Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big

Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big

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by Bo Burlingham
     
 

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How maverick companies have passed up the growth treadmill — and focused on greatness instead.

It’s an axiom of business that great companies grow their revenues and profits year after year. Yet quietly, under the radar, a small number of companies have rejected the pressure of endless growth to focus on more satisfying business goals. Goals

Overview

How maverick companies have passed up the growth treadmill — and focused on greatness instead.

It’s an axiom of business that great companies grow their revenues and profits year after year. Yet quietly, under the radar, a small number of companies have rejected the pressure of endless growth to focus on more satisfying business goals. Goals like being great at what they do; creating a great place to work; providing great customer service; making great contributions to their communities; and finding great ways to lead their lives.

In Small Giants, veteran journalist Bo Burlingham takes us deep inside fourteen remarkable companies that have chosen to march to their own drummer. They include Anchor Brewing, the original microbrewer; CitiStorage Inc., the premier independent records-storage business; Clif Bar & Co., maker of organic energy bars and other nutrition foods; Righteous Babe Records, the record company founded by singer-songwriter Ani DiFranco; Union Square Hospitality Group, the company of restaurateur Danny Meyer; and Zingerman’s Community of Businesses, including the world-famous Zingerman’s Deli of Ann Arbor.

Burlingham shows how the leaders of these small giants recognized the full range of choices they had about the type of company they could create. And he shows how we can all benefit by questioning the usual definitions of business success. In his new afterword, Burlingham reflects on the similarities and learning lessons from the small giants he covers in the book.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
This well-written book should inspire thousands of entrepreneurs to reject a mantra of growth for growth’s sake in favor of a passionate dedication to becoming the absolute best. Bo Burlingham reminds us of a vital truth: big does not equal great, and great does not equal big. (Jim Collins, author of Good to Great)

It aims to do for small private companies what In Search of Excellence did two decades ago for big public companies: shine a light on a handful of business practices the author admires, and which he believes are the reason some companies consistently do better than others. (Joseph Nocera, The New York Times)

Small Giants is one of the most relevant and articulate arguments for staying bold and creative, intimate and manageable as I have ever read. I guarantee that expression and the arguments for staying small will cause a collective sigh of relief from thousands of entrepreneurs. (Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop)

With new management books arriving by the boatload, Bo Burlingham has somehow managed the near impossible—he’s given us a true original. Moreover, in the process he may have ‘discovered’ the most interesting and under-reported corner of the U.S. economy. In short, Small Giants is a Large Masterpiece. Bo’s reporting is stupendous, and his writing and storytelling skills make the book equal parts fun and profound. (Tom Peters, author of In Search of Excellence)

The fourteen companies that Bo Burlingham... features in his new book Small Giants demonstrate conclusively that a company can resist the temptation to keep getting bigger and bigger—and wind up better for it. (Cecil Johnson, The Fort Worth Star- Telegram)

For all you harried entrepreneurs out there, Bo Burlingham has a reassuring message: Relax. Bigger isn’t necessarily better. The wonderful stories in Small Giants show you how to prosper by retaining the vision of excellence that got you into business in the first place. (Rosabeth Moss Kanter, author of Confidence)

Bo Burlingham’s done for private companies what Jim Collins did for public companies in Good to Great. (Steve Pearlstein, The Washington Post)

Library Journal
12/01/2015
Burlingham (editor at large, Inc. magazine) asks the question: "Is a bigger company always a better company?" Small Giants suggests that small-business owners have a unique opportunity to choose what sort of business they want to build.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781591840930
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
12/29/2005
Pages:
256
Product dimensions:
6.24(w) x 9.28(h) x 0.93(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
This well-written book should inspire thousands of entrepreneurs to reject a mantra of growth for growth’s sake in favor of a passionate dedication to becoming the absolute best. Bo Burlingham reminds us of a vital truth: big does not equal great, and great does not equal big. (Jim Collins, author of Good to Great)

It aims to do for small private companies what In Search of Excellence did two decades ago for big public companies: shine a light on a handful of business practices the author admires, and which he believes are the reason some companies consistently do better than others. (Joseph Nocera, The New York Times)

Small Giants is one of the most relevant and articulate arguments for staying bold and creative, intimate and manageable as I have ever read. I guarantee that expression and the arguments for staying small will cause a collective sigh of relief from thousands of entrepreneurs. (Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop)

With new management books arriving by the boatload, Bo Burlingham has somehow managed the near impossible—he’s given us a true original. Moreover, in the process he may have ‘discovered’ the most interesting and under-reported corner of the U.S. economy. In short, Small Giants is a Large Masterpiece. Bo’s reporting is stupendous, and his writing and storytelling skills make the book equal parts fun and profound. (Tom Peters, author of In Search of Excellence)

The fourteen companies that Bo Burlingham... features in his new book Small Giants demonstrate conclusively that a company can resist the temptation to keep getting bigger and bigger—and wind up better for it. (Cecil Johnson, The Fort Worth Star- Telegram)

