February 05, 2012

Blog All Dog-eared Pages: Small Giants, Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big by Bo Burlingham

Not sure how long this has sat on my Amazon wishlist (which is doing a great job of saving huge slabs of trees from sitting around my flat unread...) but I finally got a copy as a Christmas present. It's a good treatise on what's important about running a business.

What's in the interest of the shareholders depends on who the shareholders are.

The shareholders who own the businesses in this book have other nonfinancial priorities in addition to their financial objectives. Not that they don't want to earn a good return on their investment, but it's not their only goal, or even necessarily their paramount goal.

Page 37, talking about spin-off companies
[The] new ventures had the effect of giving good people an avenue to grow and take on new challenges without having to find employment elsewhere

Page 52
Explaining her decision to stick with her own company rather than sign with a major label, [Ani] DiFranco told the New York Times in 1998, "I have to know for myself that there is an alternative to big corporations. I want to live in a world where one can and does choose to go to the local drugstore on the corner - that old chemist who's been there with his wife behind the counter for thirty years - instead of going to the Rite Aid or the Kmart."

Page 79
[The book The Discipline of Market Leaders] argued that, to be really successful, a company had to focus on providing one of three types of value to its customers: the best price, the best product, or the best overall solution.

Page 88
[Brian Grunert said] "The idea was to make something worth buying and then put it out there so that people could be attracted - or not."

Page 156
As Elizabeth Conlin put it in her Inc. article, UNBT had been founded on "the heretical notion that a company's has organic, almost preordained, limitations," and that if you exceeded those limitations and grew too fast, you would undermine your ability to provide excellent customer service, create a great workplace for your employees, and maximize shareholder returns. "We could grow faster, but it would cost us everything," [Carl Schmitt] told her. "In the bureaucracy of growth, you lose your distinctiveness."

Page 165
[Gary] Erickson [of Clif Bar] said "[...] The long-term [aim] for me is to be the chair of the company and contribute where I can - not in operations. I play with ideas and throw them into the pot."

Page 195
To me, the owners and leaders of these companies stand out for being remarkably in touch with, and focused on, what most of us would probably agree are the good things in life. By that, I mean that they are very clear in their own minds about what life has to offer at its best - in terms of exciting challenges, camaraderie, compassion, hope, intimacy, community, a sense of purpose, feelings of accomplishment and so on - and they have organised their businesses so that they and the people they work with can get it. When outsiders come into contact with such a business, they can't help but feel the attraction.

Page 199, Norm Brodsky talking about how he feels about business
"I think 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?"

Page 217
In business, after all, it's easy to confuse size with greatness, and getting bigger with getting better. When you stop and think about it, the connections between the two are tenuous at best, but - with all the attention paid to getting big and growing fast - it's easy to understand why most of us tend to equate them. By deciding to go for greatness rather than bigness, the small giants remind us that the two are not the same [...]

Posted by Adrian at February 5, 2012 11:32 PM | TrackBack

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