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Small Giants: Choosing Great Instead of Big

By Sunny Bonnell
Posted on 11/01/22
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When we embarked on our entrepreneurial journey, we began with a clear purpose, articulated vision, and guiding values. Unlike most early millennial businesses that attempt to emulate the startling growth of tech empires, we didn’t subscribe to the ‘growth for growth’s sake’ mantra that appeals to so many. Since day one, we have been guided by our values, not our bank balance, and we strive to make a difference, not an extra dime.

A few years after we released Motto® into the world, we stumbled across a book by Inc. editor-at-large Bo Burlingham. His book, ‘Small Giants: Companies That Choose to be Great Instead of Big, spoke to us both. The insightful premise focuses on Burlingham’s research into privately owned companies, where he observed six common characteristics entwined into the fabric of inspiring organizations. The organizations share unique commonalities like thriving cultures, strong bottom lines, happy employees, open book management, and healthy, values-driven relationships with partners and vendors. These organizations do work that matters and choose to be great instead of big, thus coining the term ‘Small Giants.’

Here are the six characteristics of Small Giants:

1. The Leader Factor

Leaders of Small Giant companies are incredibly self-aware. They know what they want out of business and why they want it. Knowing their purpose enables them to lead their organization more effectively without sacrificing their soul.

2. The Community Factor

These organizations are part of the local landscape. They are rooted in their communities and mindful of their organization’s impact on the local economy. The community relies on Small Giants as much as they rely on the community’s support.

3. The Customer/Supplier Factor

Over time, Small Giants have nurtured more personal relationships with their vendors and customers. They look for values-driven partnerships and treat their relationships with the utmost integrity.

4. Employee Factor

Small Giants recognize that to be a genuinely excellent organization; your employees need to be advocates of your business. These organizations employ an ’employee first’ approach, valuing their happiness and well-being above all else.

5. The Margin Factor

These organizations recognize that volume and top-line revenue are not the only metrics of success. Their business models are sound and protect their gross margins.

6. The Passion Factor

All the owners and leaders of Small Giant companies love what they do. It gets them out of bed in the morning, and they maintain their passion through highs and lows.

Growth isn’t the only measure of success.

Burlingham summed these six characteristics up, writing that ‘Small Giants’ are “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.”

As entrepreneurs, we are taught that consistent growth is the measure of success. You must expand. It would be best if you took on more clients and employees across more locations. We’re told to grow and grow until we are forced to sell. As if the reward for injecting thousands of hours of blood, sweat, and tears into building a brand is to hand it to a collection of faceless board members or, worse, dismantle it and redistribute it as they see fit.

Burlingham’s experience, knowledge, and wealth of supportive research prove quite the opposite. The book has greatly influenced our approach to business and the approach of significant companies across the globe. Each year, hundreds of businesses from around the world descend on different parts of the companies for their annual Small Giants Leadership Summit, converging together to learn, share, lean on each other and gain powerful knowledge to return to their companies. We, along with countless other small businesses, are inspired by this new way of thinking.

The Small Giants Community is a testament to the belief that you don’t have to sacrifice your soul in search of success. These inspiring businesses are concerned with how their decisions affect those around them. How would these choices impact their families, and does it reflect their values as a brand and organization? How would expanding to another location serve the local community?

As keynote speakers for the Small Giants Summit in Dallas, TX, we delivered an inspiring talk on branding. The talk was a hit, and for the next few days, we were immersed in the world of purpose-driven business — surrounded by successful leaders and entrepreneurs, small business owners, and managers — all sharing and championing the importance of values-driven business and supporting each other.

One of the most valuable benefits of being a Small Giants member is the Small Giants Passport, where you’re allowed to visit different Small Giants businesses and learn in-depth about their operations and how they’re pursuing greatness. We’ve never been part of another business community where this kind of open, intimate learning takes place inside the walls of another business. The value is unbelievable.

To learn more about Small Giants, please check out their website or write us to learn more.

Sunny Bonnell profile picture
By Sunny Bonnell
Founder & CEO Motto®