In the world of business, the common goal is often to grow as large as possible. However, the book Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big by Bo Burlingham explores an alternative approach that some companies have taken: choosing to be great instead of big. These “small giants” are companies that prioritize factors such as purpose, community, and quality over sheer size and expansion.
Small Giants is a book I recently re-read again. I liked it the first time I read it, about 9 years ago, it’s about companies that you rarely hear about. The author, Bo Burlingham, profiles 14 companies that have deliberately chosen to remain small and focus on quality and values rather than growth at all costs. These small companies are from various industries, he explores the strategies that they used to achieve success while remaining true to their values.
These companies include:
- Anchor Brewing Company;
- Clif Bar & Company;
- The Decurion Corporation;
- Eileen Fisher;
- Greyston Bakery;
- Hammerhead Productions;
- The Hawn Foundation;
- Maverick Chocolate Company;
- Righteous Babe Records;
- Roy’s Restaurant;
- Sustain Natural;
- Union Square Hospitality Group;
- Zingerman’s Community of Businesses.
Below are some of the main business lessons from this book:
- Purpose-driven leadership: Small giants are led by people who are driven by a strong sense of purpose and a desire to make a difference. This purpose is often deeply ingrained in the company’s culture, and it drives everything from the company’s products and services to the way it treats its employees.
- Focus on quality: Rather than trying to grow at all costs, small giants prioritize delivering high-quality products and services. This focus on quality often leads to strong customer loyalty and a reputation for excellence.
- Strong company culture: Small giants tend to have a strong sense of community and shared values among employees. This sense of culture can be a powerful motivator for employees and can also help the company to attract and retain top talent.
- Authenticity: Small giants are often known for being authentic and true to their values. They don’t try to be something they’re not, and they don’t compromise their values for the sake of profits.
- Long-term thinking: Small giants are less concerned with short-term profits and more focused on building a sustainable business that will last for years to come. This long-term thinking often leads to more stable and predictable growth over time.
- Customer-centric approach: Small giants tend to be highly attuned to the needs and wants of their customers. This customer-centric approach can lead to more satisfied customers and can also help the company to identify new opportunities for growth and innovation.
- Innovation: Despite their focus on quality and tradition, small giants are often quite innovative. They are willing to try new things and experiment with new ideas, as long as they align with the company’s purpose and values.
If you’re interested in applying some of these business lessons to your own company, here are a few action steps to consider:
- Define your company’s purpose: Take some time to think about what your company stands for and what you want to achieve in the long term. This purpose should guide everything your company does, from the products and services you offer to the way you treat your employees.
- Focus on quality: Rather than trying to grow as quickly as possible, focus on delivering high-quality products and services. This can help build customer loyalty and a strong reputation for excellence.
- Build a strong company culture: Invest in building a strong sense of community and shared values among your employees. This can help create a sense of purpose and motivation that will drive your company forward.
- Be authentic: Don’t try to be something you’re not. Instead, focus on being true to your company’s values and mission.
- Think long-term: Avoid making short-sighted decisions that prioritize short-term profits over long-term sustainability. Instead, focus on building a sustainable business that will last for years to come.
- Listen to your customers: Be attuned to the needs and wants of your customers, and be willing to adapt and innovate to meet their changing needs.
- Experiment and innovate: Don’t be afraid to try new things and experiment with new ideas, as long as they align with your company’s purpose and values.
The main takeaway from Small Giants is that there is an alternative to the traditional business model of growth at all costs. The companies profiled in the book have chosen to prioritize excellence, customer relationships, and employee satisfaction over growth and expansion. These companies have found success by focusing on the things that matter most, such as creating a unique culture, delivering exceptional customer experiences, and nurturing long-term relationships with employees, customers, and suppliers.
Another key takeaway from Small Giants is that small businesses have the power to make a difference in their communities and industries. By choosing to be great instead of big, these companies have been able to create positive impacts on their communities, industry, and the world at large.
Some of the specific lessons and strategies discussed in Small Giants include the importance of:
- Building a unique culture that reflects the company’s values and vision;
- Prioritizing employee satisfaction and engagement as a key driver of success;
- Focusing on delivering exceptional customer experiences;
- Nurturing long-term relationships with customers, employees, and suppliers;
- Balancing profitability with purpose and social responsibility;
- Continuously learning, adapting, and innovating to stay ahead of the curve.
Small Giants offers a compelling vision of a different way of doing business that prioritizes excellence, relationships, and impact over growth and expansion. The book provides valuable insights and inspiration for small business owners and entrepreneurs who are looking to build successful, sustainable, and fulfilling companies.