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Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big

Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big [Kindle Edition]

Bo Burlingham
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This well-written book should inspire thousands of entrepreneurs to reject a mantra of growth for growth’s sake in favor of a passionate dedication to becoming the absolute best. Bo Burlingham reminds us of a vital truth: big does not equal great, and great does not equal big. (Jim Collins, author of Good to Great)

It aims to do for small private companies what In Search of Excellence did two decades ago for big public companies: shine a light on a handful of business practices the author admires, and which he believes are the reason some companies consistently do better than others. (Joseph Nocera, The New York Times)

Small Giants is one of the most relevant and articulate arguments for staying bold and creative, intimate and manageable as I have ever read. I guarantee that expression and the arguments for staying small will cause a collective sigh of relief from thousands of entrepreneurs. (Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop)

With new management books arriving by the boatload, Bo Burlingham has somehow managed the near impossible—he’s given us a true original. Moreover, in the process he may have ‘discovered’ the most interesting and under-reported corner of the U.S. economy. In short, Small Giants is a Large Masterpiece. Bo’s reporting is stupendous, and his writing and storytelling skills make the book equal parts fun and profound. (Tom Peters, author of In Search of Excellence)

The fourteen companies that Bo Burlingham... features in his new book Small Giants demonstrate conclusively that a company can resist the temptation to keep getting bigger and bigger—and wind up better for it. (Cecil Johnson, The Fort Worth Star- Telegram)

For all you harried entrepreneurs out there, Bo Burlingham has a reassuring message: Relax. Bigger isn’t necessarily better. The wonderful stories in Small Giants show you how to prosper by retaining the vision of excellence that got you into business in the first place. (Rosabeth Moss Kanter, author of Confidence)

Bo Burlingham’s done for private companies what Jim Collins did for public companies in Good to Great. (Steve Pearlstein, The Washington Post)


How maverick companies have passed up the growth treadmill — and focused on greatness instead.

It’s an axiom of business that great companies grow their revenues and profits year after year. Yet quietly, under the radar, a small number of companies have rejected the pressure of endless growth to focus on more satisfying business goals. Goals like being great at what they do . . . creating a great place to work . . . providing great customer service . . . making great contributions to their communities . . . and finding great ways to lead their lives.

In Small Giants, veteran journalist Bo Burlingham takes us deep inside fourteen remarkable companies that have chosen to march to their own drummer. They include Anchor Brewing, the original microbrewer; CitiStorage Inc., the premier independent records-storage business; Clif Bar & Co., maker of organic energy bars and other nutrition foods; Righteous Babe Records, the record company founded by singer-songwriter Ani DiFranco; Union Square Hospitality Group, the company of restaurateur Danny Meyer; and Zingerman’s Community of Businesses, including the world-famous Zingerman’s Deli of Ann Arbor.

Burlingham shows how the leaders of these small giants recognized the full range of choices they had about the type of company they could create. And he shows how we can all benefit by questioning the usual definitions of business success. In his new afterward, Burlingham reflects on the similarities and learning lessons from the small giants he covers in the book.


