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Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big Paperback – March 27, 2007


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Portfolio Trade; Updated edition (March 27, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591841496
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591841494
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.5 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #41,633 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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)


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.

Customer Reviews

I read a lot of business books.
John P. Stack
The books provides some great examples of what really makes a business good and how that can apply to any company.
Robert D. Crane
I would hope this book will be read by all small business owners.
Floyd W. Woods

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

85 of 89 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 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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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 By John P. Stack on 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 By Robert Levin on January 2, 2006
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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