazz of Innovation: 11 Practice Tips

Asking Effective Questions

Dave Pottruck, former co-CEO of Charles Schwab, says that most of Schwab's huge innovations have come from asking customers questions:

  • What can we do better?

  • How can we make your life easier?

  • What new service or product would you like to see us offering?

 

 

References:

  1. Venture Catalyst, Donald L. Laurie

  2. t's not the BIG and eats the SMALL... it's the FAST that eats the SLOW, Jason Jennings and Laurence Haughton

  3. "Charles Schwab: How One Company Beat Wall Street and Reinvent the Brokerage Industry," John Kador

  4. Charles Schwab Articles