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4.0 von 5 Sternen interessante Einblicke 28. Dezember 2011
Ich musste das Buch für eine Englischvorlesung in der Uni kaufen, aber es lohnt sich.
Das Buch ist gut geschrieben und auch für nicht Muttersprachler gut verständlich (es kommt mit erstaunlich wenig betriebswirtschaftlichen Fachausdrücken aus).
Es bietet interessante Einblicke in kleine (leider nur US-amerikanische) Unternehmen, die bestimmte Dinge anders machen als ihre großen Konkurrenten, dadurch aber besonders gut sind und sich hervorheben.
In den Kapiteln beleuchtet Burlingham immer einen besonderen Aspekt der Unternehmensführung und hat durch seine ausgiebige Recherche immer mehrere praktische Beispiele dazu.
Da die Beispiele manchmal etwas langatmig sind gibt es nur vier Sterne.
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4.0 von 5 Sternen kleine Riesen 12. November 2013
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
Dieses Buch habe ich meinem genialen Sohn geschenkt. Er bekam das Potenzial in die Wiege gelegt, wirklich Großartiges für diese Welt zu leisten.
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5.0 von 5 Sternen The "heart and soul" of the American economy 15. Februar 2006
Von Robert Morris - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
During a GE annual meeting when discussing entrepreneurial companies, Jack Welch explained why he admires them: "For one, they communicate better. Without the din and prattle of bureaucracy, people listen as well as talk; and since there are fewer of them they generally know and understand each other. Second, small companies move faster. They know the penalties for hesitation in the marketplace. Third, in small companies, with fewer layers and less camouflage, the leaders show up very clearly on the screen. Their performance and its impact are clear to everyone. And, finally, smaller companies waste less. They spend less time in endless reviews and approvals and politics and paper drills. They have fewer people; therefore they can only do the important things. Their people are free to direct their energy and attention toward the marketplace rather than fighting bureaucracy."

Presumably Bo Burlingham agrees with Welch, perhaps adding that the size of a company such as GE does not determine whether or not it has these characteristics. Rather, he would identify 14 companies which he calls "small giants." They range from Selima Inc. (a two-person fashion design and dressmaking firm) to O.C. Tanner (a company with 1,700 hundred employees and annual sales of $350-million). Although quite different in size and nature, Burlingham has identified seven common threads:

"First, I could see that, unlike most entrepreneurs, their founders and leaders had recognized the full range of choices they had about the type of company they would create."

"Second, the leaders had overcome the enormous pressures on successful companies to take paths they had not chosen and did not necessarily want to follow."

"Third, each company had an extraordinarily intimate relationship with the local city, town, or county in which it did business -- a relationship that went well beyond the usual concept of `giving back.'"

"Fourth, they cultivated exceptionally intimate relationships with customers and suppliers, based on personal contact, one-on-one interaction, and mutual commitment to delivering on promises."

"Fifth, the companies also had what struck me as unusually intimate workplaces."

"Sixth, I was impressed by the variety of corporate structures and modes of governance that these companies had come up with."

"Finally, I noticed the passion that the leaders brought to what the company did. They loved the subject matter, whether it be music, safety lighting, food, special effects, constant torque hinges, beer, records storage, construction, dining, or fashion."

No doubt there are countless other companies which also meet these criteria. Insofar as they and the 14 "small giants" which Burlingham discusses are concerned, nature of business is as irrelevant as size. If I understand Burlingham correctly, they are driven by the determination to be the best at what they do, to have close ties to their communities, to create a great workplace environment, to provide excellent service to their customers, and to be terrific customers to their suppliers. They regard profitability as a by-product of doing those initiatives. They wouldn't normally reduce an area of their operations to increase profitability (although sometimes they might have to). If they reduced it at all, it would be to achieve those other goals.

Burlingham suggests that his book be viewed as a "field report" on a group of extraordinary companies, each of which has (his word) "mojo" which he discusses on page 195. Although "small giants" may not be the backbone of the American economy, they are "its heart and soul, and they are setting a new standard for excellence on Main Street." When concluding this brilliant book, Burlingham asserts that businesses "are the building blocks, not just of an economy but of a whole way of life. What they do and how they do it have an impact that extends far beyond the economic sphere. They shape the communities we live in and the values we live by and the quality of the lives we lead. If businesses do not hold themselves to a high standard, the entire society suffers." Well-said.

Frankly, I envy those who have not as yet read Small Giants because, among its many benefits, it offers an eloquent, indeed compelling affirmation of values we should but do not always live by. With all due respect to Burlingham's business acumen, I appreciate even more his obvious faith in what can -- and should -- be accomplished if more of us became "small giants" of decency and integrity. It is no coincidence that many of those on Fortune's annual list of the most highly-admired companies are also on its list of those most profitable.

