Burlingham comes at the subject from a different point of view than me, but it still applies to my clients. Although his book isn’t based on extensive, empirical research like the work of Jim Collins and his Stanford MBA students, he provides some interesting thoughts. For almost two decades, he was the editor of Inc. magazine, so obviously he had access to a lot of great companies. From those, he selected 14 for the 2005 first edition of the book. (Sadly, three of them had been sold when he updated the book in 2016.) One of the companies he covers in detail, and had previously written about in an Inc. magazine article, is Zingerman’s Deli in Ann Arbor, Mich., which is about a half-hour drive from my home. It’s not a huge company, but it is a great company. He also talks about Danny Meyer, a restaurateur and CEO of the Union Square Hospitality Group in New York City. I had the privilege of hearing Meyer speak a few years ago about his passion: the intersection of hospitality and humanity.
As I was reading “Small Giants,” I visualized Frank Moran, Sam Walton, Steve Jobs, and J. Willard Marriott — or think about one of your own favorite business legends. Their incredible attention to detail was of great benefit to their clients and customers, and the special treatment and care they gave their teams was unbelievable.
Here’s my thought: If you’re like one of my three clients, I would highly recommend getting the book. Don’t feel guilty about not wanting to build a $100 million business. Don’t let someone else set your goals or agendas, or steal your joy. Bigger isn’t always better, and Burlingham shares some great stories that will be encouraging to you.