Small Giants: Choosing Great Instead of Big

When we embarked on our entrepreneurial journey, we began with a clear purpose, articulated vision and set of guiding values. Unlike the majority of the early millennial businesses that attempt to emulate the startling growth of trump-esque 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 strive to make a difference, not an extra dime.

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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 that were entwined into the fabric of inspiring organizations. The organizations all 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 the business, and the know why they want it. Knowing their purpose in this way enables them to lead their organization more effectively, without sacrificing the soul.

2. The Community Factor

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

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 the relationships they engage in with the utmost integrity.

4. Employee Factor

Small Giants recognize that in order to be a truly great organization your employees need to be advocates of your business. As such, these organizations employee an ’employee first’ approach, valuing their happiness and wellbeing 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’s what 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 6 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. You must take on more clients, more employees, and spread across more locations. We’re told to grow and grow until you 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 proves quite the opposite. We, along with countless other small businesses, are inspired by this new way of thinking. The book has become a great influence on our approach to business, and the approach of thousands of businesses across the globe. Each year, hundreds of businesses from around the world descend on different parts of the country for their annual Small Giants Leadership Summit, converging together to learn, share, lean on each other and gain powerful knowledge to take back to their companies.

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 the people around them. How would expanding to another location serve the local community? How would these choices impact their employees and their families, and does it reflect their values as a brand and organization?

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At the end of September, Sunny and I were asked to speak at the Small Giants Summit in Dallas, TX, and delivered a talk on branding and archetypes. The talk was a hit, and for the next few days, we were immersed in the Small Giants world — 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 given the opportunity to visit different Small Giants businesses and learn in-depth about their operations and how they’re pursuing greatness. The value is unbelievable. We’ve never been part of another business community where this kind of open, intimate learning takes place inside the walls of another business.

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