I ran across a great book at Half-Price Books last week.  The book, Small Giants: Companies that Choose to be Great Instead of Big by Bo Burlingham, looked like an interested read and I thought I’d take it with me on my upcoming vacation.  My impatience got the best of me and I bumped the book up to the top of my reading list.

I’m glad I did…this is a great book.

The book is in the same genre as Jim Collins’ Good to Great, Jim Champy’s Outsmart! and other similar books although it is closer to Outsmart! than Good to Great.   Unlike the other books in this genre, Small Giants doesn’t try to provide a step by strep instructional manual for running your business and/or making your organization ‘Great’.

The author chose fourteen privately held companies that he claims has “mojo” and have remained true to the founders ideals rather then ‘get big’.  From the jacket of the book:

It’s a widely accepted axiom of business that great companies grow their revenues and profits year after year. Yet quietly, under the radar, some entrepreneurs have rejected the pressure of endless growth to focus on more satisfying business goals. Goals like being great at what they do . . . creating a great place to work . . . providing great customer service . . . making great contributions to their communities . . . and finding great ways to lead their lives.

What I found most interesting about the companies in this book is that they each have their own belief system and organizational structures.  Some organizations believe in a very rigorous reporting structure while others believe in Results Oriented environments.  Some believe that you must be in the office every day and others are OK with virtual work.  One organization even keeps track of tardiness and will fire a person who is late more than 5 times….seems pretty old fashioned to me.  But it works for that organization.

The true genius of this book is its ability to shed light on a few simple facts about running a business:

  • Build a corporate culture that fits your organization. If that means allowing people to work remotely and with full autonomy…so be it.  If it means having a “butt in seat by 8AM” policy…more power to you.
  • Hire the best people you can and keep them happy. Salary isn’t the only thing that makes people happy.  Go take a look at Anchor Brewing…they pay a decent salary but they also give everyone a chance to advance their education, travel around the world and provide input to how the organization is run.
  • Focus on your people first and your customers second.  If your employees are happy, excited to be a part of your organization and they understand how their job affects the organization, then your customers will be able to tell…and they’ll be taken care of as well.

This is a really good book…nothing earth shattering but definitely worth the read.