Small Giants | Bo Burlingham

Summary of: Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big
By: Bo Burlingham


Welcome to an enlightening journey through the realm of small giants – special companies that choose quality over quantity, forming intimate connections with employees, and embracing their unique identities. In this captivating summary of Bo Burlingham’s ‘Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big’, you’ll explore the alternative business approach where personal values and missions are prioritized over continuous growth. You’ll learn how these businesses foster better relationships with employees, remain true to their character, contribute to their communities, and create a more meaningful working environment.

The Power of Small Giants

Small privately-owned companies that choose to stay small are known as small giants. They prioritize their mission over growth and enjoy numerous benefits like fostering better employee relationships and offering a better customer experience.

Publicly traded companies often emphasize the importance of growth; it’s how they became so big in the first place. However, there’s another kind of company, “the small giant.” These are privately-owned businesses that prioritize their mission over growth. These companies choose to remain small, even when given opportunities to expand. Such companies enjoy several benefits that come with staying small. One such company is Anchor Brewing in California, which has remained at around 50 employees for the past 20 years. The business is known for having a nicer atmosphere and fostering better employee relationships since everyone knows everyone else. When employees can see the impact of their work, it fosters pride and responsibility amongst them. Small companies also tend to be better at tasks that require personal interaction, like customer service. The owner can actually know the face and name of every customer, whereas it’s impossible in big corporations. In conclusion, small giants offer a different kind of business success that emphasizes mission, relationships, and a better customer experience.

Characteristics of Small Giants

Small giants prioritize quality over profits and retain control by limiting shareholders. Only 4 out of the 14 small giants featured in Burlingham’s book had outside shareholders. Anchor Brewing’s commitment to traditional brewing methods and Zingerman’s Deli’s refusal to franchise are examples of how small giants maintain their unique identities while growing. The owners of small giants are incredibly passionate about what they do, which translates into their focus on quality over profit.

Small Giants: Community Matters

Small giants are companies that truly care about their communities, unlike larger businesses that only claim to. As the local community plays a vital role in shaping the company, small giants can consider all aspects, from customers to suppliers, which helps them produce high-quality products. Moreover, small giants actively contribute to their communities, like the Buffalo-based music label Righteous Babe Records and New York-based record storing company CitiStorage. They are philanthropic and inspire their employees to donate part of their annual holiday as cash to a city charity. Small giants prioritize community engagement to create a sustainable and positive environment for all.

Small Giants Prioritize Employee Satisfaction

Small giants prioritize employee needs, leading to loyalty, financial growth, and better businesses. The companies invest in their staff, resulting in increased trust, a sense of belonging, and a high level of performance. Employees receive benefits such as stock ownership plans, retention of jobs, and access to loans. Small giants like Artists Frame Service reap the benefits of satisfied employees who are loyal and committed to the growth of the company. The book shows that paying attention to employees’ needs can lead to success and better business performance by creating a positive work environment where employees are valued.

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