in 111 Books in 2011

#34/111: Small Giants

What is it about?

Bo Burlingham presents eleven different companies which chose not to grow extraordinarily although they had the possibility to. He tries to show what makes them special.

Key points?

Build a culture: Burlingham names this mojo, but it’s basically corporate culture. He observed that companies which grow fast often lose their culture. A great example is Zappos which wasn’t covered in the book but is famous for its culture.

You don’t have to grow: Your company don’t have to become a conglomerate. If you can target a niche, which is profitable enough, go for it. Even on a higher scale this is true, if you look at the merger of AOL and Warner Bros.

Build strong relationships with your customers and suppliers: This is an other differentiation point of these small giants. Their relationship with customers and suppliers is below average. This allows them to be suit their customer’s needs.


I think the biggest problem is the format. It’s a mix of long interviews with lots of quoted speech and short descriptive texts about their methods. It’s hard to read and often the interviews are too lengthy and aren’t really focused. If he had chosen the form of an interview, like in Founders at Work, that is Q&A-based, the book would be more pleasurable to read.

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