Small Giants Book Summary - Small Giants Book explained in key points

Small Giants summary

Bo Burlingham

Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big

3.9 (35 ratings)
12 mins

Brief summary

Small Giants by Bo Burlingham is a business book that challenges the traditional notion of growth, showcasing successful companies that prioritize meaningful work over big profits. It explores how these companies build strong cultures, foster relationships with their communities, and maintain a strong sense of purpose.

Table of Contents

    Small Giants
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    Key idea 1 of 6

    Small giants: why some companies decide not to grow.

    If you’ve ever seen the CEOs of huge, publicly traded companies being interviewed, you’ll know that they always emphasize the importance of growth. No doubt this is how the companies became so big in the first place.

    But in fact, there’s another kind of company: the small giant. These are privately owned companies that have faced a moment of truth where they had to decide whether to grow or not, and decided against expanding if it meant compromising their mission.

    Think of W. L. Butler Construction Inc., which expanded rapidly in the 1970s and 1980s. At one stage, the owner, Bill Butler, found himself with 129 employees and $20 million in annual sales.

    But he was unhappy. He realized that he didn’t want his company to keep growing as he felt he should know every employee personally. So Butler narrowed his business focus and reduced his clients from 25 to ten. This even meant letting go of his largest client, an abusive financial services company that accounted for 50 percent of the value of the company’s projects.

    But staying small has some real business benefits.

    Consider the Californian brewery Anchor Brewing, which has remained at around 50 employees for the past 20 years.

    The small workforce fosters better relationships as everyone knows everyone else, and it also helps the employees take pride and responsibility in their jobs as they can actually see the impact of their efforts immediately.

    Not only do small companies have a nicer atmosphere at work, they also tend to be better at tasks that benefit from personal interaction, like customer service. This is because the owner can literally know the face and name of every customer, which would be impossible in a big corporation.

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    What is Small Giants about?

    There’s a new phenomenon emerging in the American business world: Small Giants. These are privately owned companies that don’t follow the usual corporate dogma of growing revenues at any cost. Instead, they’re driven by their heart-felt enthusiasm for their product, and focus on factors like quality and caring for their workforce. The author has examined 14 small giants to explain how this strategy has made them successful.

    Small Giants Review

    Small Giants (2005) explores the idea that staying small can be a deliberate choice for businesses—a choice that can lead to success and fulfillment. Here are three reasons why this book is worth reading:

    • It showcases inspiring case studies of companies that prioritize quality over growth, demonstrating that there are alternative paths to success.
    • Through interviews with founders and employees, the book provides valuable insights into the unique cultures and values that help these companies thrive.
    • Small Giants emphasizes the importance of relationships and community impact, reminding readers that success is not just about the bottom line.

    Best quote from Small Giants

    Nothing in business forces anyone to pursue a particular growth strategy.

    —Bo Burlingham
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    Who should read Small Giants?

    • Entrepreneurs and small business owners who don’t want to sell out
    • Anyone in a managerial position
    • Anyone thinking of founding a start-up

    About the Author

    Bo Burlingham is editor at large at Inc. magazine and has written for other publications such as Mother Jones, Boston Magazine and Esquire. He’s also been a board member for Body Shop Inc., and founded the global business network PAC World.

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    Small Giants FAQs 

    What is the main message of Small Giants?

    Discover the power of staying small and focusing on quality over growth.

    How long does it take to read Small Giants?

    The reading time for Small Giants varies, but the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Small Giants a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Small Giants is worth reading for its insights into building great companies and challenging the status quo.

    Who is the author of Small Giants?

    The author of Small Giants is Bo Burlingham.

    What to read after Small Giants?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Small Giants, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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