For all you harried entrepreneurs out there, Bo Burlingham has a reassuring message: Relax. Bigger isn’t necessarily better. The wonderful stories in Small Giants show you how to prosper by retaining the vision of excellence that got you into business in the first place. (Rosabeth Moss Kanter, author of Confidence)

Bo Burlingham’s done for private companies what Jim Collins did for public companies in Good to Great. (Steve Pearlstein, The Washington Post)

Meet the Author

Bo Burlingham is editor at large at Inc. magazine. He has also written for Esquire, Harper’s, Mother Jones, and The Boston Globe, among other publications, and is the coauthor, with Jack Stack, of The Great Game of Business and A Stake in the Outcome.

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Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
laurenphead More than 1 year ago
Restaurateur Danny Meyer said that mistakes in business are going to happen and those mistakes are going to be told. However, it's what a company does AFTER the mistake that makes them great. It's the "after" that adds to the story of their mistake with a story about how they made it right. A company needs to be nimble in order to respond to mistakes and sometimes being nimble can happen a whole lot easier when a company is small instead of big.The company President of Righteous Babe, Scot Fisher, said it perfectly when he said, "We want our relationships with [customers] to be personal and real, not contrived." If it weren't for customers then there would be no business. In "Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big" author Bo Burlingham shows that bigger is not always better when it comes to business. I loved all of the examples of businesses like Cliff Bar. However, I most enjoyed reading the CEO of CitiStorage's perspective called "Groundhog Day syndrome." He saw that people fell into patterns of behavior that led them to make the same mistakes over and over. A person's mistakes might be not listening well, not having other available options, not adapting with technology, taking too many risks, etc. Whatever a person's "Groundhog Day syndrome" is they need to realize it because when you are a owner of a business it's not just your job on the line, but it's also everyone else's that works for you and it's all the people that they in turn do business with through your company. This book could not only tie into the business world, but also an employee's personal life. An person's "Groundhog Day syndrome" might be that they are always running late, or that they don't follow through on things that they say they will, or that they over schedule themselves. (I'm guilty of that last one for sure!) We all need to take stock of what we do everyday and find ways to improve on those things. Getting stuck doing the same thing over and over without getting better results will slowly kill whatever passion you have for your job. Get out of those ruts and you will expand not only your mind but also your soul! The only thing that I disagreed with this book about is that I don't want someone to read this book and think that their business shouldn't grow. Growth is a great thing, as long as it is done correctly and not compromising on their core values and mission statements.  If you are looking to embracing growth within a business and within an employee, but not just for growth's sake, then this book is for you. While many people are under the impression of "bigger is better" this is not always the case. I have seen too many businesses hire people only to have to let those people go when they lost just a client or when sales dip for a couple of months. In order to grow, a company needs to look at more than how big they want to be. There is a story in the book on Danny Meyer. He is the owner of restaurants like Union Square Cafe and Gramercy Tavern in ultra-competitive New York City. He said that he has chosen to surround himself with people who are eager to grow and who are ambitious. These type of people go to work every day in order to figure out a better way of doing things then the day before. These are the type of people you want on your team, someone who will push you to be a better person/employee then the day before. When employees are better then the business is better. This is a natural type of growth that companies can easily sustain itself. Arnie Malham, the founder of BetterBookClub, has said before that he would much rather train a person through book club and have them leave, then to not train them and have them stay. This book is also perfect for entrepreneurs who are just starting out or who are going through some growth pains. However, it's not just for business owners. I would highly recommend this book to anyone on a Leadership board. This book would be useful to both non-profits and for-profit companies as well.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
In a journalistic (rather than purely analytic) style, Bo Burlingham gives us portraits and insights into the operations (and entrepreneurs behind) several small companies which chose to remain small and be great rather than grow at any cost. Their reasons are clear as are their successes. One need not be a Luddite to appreciate the personal involvement of these people with their companies, employees and products and why they are so successful in both business and life. Fun stuff, and inspiring.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Some companies intentionally stay small so that they can be the best at what they do. In the world of globalization, these companies oppose the trend toward unbridled growth. They want to be strong, local and contained. Magazine writer and author Bo Burlingham provides profiles, or 'field reports,' covering 14 'small giants' - companies whose hands-on leaders kept them small, involved in their communities and focused on quality. Burlingham sometimes takes you up close and personal with his characters, so you read about their divorces, kids, personal finances and how long they worked in the stock room, as well as about the history of their companies. This magazine-style level of personal detail makes it clear that his mission isn¿t to teach you how to run a small giant, but to explore the nature of locally rooted, passionately led, deliberately small companies. We find that the author¿s focus on unique privately held companies is very valuable for the leaders of small businesses, especially those who are deciding just how big they want their companies to become.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Great book for any small business owner. Burlingham explains 14 different privately owned businesses that have extrodinary accomplishments.