Burlingham urges his readers to visit [...] where he plans to provide a form by which they can nominate other companies also worthy of recognition as "small giants." Leaders of the original 14 will then select the next group which will be recognized in Inc. magazine at which Burlingham serves as editor at large.

Those who share my high regard for this book are urged to check out Jason Jennings' Less Is More and Think Big, Act Small as well as Jim O'Toole's Creating the Good Life, Michael Ray's The Ultimate Goal, David Maister's Practice What You Preach, Robert Tomasko's Bigger Isn't Always Better, Michael George's Fast Innovation, and Yoram (Jerry) Wind and co-authors' The Power of Impossible Thinking.
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5.0 von 5 Sternen For everyone and anyone who loves life and wants to build what they care about into something quite meaningful 2. Januar 2006
Von Craig Matteson - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
As an entrepreneur, I can relate to the business situations, tribulations, and growth pains described in this book. "Small Giants" presents various aspects of business in the life of an entrepreneur through the stories of several businesses of various sizes, types, and positions in their life cycle. Among the requirements the author used in selecting them was the idea that the private owners had made a choice to be a certain kind of business. They had the opportunity to go public or grow through franchising or grow by taking on a level of project that would require them to scale and transform into something new, but when faced with this they decided to do something else. Why and for what? The author, Bo Burlingham, also looked for companies that were admired and emulated in their own industries. And he also looked for companies that had been cited for recognition by third parties.

The book is arranged by various topics rather than by business. He draws in examples from a few of the businesses in each chapter as appropriate to illustrate the point he is making. The first chapter, "Free to Choose", discusses the realization that each of these businesspeople had that they did not have to follow the public corporation path of going public, or giving up what they loved doing in order to pursue the maximum bottom line profit. It is interesting to see what conclusions each of them came to and the direction they chose. The second chapter discusses the various approaches various businesses take to "bosses". Some of these guys run the business themselves from a strong center. Others are very egalitarian and try to delegate a great deal. There is a fascinating range of approaches to this issue.

The third chapter discusses the idea of uniqueness. That some of these businesses cannot translate all that well into another company. The analogy is that if you moved the Mona Lisa to another museum and put it in a different frame, it would become a different experience even though it was the same painting. Another interesting point and in fact it can become a competitive advantage for certain businesses when this is understood.

The fourth chapter discusses how various of these small giants build ties to their local communities and to their customers. Again, it becomes a competitive advantage, but for many of these businesspeople it is much more about their quality of life and how that grows out of why they run the businesses they do and why they run them the way they do. The results seem to be much more of a piece of a single vision than a calculated tactic derived from studying Porter's Five Forces chart.

The fifth chapter turns inward and discusses the culture of intimacy many of these businesses have with the employees and their customers. It isn't just about knowing them and being friendly; it is more about making sure they have a great experience and feel good about coming to work and coming back for another meal, or making another purchase or giving another order. It is about being flexible enough to meet the needs of the person as much as possible. The sixth chapter is about the same kind of thing, but from the owner's point of view. What is it about the business that delights them, that makes them want to get up everyday? What is it about their business that they want to preserve so much that they give up the standard growth and profit models to have?

The seventh chapter deals with succession. Who owns the business? The people who own the stock or the people who carry on the spirit of the company? It is not necessarily straightforward for someone who cares about the values of the organization they built. On the other hand, business is constantly changing and nothing can be preserved forever. Also, as one of the "stakeholders" pointed out about their employee ownership program, "If someone were to come along and offer $200 per share, we would have to look at it." So, the founder's dream is for sale even by those sworn to carry on his or her dream; if the price is right. If that is so, then it is hard to fault the founder the heirs from taking the same point of view, is it?

The last chapter is called "The Art of Business", but should really be called "The Art of Living a Great Life Through Building The Right Business", but that would be too long. The basic idea is that these small giants contribute a lot to the culture and well being of everyone associated with them. More people should think about building them and realize that we aren't all destined for being cogs in the large-corporation machinery. It is a nice way to finish up this very fine and, I believe, important book.

