Small Giants: A Little Book With Big Ideas

I first heard of Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big from a “best of” list the local Chamber of Commerce published each year. Honestly, I didn’t give it another thought until I found it again browsing the business section of my local bookstore.

The premise of the book is simple: companies can stay small on purpose and still thrive. Written by Bo Burlingham, Small Giants takes a look at fourteen privately-owned companies that have all made the decision to not grow exponentially (even though the opportunity was there), to stay privately-owned (thus limiting the funds available to them), and to be truly excellent at what they do.

No, the book isn’t looking at poor business people. All of the companies thrive financially. What is most interesting to me is that all of these owners place emphasis in different areas and define “success” differently than a publicly-owned company ever could. You see, publicly-owned companies get funding from stakeholders who have invested solely for a financial return. The stakeholders in a privately-owned company are often running their businesses to:

  • be great at what they do
  • earn a living from what they love
  • create a great place to work
  • provide exceptional service to clients and customers
  • build and maintain good relationships with suppliers
  • make contributions to the communities in which they live and work
  • lead a happy, productive, meaningful lives

They all have financial success, but it’s a by-product of their success in other areas.

Okay this sounds dramatic, I know, but this book changed how I saw my business. For a long time, I referred to Pebble Road as “my little business” and then would immediately correct myself, not wanting to stunt its growth with a slip of the tongue. No longer fixating about “my little business” meeting its financial potential, I define success differently: the ability to work on interesting projects, with interesting people; offering exceptional service; contributing to my community.

I encourage all entrepreneurs and small business owners to reconsider how you define success. Why are you in business? How can you become a Small Giant?