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Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big
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Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big

3.88  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,956 Ratings  ·  116 Reviews
How maverick companies have passed up the growth treadmill — and focused on greatness instead.

It’s an axiom of business that great companies grow their revenues and profits year after year. Yet quietly, under the radar, a small number of companies have rejected the pressure of endless growth to focus on more satisfying business goals. Goals like being great at what they do
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published December 29th 2005 by Portfolio (first published 2005)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Mar 15, 2010 Besim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a profile of 14 companies that chose to focus on being great at what they do rather than on growing their company in size despite many opportunities to do so.

The author finds several links between them:
1) The owners realized they had a choice of what kind of company they would be and didn't just settle on following normal understanding of what kind of growth a company should aim for
2) They overcame pressure to give up control of their company to investors for the sake of growth
3) They w
Alex Ikonn
One of the best business books with case studies on how you can build a long term purposeful business and not just wanting to exit.
Beth Oppenlander
Jan 06, 2012 Beth Oppenlander rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What I liked best about the book was how well the author captured the spirit of the small business owners. He narrates their stories with compassion, keen insight and honesty. While I don't know that I experienced any great revelations as I shared in their journeys, I did find myself really wanting to experience directly some of their adventures. I don't think I can extend a greater compliment than saying, “After reading the book, I want to go out there and play a role in shaping a small giant.”
Mar 21, 2011 Sarah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: business, non-fiction
I bought this because it was on a clearance shelf and I actually started reading it simply because it was within reach when I was looking for a book to help me fall asleep...needless to say, I dove in without any expectations. But this was actually a decent, quick read. It describes a handful of businesses that opted to stay small rather than following the traditional path of expansion, and have consequently found success. I like the personalization that it offers in the detailing of the compani ...more
Apr 13, 2015 Paul rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you see that it took me nearly 5 months to read all 221 pages of this slim book, you might think I found it boring, or dense, or inaccessible. And while that seems a reasonable conclusion, you would be completely wrong. This is simply the most interesting and thought provoking business book I have read. Rather than struggling my way forward, I found myself connecting with the observations from and about these "small giants" and rapidly taking notes and enjoying extended flights of imagination ...more
Jul 21, 2015 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't typically read business books, so I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this one. The idea that a company can exist for a purpose other than just making the most money possible is very appealing to me. I found the companies in this book inspiring and it made me think a lot about how I approach my job and the company I work for. It was at times a little too lengthy/detailed, but overall a great read.
Mar 06, 2016 Derek rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
I love the concept. When I think of the company I will start some day, that's what I imagine. The material, from 2005, feels oddly dated. Perhaps that's because I work in tech and am constantly reading about business models in technology and software. The book reads a bit like "the age before the Internet".
Lauren Head
Apr 13, 2015 Lauren Head rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Restaurateur Danny Meyer said that mistakes in business are going to happen and those mistakes are going to be told. However, it's what a company does AFTER the mistake that makes them great. It's the "after" that adds to the story of their mistake with a story about how they made it right. A company needs to be nimble in order to respond to mistakes and sometimes being nimble can happen a whole lot easier when a company is small instead of big.The company President of Righteous Babe, Scot Fishe ...more
Oct 14, 2014 Remy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this for work. I work for a small company transitioning from green energy venture capital to an energy services operating company. We spend a lot of time talking about "company culture" and "mojo." Thanks to Small Giants, I now understand the terms better, but I still don't understand why we have to spend so much time talking about it. I understand being intentional, but I had always thought that businesses - like every other endeavor/creation - is the product of many small decisions appl ...more
Andy Hayes
Aug 17, 2016 Andy Hayes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyed the stories about these companies. Missed this when it came out, but I'm now curious how those companies are doing many years later. Anyway, it's a great reminder that company founders need to decide what kind of company they want, and do that unapologetically.
Once in awhile you read a book and feel an immediate connection to it / the stories within. I read this several years ago, at a time when we were struggling to find business advice that felt like it fit the way we wanted to run a business. And lo and behold, it turns out that there are companies out there running profitable, successful businesses differently than most conventional wisdom might counsel. This book, and the Small Giants movement gaining momentum around it (see http://smallgiants.or ...more
John Kowalczyk
May 06, 2016 John Kowalczyk rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
You know all those fabulous restaurants, excellent delis, exceptional book stores and every other great establishment you've continued to patronize loyally year after year? Well, this book is about them and celebrates why they are still great without becoming HUGE companies. When it seems everyone is shooting for a quick startup followed by unsustainable growth and quick buy-out before they go bankrupt, it's good to know that great people with great ideas are still working hard to give us someth ...more
Andrew Tollemache
Jun 07, 2015 Andrew Tollemache rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book just kept coming up as a must read in a number of contexts, most recently on Tim Ferris's podcast with Noah Kagan, the #30 at Facebook. "Small Giants" is focused on analyzing case studies of highly successful companies that made deliberate decisions not to pursue growth metrics, but instead focus on deep quality or lifestyle balance or intensive growth in their communities. It comes as no shock that these entities are privately held and are often managed by their founders. Burlingham n ...more
Trung Thieu
Jan 17, 2016 Trung Thieu rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's better to have a 3.5 star option.
The message is great. But there were too many stories...
Kunal Sampat
This book is similar to Jim Collins book, Good to Great. The author has interviewed a dozen small businesses who are making a difference in their communities. I felt the evaluation criteria used by the author is quite subjective. He does share key traits of small giants which other small companies can and must adopt as part of their business model. The author's writing style did not gel with me and I think the book can be condensed to 50 or so pages. Also many of the Small Giants mentioned in th ...more
Dan Graham
Jan 03, 2011 Dan Graham rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: business
The big takeaway I got from Small Giants was that some people have a personal preference not to expand. I think Bo Burlingham wishes he could connect it to the wonderful cultures at the company, but I didn’t really buy that aspect. I mostly enjoyed reading about the interesting starts, structures and intra-company techniques each of the featured businesses use.
Philip Sugai
It seems to be common thinking in business to that constant and perpetual growth is the ultimate goal of any executive who would like her or his tenure as CEO to be considered successful (i.e. Built to Last, or Good to Great). But Bo Burlingham presents a refreshingly different perspective, offering many insights into successful U.S. businesses that have chosen to stay small, and by doing so, retain their quality and focus.

