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Small Giants

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Small Giants

Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big


15 min read
10 take-aways
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What's inside?

Small companies do great things. Many work better than the big guys – that`s why they stay small.

Editorial Rating



Some companies intentionally stay small so that they can be the best at what they do. In the world of globalization, these companies oppose the trend toward unbridled growth. They want to be strong, local and contained. Magazine writer and author Bo Burlingham provides profiles, or "field reports," covering 14 "small giants" - companies whose hands-on leaders kept them small, involved in their communities and focused on quality. Burlingham sometimes takes you up close and personal with his characters, so you read about their divorces, kids, personal finances and how long they worked in the stock room, as well as about the history of their companies. This magazine-style level of personal detail makes it clear that his mission isn’t to teach you how to run a small giant, but to explore the nature of locally rooted, passionately led, deliberately small companies. getAbstract finds that the author’s focus on unique privately held companies is very valuable for the leaders of small businesses, especially those who are deciding just how big they want their companies to become.


Scaling Down

Conventional wisdom says large public companies are the centerpiece of US business. These companies push themselves to expand at all costs so they can show growing profits and sales. In contrast, take a look at 14 small private companies that have deliberately stayed small. They each employ excellent business practices, have access to large amounts of capital and use innovative approaches to make their businesses profitable - but not necessarily bigger - while nurturing their local communities.

These “small giants” practice a deeper kind of community involvement and have their own version of shareholder value. They do not focus solely on financial ratios. They fulfill additional, new measurements of success, such as expanded community relationships and employment longevity. The leaders of these firms have made the deliberate decision not to grow if that detracts from their other business or social goals.

Small giants have another special quality. Having forged their own definitions of success, they create a buzz of excitement among their customers, suppliers and employees. They pushed the borders of possibility as they shaped their companies. Along...

About the Author

Bo Burlingham is editor-at-large for Inc. magazine. His work has also appeared in Esquire, Harpers, Mother Jones and the Boston Globe. He is the co-author of The Great Game of Business and A Stake in the Outcome.

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