This article originally appeared in the November 2015 issue of 425 Business.

Business consultant Keith McFarland likens business growth to rock climbing, one of his preferred hobbies. Small companies start out slowly, playing it safe, and choosing secure footing at lower altitudes.

“Some are satisfied to stay in the lower elevations and eke out a living,” McFarland wrote in his 2008 book, The Breakthrough Company: How Everyday Companies Become Extraordinary Performers. “But for many, as time passes, their aspirations rise and their eyes turn upward toward footholds and handholds just out of reach.”

According to McFarland, breakthrough companies are the ones that take the calculated leap to achieve higher goals.

Over the course of five years, McFarland and his team performed a case study of 7,000 private and public companies compiled from Inc. magazine’s annual list of the 500 fastest-growing companies dating back to 1982 to find out what made some flourish and what made others wither. Researchers looked at metrics such as profitability, growth rate, size, and employee morale.

McFarland distills these data into practical, relatable advice while weaving readers through his book with grace and a little humor and wit, making The Breakthrough Company a critical, yet enjoyable, read.