Now that I am living in Kyoto Japan, and am surrounded by so many small
Leader Summaries
Desde Leader Summaries recomendamos la lectura del libro Pequeños gigantes, de Bo Burlingham.
Las personas interesadas en las siguientes temáticas lo encontrarán práctico y útil: management, consejos para emprendedores, estrategia y modelos de negocio.
En el siguiente enlace tienes el resumen del libro Pequeños gigantes, Por qué la estrategia del crecimiento no siempre es la mejor fórmula para el éxito: Pequeños gigantes
Jurgen Appelo
Too much story, too little message.
Jun 12, 2014 Austin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: business
Good read! Small Giants is comparable to Good to Great by Jim Collins. In fact, Bo Burligham references that book at the beginning. Where Small Giants differs from Good to Great is primarily in what Burligham calls mojo. The whole book digs into where companies get their mojo and how they keep it. What I enjoyed most was the story telling style. You get a good sense of the culture each of these small giants have built, whether intentionally or organically. The companies range across all types of ...more
Mark Oppenlander
Jan 11, 2012 Mark Oppenlander rated it really liked it
This book is an important contribution to the business literature. Although I agree with my wife that there may or may not have been any new, earth-shattering revelations in here, I can't think of another book that does such a good job of codifying what distinguishes companies with "mojo" (the author's term) from those without it. Bo Burlingham captures a ton of tangible - and anecdotal - information on what makes certain small businesses so magical.

Burlingham give case studies of 13 companies w
Mar 25, 2009 Kimball rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i-own-it
Though this is truly a business book, it contains material valuable to anyone, in any walk of life. I'll get my two gripes out on the table right away, because other than these I loved this book.

