Strategically Staying Small: 25 Companies Focusing on Greatness Over Growth

Strategically Staying Small: 25 Companies Focusing on Greatness Over Growth

Small businesses have many competitive advantages over the big guys. Are you embracing these strengths or trying to quickly scale up and grow your business out of the ‘small’ label? While there isn’t one correct path, many small business owners do focus on growth in a quest to find more customers and bigger profits each year. However, today we are going to look at the other option – small giants who are focusing on greatness and are therefore strategically staying small.

The concept of “small giants” came out in a book by the same name, written by Bo Burlingham and published in 2007. Small Giants was a tribute to small businesses that “have rejected the pressure of endless growth to focus on more satisfying business goals…goals like being great at what they do…creating a great place to work...providing great customer service…making great contributions to their communities…and finding great ways to lead their lives.”

A decade ago, Bo Burlingham’s book put the spotlight on fourteen small businesses who were strategically staying small. Flash forward ten years and Bo Burlingham has teamed up with Forbes to identify the small giants of 2016.

The Best Small Companies in America list was created using the same criteria that was used in the original Small Giants book. This includes:

  • A focus on staying small even though they have the opportunity to grow much faster.
  • Evidence of financial health for ten years or more.
  • A reputation in the industry of being an outstanding company.
  • Recognition for their contributions to their community and society.
  • Privately owned and closely held.
  • Human-scale interactions where frontline employees and top leaders interact.
  • A certain charisma or mojo that makes you want to connect with the business.

With those criteria in mind, 25 companies were chosen for the designation of America’s Best Small Companies for 2016. These companies range from just 12 workers to over 1000, and report revenue from 1.8 million to 400 million. The list spans multiple industries, including science, technology, grocery, toys, sporting goods, food, design, finance, business services and more.

Some list highlights include:

  • Quality Bicycle Products in Bloomington, Minnesota, a company that goes beyond sales to also work with lobbyists and non-profits to advocate for pro-cycling government policies.
  • Gainesville Health & Fitness, a fitness club that boasts customer-retention rates about 30 percent higher than the industry average and is known as one of the best fitness clubs in the world, despite staying exclusively in Gainesville, Florida.
  • Tasty Catering in Elk Grove Village, Illinois, which has an unbelievable turnover rate of less than two percent and has helped employees get 12 of their own business ventures off the ground.
  • Abt Electronics in Chicago, Illinois, which has been able to successfully compete with giants like Best Buy and Amazon based on their amazing customer service.
  • Askinosie Chocolate in Springfield, Missouri, which has transformed farmers in Ecuador, Tanzania, Honduras and the Philippines from mere suppliers to business partners sharing profits.

That’s a quick snapshot of five of the companies, but to view the full list of 25, check out this Forbes article. In addition to getting some inspiration, reading about their strategies will also give you ideas on how to retain employees, deliver the ultimate customer service, and become a great small giant yourself.

At Smart Hustle, we always advocate for small business improvement, but this list of small giants reminds us that there are many ways to be great while strategically staying small. Learn how to use size to your competitive advantage and we just may see you featured in the next list of America’s Best Small Companies.

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