Choosing to be GREAT instead of BIG – Takeaways from the 2015 Small Giants Summit

by Kathy Steele

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How do you define business success?

Is it … Happy Clients, Exceptional Workplace, Engaged Employees, Ability to Give Back, Net Profits? … For me, it was all of the above. Months before I founded Red Caffeine, I was introduced to the Small Giants Community. I immediately connected with the small businesses and guiding principles that Bo Burlingham, co-founder of the Small Giants community, identified in his book Small Giants: Choosing to be Great Instead of Big.

How could you run a business any other way?

These values were key ingredients for the reconstruction of my company and the business model I developed when launching Red Caffeine. Each year the Small Giants community hosts an annual gathering of Small Giants leaders from around the world for three days of challenges, learning, relationship building and all things Small Giants. The best part of attending the 2015 Small Giants Summit in Dallas, TX, was the opportunity to exchange ideas with companies that share our values. Between the three mini-Passport Events, where we toured a Small Giant’s business and learned about their company culture and operations, and the featured speakers’ presentations, I was very excited to bring the lessons I learned and the overall takeaways from this summit back to my company. Here’s a summary of a few of the most notable takeaways:

"Make Love in the Workplace"

Dave Mammano, Founder and CEO of NextStepU and author of Make Love in the Workplace has an overarching belief that “if his team is thriving, his business is too.” He listed a few easy ways any company can create a more engaged environment.

  • Field Trips – Host a Bocce Ball tournament or something else that will get everyone out of the office.
  • Celebrate – Have some fun and dress up for Halloween.
  • Recognition – Recognize outstanding employees with monthly awards, something as simple as a gas card or a gift card to a coffee shop.
  • CEO Review – Yep, ask your employees to grade an annual report card for the top dog.
  • Birthday Cards – Beyond your employees, go the extra mile and celebrate the birthdays of your employees’ kids.

All Employees Want P.A.L.

Paul Spiegelman, Chief Culture Officer of Stericycle and another co-founder of the Small Giants, explained P.A.L. and how every business should build this into their process to ensure their employees feel P.A.L.

  • What is P.A.L.?
    • P – to have a Purpose
    • A – to be Appreciated
    • L – to Learn

"Use Storytelling as a Way to Communicate Vision"

Another lesson shared by Paul Spiegelman was the importance of storytelling and that you don’t have to be a small company to have a tight-knit culture. When Stericycle began rapidly growing, they brainstormed how to maintain a unified culture across all locations. Stericycle produced monthly videos where the CEO spoke to their national and international staff about how their mission and vision helps achieve operational goals. Even though their company is spread across the globe, you can feel a closeness in the company.

3 Traits that Define a Small Giant

Adam Dickens, Red Caffeine’s Production Manager, also attended this conference. At the end of the three days, he was able to pinpoint three shared character traits of Small Giants.

  • Trustworthy + Open – Small Giants are so willing to share! Even though there are several companies who are competitors in part or in whole to Red Caffeine, everyone completely trusts other Small Giant members and openly shares. This includes sharing tools and processes (they even encourage us to steal their ideas and use them). They also candidly share issues and hardships they’ve dealt with to pass along the learned lessons.
  • Competent – Although profit is a trailing indicator of success for Small Giants (and certainly not the main motivation), all Small Giants that we interacted with run very successful and profitable companies. They are great at what they do and it’s industry agnostic!
  • Genuine + Humble – Small Giants are not a part of the community to stoke their egos or to land their next big client at a Small Giants event. They’re there because they genuinely believe in the Small Giants values and mission. They aim to improve themselves and other Small Giants around them. They know running their business the Small Giant way is what will help their business succeed in the long run. If you establish a great set of values, an awesome culture, and work towards a defined and realistic mission, the profit will follow naturally.

Want to find out more about the Small Giant Annual Summit or about the Small Giant community as a whole? Reach out to me in the comment section and we can get the conversation started.