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Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big [Kindle Edition]

Bo Burlingham
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $16.00
Kindle Price: $10.18
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Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC

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Book Description

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 afterward, Burlingham reflects on the similarities and learning lessons from the small giants he covers in the book.


Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

What do the Anchor Stream microbrewery and underground rock star Ani DiFranco have in common? The two are among Burlingham's examples of privately held businesses that have become "giants" in their field without becoming huge corporations. (And if you don't think being a rock star is a business, consider that DiFranco's dealings with local vendors in her Buffalo neighborhood have led to the creation of more than 100 new jobs.) For the 14 small companies profiled here, success comes by getting richer, not by getting bigger. Burlingham's central conceit, that these are companies that excel in generating "mojo," may seem abstract at first, but he carefully demystifies the term by focusing on issues like community relations and customer service. The owners he interviews speak from hard-won experience about resisting the pressure to simply keep expanding or sell the company to the highest bidder and staying true to their original visions for excellence. Burlingham, an editor-at-large at Inc., closes his account with a tribute to the magazine's late founder, Bernard A. Goldhirsh, whose celebration of entrepreneurship and loose managerial style clearly provided a lasting influence. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

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)


Product Details

  • File Size: 402 KB
  • Print Length: 268 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1591840937
  • Publisher: Portfolio; Updated edition (March 27, 2007)
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000OCXFYC
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #112,399 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
85 of 89 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The "heart and soul" of the American economy February 15, 2006
Format:Hardcover
During a GE annual meeting when discussing entrepreneurial companies, Jack Welch explained why he admires them: "For one, they communicate better. Without the din and prattle of bureaucracy, people listen as well as talk; and since there are fewer of them they generally know and understand each other. Second, small companies move faster. They know the penalties for hesitation in the marketplace. Third, in small companies, with fewer layers and less camouflage, the leaders show up very clearly on the screen. Their performance and its impact are clear to everyone. And, finally, smaller companies waste less. They spend less time in endless reviews and approvals and politics and paper drills. They have fewer people; therefore they can only do the important things. Their people are free to direct their energy and attention toward the marketplace rather than fighting bureaucracy."

Presumably Bo Burlingham agrees with Welch, perhaps adding that the size of a company such as GE does not determine whether or not it has these characteristics. Rather, he would identify 14 companies which he calls "small giants." They range from Selima Inc. (a two-person fashion design and dressmaking firm) to O.C. Tanner (a company with 1,700 hundred employees and annual sales of $350-million). Although quite different in size and nature, Burlingham has identified seven common threads:

"First, I could see that, unlike most entrepreneurs, their founders and leaders had recognized the full range of choices they had about the type of company they would create."

"Second, the leaders had overcome the enormous pressures on successful companies to take paths they had not chosen and did not necessarily want to follow.
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41 of 44 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
As an entrepreneur, I can relate to the business situations, tribulations, and growth pains described in this book. "Small Giants" presents various aspects of business in the life of an entrepreneur through the stories of several businesses of various sizes, types, and positions in their life cycle. Among the requirements the author used in selecting them was the idea that the private owners had made a choice to be a certain kind of business. They had the opportunity to go public or grow through franchising or grow by taking on a level of project that would require them to scale and transform into something new, but when faced with this they decided to do something else. Why and for what? The author, Bo Burlingham, also looked for companies that were admired and emulated in their own industries. And he also looked for companies that had been cited for recognition by third parties.

The book is arranged by various topics rather than by business. He draws in examples from a few of the businesses in each chapter as appropriate to illustrate the point he is making. The first chapter, "Free to Choose", discusses the realization that each of these businesspeople had that they did not have to follow the public corporation path of going public, or giving up what they loved doing in order to pursue the maximum bottom line profit. It is interesting to see what conclusions each of them came to and the direction they chose. The second chapter discusses the various approaches various businesses take to "bosses". Some of these guys run the business themselves from a strong center. Others are very egalitarian and try to delegate a great deal. There is a fascinating range of approaches to this issue.

The third chapter discusses the idea of uniqueness.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Community Connection February 13, 2006
Format:Hardcover
I read a lot of business books. I find it interesting to hear the different lessons that people get out of a business book. My take-away on this book is the importance of the relationship these businesses have with their communities. When I finished reading Small Giants, I thought of my own company and what it would be like if we got really big and left the town we grew up in. We have been a part of our community for over twenty-five years. Our associates appreciate where we live and actively participate in charities, social programs, civic boards, and public services that allow us to give something back to a community that has been very good to us. I wondered whether we would still be as active and committed if our company became too big to remain in one city and had to spread out around the country. I don't think so. There have been a lot of really big companies that started small in a hometown, made great contributions, and left great legacies, but then moved on and lost that connection to their communities. It made me sad to think of what they'd left behind, and what we might leave behind if our company, SRC Holdings, eventually took the same path.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
Many people start/buy a small business because they want the freedom to do things their way. But once a small business becomes successful, you get pressure from many different sources to get even bigger. Those sources include friends & family, investment bankers, suppliers, prospective partners, etc. Most often that growth means either taking a lot more risk, ceding control, or working even harder - some of the very things that entrepreneurs want to avoid. So often a small business owner gets torn between the conventional wisdom of "grow or die" and their gut.

In Small Giants, Bo Burlingham brilliantly writes about 14 companies whose owners decided to do things "their way". These owners walked away from millions of dollars to stay true to themselves - and in return became even more spectacular. Mandatory reading for any entrepreneur who gets confused as to what success really means.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting
it's a good book if you're looking for something that it skims the surfaces of the businesses. it's missing that final ingredient.
Published 3 months ago by Aakaanksh
4.0 out of 5 stars Real desire to please
Haven't finished yet but so far strong loyalty going both ways and real desire to gv great customer service by going over and above mk these businesses great.
Published 5 months ago by Ide H. Cohen
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read
Did a nice job talking about small companies that, by choice, want to remain small. Some very good insights and advice.
Published 5 months ago by JDM
2.0 out of 5 stars Annoyed me
I bought this book since I am running a small but growing company that is grappling with issue of how to grow into the company I want. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Elias Ek
5.0 out of 5 stars superb book with a lot of common sense
Its about quality and value versus growth---building to be best in class and satisfying customers and employees not being the largest
Published 8 months ago by TR H
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book, close to 5 stars
For a moment through the 2nd third or the book i thought i was going to be dissapointed on it, especially since I thought the author was not going to have enough stories and... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Jose Zazueta
3.0 out of 5 stars Good advice for small business owners
I am a Family Business Advisor. This book offers insights and practical advice that my clients can use. For example:
1. Legal protection is a poor substitute for innovation. Read more
Published 11 months ago by T. Pryor
4.0 out of 5 stars Good insights
Nicely done.. good insightful reading. A nice look inside some of the well managed small companies in the US. Recommended reading.
Published 16 months ago by Jay Narvasa
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent reminder
I rate this book a 5-star one because it is a solid reminder growth is not always the answer. Working for a small company with mojo myself, I enjoyed this book not only for being... Read more
Published 18 months ago by Rune Grothaug
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read.
I am a small business junkie. Meaning I read a lot of small business books. This one is the Good to Great for small business. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Nicholas C May
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More About the Author

Bo Burlingham is Inc.'s editor at large. He is the coauthor of The Great Game of Business, A Stake in the Outcome, and The Knack, and the author of Small Giants.


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