Small Giants Summary

1-Sentence-Summary: Small Giants is your guide to keeping your company little but mighty that will allow you to pass up deliberate growth for staying true to what’s really important, which is your ideals, time, passions, and doing what you do best so well that customers can’t help but flock to you.

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Small Giants Summary

Everybody knows that you have to figure out what works and scale it to build a successful business. Growth is the only way, and companies that don’t do it will fail. But what if that’s all wrong?

What if there’s a way to succeed and have everything you need without the stress of more clients, products, employees, and cash? And more importantly, without compromising your values?

Perhaps, there is. Bo Burlingham’s book Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big explains how.

Here are 3 of the most exciting entrepreneurship lessons I’ve learned from this book:

  1. It’s okay for your company to decide not to grow.
  2. Owners of little but mighty companies get to keep doing what they love by keeping things in their control.
  3. Small giants have a real soul because their employees are more passionate about their work.

When it comes to business, bigger isn’t always better! Let’s dive right in and see why!

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Lesson 1: You don’t have to grow your company if you don’t want to, and there are many benefits of staying put.

I never liked the idea of having a giant corporation because I know it would make me unhappy. I think most people would probably feel the same way. But the pressure to grow your business is severe, and it can be hard not to give in to it. 

What helps me and can help you is knowing that you don’t have to grow if you don’t want to, and there are many benefits of not expanding.  

A company that intentionally resists growth is known as a small giant. When faced with the decision to expand or not, everyone decided to favor their passions and values over becoming huge. 

W.L. Butler Construction Inc. is a perfect example. After its rapid expansion in the 70s and 80s, owner Bill Butler wasn’t happy. He wanted to know his employees personally and had too many to do that, so he cut his clients down from 25 to just 10.

That might seem like a bad move, but consider how much of an improvement it made to Butler’s life once he could interact with his team more personally. 

In small giants, relationships between employees and with customers are stronger. Each person in the company can have a sense of responsibility and pride in their work. 

Plus, smaller companies are more relatable and better at customer service, which the big ones can never have!

Lesson 2: If you own a company, you can keep doing what you love if you maintain the right control.

I took two business classes as part of my graduate degree. I learned a lot but hated constantly hearing about the “need” for venture capital. There I sat with two successful companies that have never used a single cent of other people’s money! 

The more I learned about venture capital, the worse it sounded because it seemed like borrowing money only took away how much control you’d have of your company.

One of the biggest issues for small giant founders is staying in charge of their company’s direction. That’s why many of them decide only to let a few people have ownership, and most of the time, they are only people within the company.

Part of the reason for this is that owners of these little businesses care a lot about the work they’re doing. They focus more on quality and their own satisfaction than on making a huge profit.

Anchor Brewing’s view on making beer is just one example of how this works. They’re so passionate about good beer that they’ve given up modern, efficient ways of brewing for more traditional methods that make better beer. For instance, they use copper kettles instead of steel ones and cool the beer in the night air rather than with ice.

If you really love what you do, it’s worth it to limit your expansion so you can keep your passions intentionally!

Lesson 3: Employees in small giant companies are more passionate about their work, which gives the business advantage.

Have you ever worked for a large corporation and felt like you were just another cog in the machine? Like the management was unreachable, and the culture seemed too formal or fake?

Small giants don’t have this problem. Instead, their tight-knit teams have soul, which makes the working atmosphere and quality of products top-notch. Employees of these companies enjoy meaning, motivation, and excitement in their work.

This is partly because the leadership has intentionally had employees consider what they like about the culture, especially how it makes them feel.

Clif Bar is just one example of this. Its owner discovered that team members knew the company’s heart better than he did whenever they talked about the emotions it makes them experience. As one employee put it, “You got that engine running, baby, and the sky’s the limit!”

Another factor that makes a small giant better than big corporations is that the owners begin them out of a desire to do something they love rather than greed. This intrinsic motivation makes them hire people with the same vision and passion as them. 

When people who are heading in the same direction with the same intensity get together, the momentum is unbeatable, and it shows in the soul these companies have

If you and your employees are your company’s biggest fans, you know you’re in a winning spot, and there’s no need to grow. You can be happy knowing that you’ll do just fine where you’re at.

Small Giants Review

I really liked Small Giants, and I think you will too if you’re a business-minded person. The idea of staying little is something I’ve always thought about, and I love the ideas this book gave me to make it happen for me. This book is a must-read if you’re a solopreneur or on a small team!

Who would I recommend the Small Giants summary to?

The 45-year-old CEO who’s at a crossroads between scaling and staying put, the 21-year-old that has an interest in entrepreneurship but doesn’t want to be overworked, and anyone who’d rather have fun in business than deal with growing too big.


Last Updated on July 23, 2023

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Luke Rowley

With over 450 summaries that he contributed to Four Minute Books, first as a part-time writer, then as our full-time Managing Editor until late 2021, Luke is our second-most prolific writer. He's also a professional, licensed engineer, working in the solar industry. Next to his day job, he also runs Goal Engineering, a website dedicated to achieving your goals with a unique, 4-4-4 system. Luke is also a husband, father, 75 Hard finisher, and lover of the outdoors. He lives in Utah with his wife and 3 kids.