Book Review: Small Giants by Bo Burlingham

There have been countless books written about very large corporations and the key to their success.  There also are many books out there telling how to grow your business.  The assumption in all these books is that you need to be growing to considered successful.

In Small Giants, Bo Burlingham refutes that idea by proposing that there are many companies that purposely choose to stay small, but are really successful organizations.  They just use a different measure of success than traditional revenue growth.

In this book, Bo highlights 14 organizations who he considers to be "Small Giants" (one of which is Ann Arbor's Zingermans Community of Businesses.)  As he studied these organizations, he found several 7 common threads (quoted from book's introduction):

  • 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.
  • Third, each company had an extraordinarily intimate relationship with the local city, town, or county in which it did business -- a relationship that went well beyond the usual concept of `giving back.
  • Fourth, they cultivated exceptionally intimate relationships with customers and suppliers, based on personal contact, one-on-one interaction, and mutual commitment to delivering on promises.
  • Fifth, the companies also had what struck me as unusually intimate workplaces.
  • Sixth, I was impressed by the variety of corporate structures and modes of governance that these companies had come up with.
  •  Finally, I noticed the passion that the leaders brought to what the company did. They loved the subject matter, whether it be music, safety lighting, food, special effects, constant torque hinges, beer, records storage, construction, dining, or fashion.

I found it very interesting that many of these companies had opportunities to grow very large.  These same organizations determined that bigger is not always better.  In the end, their organizations were much healthier when they were smaller.

It surely is an interesting read.  Especially for those who are burnt out from exponential growth and are wondering if there is a better option.  Even if you find your organization comfortably growing at a healthy rate, you will still learn from these organizations.  Take a look at the book...Let me know what you think