Last updated on April 2, 2017
A few months ago, I picked up the book Small Giants by Bo Burlingham. The book is the best I've read this year and is a fascinating read for anyone with a side business, a start-up, or a small business.
For many companies, the only priority is the near-constant pressure to grow bigger, make more money, and crush competitors. Bo shows and tells the stories of companies spearheading an alternate movement to build businesses that are sustainable both in revenue, happiness, or another priority that you set. Rather than only chasing profits, chase a better workplace or increasing the quality of work—even if it means fewer customers.
Here are just a few of the nuggets I found:
Just because you have a restaurant that is well known and popular doesn’t mean you have to franchise or even expand. You can stay as you are and have a business that’s profitable and rewarding and a source of great pride.
The experience of going bankrupt forced him to think about why he was in business in the first place, what he was really looking for; and it made him aware of the tremendous responsibility he had for his employees.
The notion that bigger - and more - is better has so pervaded our culture that most people assume all entrepreneurs want to capitalize on every business opportunity. This can be tough when considerations of status and prestige come into play. It can be an ego thing.
It’s not enough for us to be good to customers. We want relationships to be personal and real, not contrived. Handwrite letters and make the phone calls that are authentic. Customers know they can count on us.
Keeping the team small, relieved him of management chores and getting weighed down in the small things. People who weren’t working out didn’t have to be fired, they left on their own accord. Conversely, those who meshed with culture were embraced by group and given more responsibility. A small team can do way more fun, extracurricular things together and grow culture.
Rather than figure out what someone was doing wrong and trying to fix it, we thought we’d show people what worked for us. Create curriculum and teach the principles of business for what works.
The higher purpose should be woven into the fabric of the business. A constant presence. Then reminding the teammates in unexpected ways how much the company cares about them. Lastly, the feelings that employees have toward one another.
Danny Meyer: Mistakes will happen. If someone finds a small screw in their risotto, they are going to tell everybody. I can’t change that. But what I can do is make sure that when they tell the story they go on to say, "But do you know how the restaurant handled that?"
Isn’t it a CEO’s job to make the tough call? At Reel, the CEOs wanted employees to feel ownership of decisions and responsibility toward the welfare of the business.
It’s helpful in companies to have a common vision of the kind of society in which they want to live and work.
Goltz’s secret to business is leverage and control. Leveraging the assets you have. Control: Making sure that what you want to happen actually happens. The bigger you get does not mean it always gets harder. Use a system and get help making the right hires.
Selima said that she can’t do anything for somebody she doesn’t like, so she only takes on fashion clients she wants to (at the cost of more profit).
UNBT bank thought if you exceeded the organic growth of your business it would undermine the ability to provide excellent customer service, create great workplace for your empoyees, and maximize shareholder returns.
How do you inspire people to action when they feel comfortable with the way things are?
1- Open the books to managers
2- Discuss with employees what business they were really in, what value they should be offering customers, and what changes they would have to make for the company to be the best at what they did.
3- To help their business turnaround they needed a metaphor: how intimidating a peak looked from base camp.
Overall the team missed some milestones but kept going and became more capable as they went along.
Every founder in the book has a passion for what their companies do. They love it, and they have a burning desire to share it with other people.
You need to feel in your gut that whatever you do is the most interesting, exciting, worthwhile thing you could be doing at that moment. Otherwise, how do you convince anyone else?
There’s NO recipe for making small giants. There is a pattern, they all have a clear understanding of who they are, what they want out of business, and why.
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I've found that many of the lessons in this book apply to life--personal life--too. When you know who you are, what you want out of life, and why... you more opportunities for happiness are available to you.