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It gets to a time when a business has a hard look at themselves, should we expand or improve on what we know. At this point, the leaders are overcome with pressure to do the usual and seek to expand. Outside influence begins to shape what success looks like. This could be from employees, suppliers, customers, etc. A great company, however, decides for itself what success is and what they wish to achieve. A point also made in the sister the Small Giants, a book called Good To Great.
Anchor Brewing, one of the small giants, saw its popularity rise through the '80s. To keep up with demand, the owner realized he would have to expand soon. Maytag, the CEO pursued direct public offering. He then began having second thoughts about investors as they would affect his goals. He backed out at the end, keeping the company private. He focuses on providing quality and the brewer continued making beer the traditional way.
Great companies have owners who are able to link the needs of the business to the needs of the customers. They face constant challenges each day for example where to get new clients, how to keep new employees etc. A great book on overcoming these challenges is E-Myth.
As a small business owner, one has to make difficult decisions that match the company's goals and not the market trends. To define these goals read Traction.
The small giants in this book all had similar trends. They all looked to be intimately tied and involved with the communities in which they were in. These companies also developed real and strong relationships with their suppliers and customers.
Building a relationship with a customer can be easy. All businesses have a sort of relationship with the customers. For a small business, what separates this relationship is the emotional bond with the customer. They are able to involve themselves directly with the customer. To create this relationship, they have to be conscious of the customers' wants. Another wonderful book on this is Sticky Branding.
Clif Bar is an example where CEO Gary Erickson's marketing strategy was focused directly on connecting with the customers in the area and especially at the grassroots level. This provided the company with personal contact information and feedback from its customers. This kind of intimacy has been a huge contributor to Clif Bar's achievements. For more fun business examples like these read the book Contagious.
It is important for these small giants to be included in the community's consciousness. The company works hand in hand with the surrounding community in order for all of them to be successful. Good corporate social responsibility is key.
A sign of a great business is how they treat their employees. A point driven home in the book Creativity, Inc. In the case of the small giants, the companies had uniquely compassionate working places. The companies created a unique structure that would only work for them.
A workplace functions like little societies. Each section of the company is tasked with a specific thing in order to reach the ultimate company goal. Human needs should be carted for ensuring they are in the best mental, emotional, and physical condition to work. Creating an engaged workforce can be difficult. The perfect book to read on this subject is The Workplace Engagement Solution by David Harder.
As a business owner, it is your responsibility to decide how the business will look, act, and feel in the future. As the company keeps growing and passes the initial stumbling blocks, the business owner has less time to act and react to ensure the business is moving in an intended way. By setting a corporate structure, the business may hit its goals even in the absence of the CEO.
The leaders of small giants should be aware of workplace culture. The philosophy adopted should ensure the employees are happy and prideful to work there. After this environment is created, it is easy for employees and leaders to care for one another as well as stay together when the going gets tough. In the book Return On Courage, Ryan Berman talks about this as a company’s Believership.
Reell Precision Manufacturing, which produces motion controlled products, is governed by three partners. They ran Reel with values from the Judeo-Christian teachings. Every decision was made according to this and had to be agreed on unanimously. They achieved success by passionately investing in their beliefs.
Each of the small businesses in the book was started with the aim to change the world in some form. It is possible to achieve this using different management styles. According to the author, that is the beauty of being a private company.
These companies created their mojo by running the business exactly how they wanted. They were able to overcome the pressure to join other companies and be respected leaders in their chosen crafts.
Something Burlingham noted as well, is the passion the founders of the small giants had. They loved what they were doing and as a result, put in their best effort every day to make sure success was achieved. The book GRIT supports the idea that passion is a key component to success and longevity.
Bo Burlingham is a business journalist. He was an editor-at-large for Inc. magazine for 33 years. He has also authored some five other books, Small Giants included. This book made him one of the finalists of Financial Times Business Book of the Year in 2006. The Great Game of Business introduced a new concept of open-book management, this sold over 300,000 copies. It also made the list for the 100 best business books of all time.
He contributes to Forbes magazine in the annual Small Giants section, where he previews the best small giants in the year. He graduated from Princeton University in 1967, with a B.A in Public and International Affairs.
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Dr. Mohamed Ibrahim
October 29, 2022
Thanks for your business insights and ideas.