small giantsNotes from Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big by Bo Burlingham

My rating: 9/10

Small giants, one characteristic immediately jumps out at you. Like Righteous Babe, they are all so intimately connected to the place where they’re located.

“to make worthy contributions to the common good.”

“If he acts to reduce the returns of his enterprise in order to exercise his ‘social responsibility,’ he is spending his own money, not someone else’s. If he wishes to spend his money on such purposes, that is his right, and I cannot see that there is any objection to his doing so.”

They argued that, to be really successful, a company had to focus on providing one of three types of value to its customers: the best price, the best product, or the best overall solution.

“My job is to do whatever it takes to make the customer happy, and there aren’t many restrictions on that.

There’s something else shaping the work environment of the companies in this book—something that promotes a profound sense of belonging, of psychic ownership—and it’s a necessary, if not a sufficient, condition for achieving what the companies aspire to.

That other factor is, once again, intimacy.

By that, I mean a relationship so close employees never doubt that the company, its leaders, and the other people they work with care about them personally and will stand by them through thick and thin as long as they hold up their end of the bargain.

“I’ve always thought it was more fun and satisfying to have all chiefs and no Indians,” he once said in an interview with Harvard Business Review (HBR). “That was one of my ideas—to have a small group of people, where everyone knows they’re all interrelated and where, as far as possible, everybody is in charge and nobody is looking over anyone’s shoulder and there are no time clocks.”

We’re all in this together, and we don’t know what we’re doing either, so come on and join in.

To begin with, you need to get the basics right. That starts with making sure you have the right people on the bus.

If you want a company that cares, you need people who care, and they need to be motivated by more than money.

The company became a reflection of my values and their values, which were the same.”

In addition to having the right people on board, you need to keep the bus in good running condition.

It takes well-designed, appropriate, and values-driven systems and processes to support and create the kind of cultures we’re all going after.”

“We already had the 3 Steps to Great Service,”

5 Steps to Handling Customer Complaints, Steps to Order Accuracy, the 3 Steps to Great Finance, the 4 Steps to Productive Resolution of Differences, the 5 Steps to Bottom-Line Change, and on and on.

“1. Figure out what the customer wants. 2. Get it for them—accurately, politely, enthusiastically. 3. Go the extra mile.”

The first imperative involves articulating, demonstrating, and imbuing the company with a higher purpose.

That purpose may relate to the work that the business does, or the way that the business does it, or the good that comes from doing it, or some combination of the three, but however you frame the higher purpose, it serves the same function.

Having a great business is one way of making a better world.

The second imperative for creating a culture of intimacy involves reminding people in unexpected ways how much the company cares about them.

“We stay small because I want to know everyone,” he said. “When you don’t, you’re too big.”I need to have people around me who are brighter than me. She’s one of them.”

Note: jen would be the moral highground person – the feelings person

every new business represents an attempt by its founder, or founders, to reorder the world in some way.

“to do what is ‘right’ even when it does not seem to be profitable, expedient, or conventional.”

take an action “only when [it] is confirmed unanimously by others concerned”

“One who sails by on excuses will drown in a sea of mediocrity.”

“When we take care of customers, we take care of ourselves.”

“We’re only as good as our last frame job.”

“A happy customer is the best job security you can get.”

“You can spill some milk if you don’t kill the cow.” “Values don’t break. They crumble.” “Our biggest competition is mediocrity.”

“I tell people there are three stages to every business,” he said. “The start-up phase, the throw-up phase, and the grow-up phase.

“managing isn’t just about learning how to motivate people. It’s also about learning how not to demotivate them.”

one of my biggest responsibilities is letting people off the hook in situations like that.

‘Don’t worry. I could have done it myself.’

‘Okay, but understand that nobody checks hours. We check productivity.’ We’re on the honor system as far as overtime goes. You have to come to us and explain.”

company without profit is dangerously close to not being around at all.

On the other hand, don’t go goofing off or fiddling around.”

limited growth offers more opportunities than fast growth does.”

measured and limited growth,

“Un-cola banking”

It occurred to him that customers, too, might like to get Walla Walla onions, and so he began importing huge quantities of them each July. UNBT would give them away in ten-pound bags, along with recipes.

a company’s growth has organic, almost preordained, limitations,” and that, if you exceeded those limitations and grew too fast, you would undermine your ability to provide excellent customer service, create a great workplace for your employees, and maximize shareholder returns. “We could grow faster, but it would cost us everything,” he told her. “In the bureaucracy of growth, you lose your distinctiveness.”

His job would be, first, to develop a culture, a modus operandi, and a set of challenges that would allow him to attract and hold on to the best employees he could find. Then he had to make sure the bank provided a level of service that would bring in customers willing to pay a premium to do business with UNBT.

Schmitt turned away people who just wanted to buy, say, one of UNBT’s high-yielding certificates of deposit. He was interested only in long-term customers who would do all their banking with UNBT.

“He’s fun to work with…He’s colorful, buoyant, a real freethinker, which you don’t see too much of in this business.”

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Note: we should be doing a quartely giveaway tied to food

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prima inter pares—first among equals,

the difficulty goes up exponentially as you add people,”

“My idea of marketing is that you look at the market and the customers, and you ask, ‘What do they need and how can we give it to them?’”

(1) embrace reality; (2) define the strategy; (3) get the right people in place; (4) get marketing into the company; (5) harness technology first;(6) change the culture; and (7) improve operations.

the owners and leaders of these companies stand out for being remarkably in touch with, and focused on, what most of us would probably agree are the good things in life.

If there’s one thing that every founder and leader in this book has in common with the others, it is a passion for what their companies do. They love it, and they have a burning desire to share it with other people. They thrive on the joy of contributing something great and unique to the world.

It all comes down to, are you happy with yourself when you tackle a new day?”

think you need to feel in your gut that whatever you do is the most interesting, exciting, worthwhile thing you could be doing at that moment.

Even if they may stray off course from time to time, their love of their work shows them the way back.

any great product or service is the end result of its own particular creative process, and whoever is doing the creating must love the process as much as the end result.

My work is a joy to me. It’s not work. I don’t want it to become work.”

Note: mortgage360 should be a role model in the industry

I’m not sure we can say that small giants are the backbone of the American economy, but they certainly are its heart and its soul, and they are setting a new standard for excellence on Main Street.