Book Review – Small Giants

A management consultant YPP works with recommended a number of business books for us to read recently. I have to admit, I am someone who generally finds business books either very dull or too simplistic; I don’t want to read an entire book to glean a few truly new ideas or concepts that I haven’t already come across in my years as a business owner. However, I have been very pleasantly surprised by our recent experiences with some of these, so Cindy and I have decided to launch the YPP Book Club. We’ll provide you with our review each month of a business book that we believe is excellent and informative.

Our first review is Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big. While this was first published in 2005, we finally just read it and were excited about it. We reevaluated our own growth goals several years ago and realized that we had no desire to become a very large company. For us to accomplish that meant a substantial change in what we consider the core of our business: our ability to know our clients, understand their business, and adapt services quickly to meet their needs.

Small Giants is about companies like YPP who have chosen to stay “small”, but can still achieve success. The author interviews 14 diverse companies of all sizes, from 2 to over 1900 employees and a variety of industries, and then identifies the similar traits he found among all of them. “Success” for all of them includes sustained profitability, connections with their community, strong relationships with their clients, and engaging workplaces. Growth simply for the sake of growth isn’t all that it’s made out to be, and many small companies will lose what makes them Small Giants by trying to do that.

I do have to disagree with one aspect of this book. The author tells the story of a PEO owner who struggled with his business and believes that the only way a PEO can be successful is to become very large. I know this PEO owner and have the highest regard for his knowledge and business, which he has developed into one of the largest in the country, but I fundamentally disagree with the idea that companies in some industries have to become huge to be successful. The most successful PEO’s in the country, defined as the most profitable, are smaller ones!

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

Reviewer: Sandra Dickerson, co-CEO, Your People Professionals.

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