First, it was a bit chaotic overall, making it hard to get my head around what specific concept the author was trying to convey or link between stories in each section.

And second, the whole premise of the book is that these are small companies that have had the chance to make it big, but have chosen not
Mar 04, 2012 Summer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2012
Bo Burlingham brings up a lot of excellent points about the decisions you face when deciding the shape and strategy of your business. His passion for these "Small Giants" is clear in his writing, making the reader more attached than is often the case when reading a business book. The one drawback was the format. Burlingham organizes the book by principles or concepts he feels are important to to small giant concept. In each chapter he will touch on how a few of the companies use or exhibit this ...more
Apr 24, 2016 Don rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Written in 2007 but still relevant today. The focus is on companies that CHOSE to become great by not following profits only, choosing not to get bigger, but to choosing to follow their passion and to make a difference.

Those decisions allowed the companies to be better employers to their employees, better and involved members of their communities and just as important better for their customers.
Mike Gaeta
Case studies about businesses that have deliberately and collectively decided to stay "small," - that is, not become Walmart at the expense of the people they are trying to serve. When a product is in high demand, there is a lot of social pressure to grow the company and meet it as quickly as possible. It comes in the form of investors, bankers, customers and employees. A lot of the time, it's on the entrepreneur to decide this and by listening to them can ironically undermine the company's grea ...more
Oct 05, 2014 Angelica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyable, thoughtful, well-written, inspiring.

Not too many hard business lessons to learn here, I think - the ultimate conclusion seems to be that keeping your company private allows you to retain control and defend values, which is no great revelation.

But still, some fun stories and companies, and a look at alternate paths to growth.
Jul 12, 2014 Tippy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved this book, first 'business' book that I've really bonded with - a survey of innovative businesses across the U.S. that have chosen to conduct their bizzes with heart, 'mojo', care for their community, customers, and employees while being consistently profitable as well as have longevity. The survey includes: clif bar, a machine shop, fashion designer, document storage, AnchorSsteam brewing, Danny Meyer's restaurants in NYC, & Zingerman's Deli in Michigan. So glad that I found this gem ...more
Lukas Eppler
Sep 08, 2015 Lukas Eppler rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I got a sense of what the mojo can be of a company. This book is a good ingredient when thinking about a company vision. I do miss clarity about what to do, what questions to ask in order to strengthen the greatness of a company. But the book provides valuable stories as thought models.
Jan 23, 2016 Cindy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting read. Cool companies highlighted here.

Companies not on the growth train but still do grow. The one I admire most are those that forego max profits for high quality and strong customer and employee loyalty. Good model for a good Earth.
Carlos Monjaraz
Feb 16, 2015 Carlos Monjaraz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excelente libro. Frecuentemente se lee sobre las grandes empresas y cómo han crecido. En este libro se habla sobre puras empresas pequeñas que han decidido quedarse de ese tamaño sin sacrificar utilidades pero mejorando la comunidad que las rodea o con quien interactuan.

Buen libro que deja un buen sabor de boca y muchas preguntas en la cabeza.

Tus pasiones las utilizas para crear una empresa o bien creas una empresa para satisfacer tus pasiones...
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“The shareholders who own the businesses in this book have other, nonfinancial priorities in addition to their financial objectives. Not that they don’t want to earn a good return on their investment, but it’s not their only goal, or even necessarily their paramount goal. They’re also interested in being great at what they do, creating a great place to work, providing great service to customers, having great relationships with their suppliers, making great contributions to the communities they live and work in, and finding great ways to lead their lives. They’ve learned, moreover, that to excel in all those things, they have to keep ownership and control inside the company and, in many cases, place significant limits on how much and how fast they grow. The wealth they’ve created, though substantial, has been a byproduct of success in these other areas. I call them small giants.” 1 likes
“Success means you’re going to have better problems. I’m very happy with the problems I have now.” 0 likes
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