I have almost finished my first business book since I founded Sentient Services over four years ago. It is not that I don't read, I devour FastCompany and Inc. each month and spend way too much time learning random things on the web and through Google Gadgets. I am also almost done with a very exciting Hardy Boys (a true classic series that my kids are actually enjoying). The book that has managed to capture my severely limited attention span is "Small Giants - Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big". Written exquisitely by Bo Burlingham with first-hand accounts and an approachable tone, it is safe to say it has changed my "business" life. Here is a nice summary from the jacket:
How maverick companies have passed up the growth treadmill—and focused on greatness instead.
It’s a widely accepted axiom of business that great companies grow their revenues and profits year after year. Yet quietly, under the radar, some entrepreneurs 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.
Who wouldn't want this? Well apparently a lot of us fall far from this model - me being one - and don't see this as an option. Our business MUST grow or we will die. New projects = new employees = more overhead = need to sell more = more projects and so on. I was convinced for a long time that the more people I hired the less I would work, and I tried to convince my wife of this as well, alas she was smarter than I - as usual. But we sure did grow. We made the top 25 agencies in Austin for the past 2 years, made the Fast 50 for Central Texas and made the Best Places to Work as well.
But, none of this made us "great" it just made us busy, with more overhead and a bit stressed if I do say so myself. Reading the examples in this book is like watching all the mistakes I have made in business in slow motion - painful, true and hopefully a growing experience. The one take away I have so far is that the forces to grow are almost unstoppable without a conscious plan on how your business will maintain focus, passion and excellence in the face of business, economic and personal theories that all point to the need for growth and funding.