Bo Burlingham on Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big

Bo Burlingham on Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big

Joining me this week was the five-time author, Bo Burlingham. Bo is best known for his book Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big which was published in 2005 and was a finalist for the Financial Times Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award.

He has written four other books on business but his career began around the time he was at Princeton in the 60s in a very political time. He went on to build a career in journalism where he joined Inc. Magazine. He was there as the publication started covering companies that were new and curious at the time. Companies like Apple and Microsoft led by brilliant founders Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Bo cut his teeth interviewing them and writing about them for the magazine.

After about five years he was appointed as an editor where he went on to lead the growth of the magazine until 1990 when he resigned his position at the suggestion of a colleague at a conference who suggested that he team up with someone who he had profiled at the conference to write a book. That book was The Great Game of Business which was named one of the 100 Best Business Books of All Time. Bo has written for Harper’s Esquire, Mother Jones, the Boston Globe, and Boston Magazine. His writing has spawned communities and his life has spanned 50 years of marriage which has spawned two children and four grandchildren.

This was a fascinating conversation with someone who had a first-row seat to the birth of the new economy in the United States.

Please enjoy!

Full Episode

Guest Links

Show Notes

  • The lessons from Small Giants. (00:02:42-00:03:44)
  • Bo’s springboard, more about Inc. Magazine. (00:03:45-00:05:30)
  • Bo recalls his experience with the 9/11 terrorist attack and on having a ticket originally booked on American Airlines flight 11 which was one of the hijacked planes on September 11, 2001. (00:05:35-00:16:28)
  • How did his life change after being spared from the attack on September 11, 2001? (00:16:27-00:21:34)
  • What drew him to the field of journalism covering business companies? (00:22:07-00:28:43)
  • Bo talks about his past work experience which led him to start writing about business. (00:28:43-00:35:60)
  • How did he go about getting the information he needed to be able to write what he did? (00:36:30-00:39:23)
  • Bo talks about his favorite article which they ran at Inc. Magazine. The article was about a company that is teaching all their employees how to read income statements and balance sheets. (00:39:24-00:46:05)
  • What did he think about the book The Great Game of Business that captured the imagination of people buying the book? (00:46:06-00:50:53)
  • What led to the formation of the Small Giants Community? (00:50:56-00:54:44)
  • Bo on meeting different kinds of entrepreneurs and learning new things from them. (00:55:44-00:57:05)
  • When did he notice that some companies have qualities that attracted people to them and how does he think people can foster this idea? (00:58:00-00:59:43)
  • Bo tells the story of how he learned about “The Concept of Mojo”. (00:59:43-01:07:55)
  • Where did the book name “Small Giants” come from? (01:07:56-01:08:33)
  • The simplest way of looking at what a business is from Bo’s point of view. (01:09:56-1:14:55)
  • Andrew and Bo talk about the overall takeaway from the book “Small Giants”. (01:14:56-01:17:30)
  • Would he consider great leaders also as great teachers? (01:17:32-01:21:29)
  • Bo’s advice on how to think about the level of trust and the level of intimacy in maintaining strong relationships. (01:21:30-01:25:55)

Selected Links from the Episode

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