I’ve never read a book quite like Small Giants. Most books, like John Maxwell books, are written with the chapters using the following format:
- Three keys to the principal
- Quote from famous person
- Summary of Principal
Small Giants takes a completely different format. It’s 100% story. All anecdotes and case studies in an engaging narrative format. That said, it’s difficult to extract clear principles from each chapter when you don’t have a framework for which each chapter is written.
If you’re the type of person who finds inspiration from pioneers and other successful entrepreneurs, and you can curl up next to a fire and read nonfiction, then this book is definitely for you.
Each leader of the companies in this book was hyper-aware of what kind of company they wanted to create and why they were creating it. When growth comes, the temptation is to focus on sustaining and feeding this growth.
True winners stop for a moment to evaluate what growth will do to the company and its values. The companies that burnt out or went bankrupt got so distracted by growth and success that it leads to being stretched too thin or compromising core values.
Find your true North and do not deviate from it. Invest in people and legacy and building a quality product, and pursue greatness instead of bigness.
The key takeaway for me out of this book was the fact that business should be fun. If it becomes overly stressful, stop and evaluate when it stopped being a joy. Life is far too short to be overworked and hate what you do. Build a company you love, build up others, and give more than you get. That is why we started this in the first place.
Chapter Principals (Cheat Sheet)
As I mentioned, you really have to read the chapter in order to find the principal. The brain is better at taking a principal and breaking it down instead of trying to figure it out themselves.
Below is a metaphorical “puzzle box” to reference while you’re piecing together the puzzle of each chapter:
- Free to Choose. You are in control of how big or small or fast or slow your company grows. Getting big is not the goal necessarily. Building a company you are proud of is. If you want to have freedom and choice, you have to fight for it. You can say “no” in order to keep your options open and choose how far and how fast to grow.
- Who’s in Charge Here? You’re not a victim to failure or success. You are in charge. In this chapter, you’ll see business owners confronted with decisions to grow, get bigger, go go go. You’ll see their soul searching they did to find what was most important.
- The Mona Lisa Principle. The Mona Lisa would not be as famous if it wasn’t in the Louvre, France, if it wasn’t lit and guarded the way it was. Location means a lot. This chapter focuses on social good and how you can invest and grow your community and empower your people to follow suit. You’ll also see practical ways you can do so.
- Ties That Bind. “Enlightened hospitality” is a key concept in this chapter. It’s the emotional skill involving the ability to make customers feel that you’re on their side. The 5 values of hospitality are, in order of importance: caring for each other (team); caring for guests (customers); caring for the community; caring for suppliers; and caring for investors and profitability.
- A Culture of Intimacy. Create a culture where people feel like an owner and are treated like one. This is where companys core values are woven into the fabric of each employee and stakeholder. Mission statements flow out of this higher purpose, higher purpose does not flow out of mission statements. There are great stories of how a company can do more than provide financially for people, but really become anchors in people’s lives. This is really where legacy comes into play.
- Galt’s Gulch. Building off the last chapter, you’ll see leaders and founders figure out how to shape the world inside their company’s walls, and how that can go on to affect how that company shapes or reorders the world at large in some way. Think micro impacting the macro.
- How Small Giants Fail. Pretty straightforward here, but there are a lot of great financial tips and ways to consider profitability and growth. The three key components in here is how to focus on steady margins; healthy balance sheets; and having a sound business model.
- Pass It On. The most important thing in this life arguably is legacy. How does one build legacy and share what you have with others. Think of your 40 year goals and work backward from there
- The Art of Business. There’s no right or wrong way to do business. Focus on your strengths and be true to yourself. Hire for your weaknesses. Most importantly, enjoy the heck out of what you do.