America is full of small businesses, businesses like mom & pop grocery stores, printers, clothing stores, photo studios, computer repair shops, and restaurants. Many of these businesses are their customers' first choice when they shop because the customers know that those businesses always give their best. Those business owners also know how important their customers, and the repeat business and positive word-of-mouth advertising are to their success. Success will lead to growth of the business, which may have the unintended consequence of alienating those customers who made them so successful. Managing success and growth may be a business owner's greatest challenge. How fourteen companies managed their success and growth is the subject of Bo Burlingham's Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big.
Burlingham, editor-at-large of Inc. Magazine, spoke with the heads of fourteen privately held companies for the book, some of them so famous that one would hardly guess that they are still privately held. He met with Fritz Maytag of San Francisco's Anchor Brewing, Ani DiFranco of Buffalo's Righteous Babe Records, and the founders of Ann Arbor's Zingerman's Community of Businesses, and Gary Anderson, co-founder of Clif Bar & Co. All of these multi-million dollar companies faced obstacles to growth at one time or another, but for them the answer was always found in putting quality before quantity. In many of the cases cited by Burlingham, growth was more of a problem than success. Company owners were often faced with the problem of diluting their product and reputation for the sake of meeting customer demand. They all chose to be the ultimate deciders of their fates.
I found this book to be quite inspiring. It encourages excellence in all that we do and reminds us that good relationships; whether personal or professional, with employees and customers are our greatest asset.