In the Tradition of Business Classics
Rishikesha T. Krishnan
SMALL GIANTS: COMPANIES THAT CHOOSE TO BE GREAT INSTEAD OF BIG by Bo Burlingham Penguin, Delhi, 2007, 224 pp., 395
September 2007, volume 31, No 9

This book continues in the tradition of contemporary business classics like In Search of Excellence, Built to Last, and Good to Great, but with an important difference—it is focused on ‘small giants’, fourteen American companies that though small in size (number of employees) have defied conventional wisdom and established a distinctive position for themselves in the eyes of industry observers and their peers. These companies are driven not by growth, publicity, or share-holder value, but by ‘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’ (p. xvii). In other words, they are committed to excellence in whatever they do. And, they are profitable too! Bo Burlingham describes all these companies as having mojo, a mysterious quality that is an amalgam of having a soul, harmonious relationships, an inner strength that comes from the broader goals these companies pursue and the character of the personalities of their founders.

It is this mojo that translates into happy employees, delighted customers, and committed suppliers. This book reminds us of many of the virtues of outstanding small businesses—excellent employee relationships, a strong commitment to quality and customer satisfaction, and a missionary-like zeal to remain committed to a set of core values. Behind these enterprises are entrepreneurs who really care about their people, and maintain high levels of transparency in their policies and practices. They debate strategic business issues intensely, and with all key stakeholders.

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