Thanks to Bo Burlingham for writing it!

Thanks to YOU for reading it and CONGRATS to those of you who have the guts, courage, and tenacity for building your own small giant!
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5.0 von 5 Sternen Community Connection 13. Februar 2006
Von John P. Stack - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
I read a lot of business books. I find it interesting to hear the different lessons that people get out of a business book. My take-away on this book is the importance of the relationship these businesses have with their communities. When I finished reading Small Giants, I thought of my own company and what it would be like if we got really big and left the town we grew up in. We have been a part of our community for over twenty-five years. Our associates appreciate where we live and actively participate in charities, social programs, civic boards, and public services that allow us to give something back to a community that has been very good to us. I wondered whether we would still be as active and committed if our company became too big to remain in one city and had to spread out around the country. I don't think so. There have been a lot of really big companies that started small in a hometown, made great contributions, and left great legacies, but then moved on and lost that connection to their communities. It made me sad to think of what they'd left behind, and what we might leave behind if our company, SRC Holdings, eventually took the same path.
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5.0 von 5 Sternen Finally a book that discusses the true bottom line for small businesses! 2. Januar 2006
Von Robert Levin - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
Many people start/buy a small business because they want the freedom to do things their way. But once a small business becomes successful, you get pressure from many different sources to get even bigger. Those sources include friends & family, investment bankers, suppliers, prospective partners, etc. Most often that growth means either taking a lot more risk, ceding control, or working even harder - some of the very things that entrepreneurs want to avoid. So often a small business owner gets torn between the conventional wisdom of "grow or die" and their gut.

In Small Giants, Bo Burlingham brilliantly writes about 14 companies whose owners decided to do things "their way". These owners walked away from millions of dollars to stay true to themselves - and in return became even more spectacular. Mandatory reading for any entrepreneur who gets confused as to what success really means.
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5.0 von 5 Sternen A thought-provoking book 14. Februar 2006
Von Jeff - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
I really enjoyed reading this book. It was good to be reminded about the importance of people and community within business and how focusing on them can often be the difference between a "good" company and a "great" company. It was also interesting to see that the "brass ring" comes in many different forms and that greatness can't only be measured by the size of a company.

Among other things, I was drawn to the idea of supplying customer service training to the hourly employees. The book gave several examples of companies that had done this and experienced very positive results. Big things like employees developing a more "customer minded" approach to their

work or smaller things like smiling and shaking hands with potential customers that might be touring the plant. This is something that I am interested in implementing in our company.

There are some other points worth mentioning, namely:

1) The idea of developing Value Disciplines (We need to define where our company fits in and where we can improve)

a) Best Practice

b) Best Product

c) Best Overall Solutions (A combination of all three)

2) The idea that a company's ability to achieve the kind of intimacy with employees it needs to grow the business depends to some extent on the relationships between the "person in charge" and the employees.

3) Accomplishing growth

a) Are the right people on the bus?

-Must have people that care

-Need to be motivated by more than money

b) Is the bus in good running order?

-Great internal communications

-Great Coordination between departments

- Great Follow through

4) I liked the emphasis placed on making sure to remind the employees in "UNEXPECTED" ways how much the company cares for them.

Overall, a good read with a lot of take-homes.
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Fifth, the companies also had what struck me as unusually intimate workplaces. They were, in effect, functional little societies that strove to address a broad range of their employees needs as human beingscreative, emotional, spiritual, and social needs as well as economic ones. &quote;
Markiert von 68 Kindle-Nutzern
That sense of community rests on three pillars. The first is integritythe knowledge that the company is what it appears, and claims, to be. It does not project a false image to the world. The second pillar is professionalismthe company does what it says its going to do. It can be counted on to make good on its commitments. The third pillar is the one weve been discussingthe direct, human connection, the effect of which is to create an emotional bond, based on mutual caring. &quote;
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The second imperative for creating a culture of intimacy involves reminding people in unexpected ways how much the company cares about them. The crucial word there is unexpected. &quote;
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