It sounds like the start of a dirty joke, but it actually happened—at the Small Giants International Summit in Konstanz, Germany from June 9 – 11, 2011—and the founders emerged smarter, and with a renewed passion for their businesses. As CEO of the Small Giants Community, I hosted 55 entrepreneurs from 13 countries and 6 continents at the first-ever such summit.
The idea of a “Small Giant” originated in Bo Burlingham’s 2006 book, Small Giants: Companies that Choose to Be Great Instead of Big. As CEO of Beryl, a company that manages patient interactions for hospitals, I became acquainted with Bo when I wrote a book about culture and asked him to write a foreword for it. Then, in June 2009, Bo and I partnered to form the Small Giants Community, a group of business leaders who measure success more than just through financial bottom lines, but also contributions to communities, dedication to great customer service, and the creation and preservation of strong workplace cultures.
As Small Giants was published in non-English languages, we realized there was a passion for these philosophies among the international community, which led us to host the 2011 summit in a converted monastery in a university town in the southwest corner of Germany.
Participants represented diverse industries including manufacturing, social investment, consulting, patient experience, jewelry, catering, sales, publishing, and software design, and the companies they lead ranged from solo shops to those with more than 350 employees, or annual revenues of $250,000 to $33 million. The series of workshops, discussions, and mentoring sessions not only resulted in takeaways to improve our respective businesses, but was even a life-changing experience. One participant told me: “It restored my faith in commerce and people.”
In his book, Bo talks about “business mojo,” the organizational equivalent of charisma that defines a Small Giant. During the summit, our existing Small Giants and aspiring Small Giants realized that because of our shared “mojo,” we were more alike than different, despite the thousands of miles that separated us, the business climates of our particular countries, or even the type of work we do. One attendee said: “I never thought I could have shared a value set with a weapons and roller coaster machinery fabricator.”
A central theme at the Small Giant’s Summit was the focus on and reinforcement of business mojo. Here’s what we talked about:
After engaging in two days of dialogue with our international peers, I was excited to find that, although I believe business leaders who adhere to our values-driven methodology are still in the minority, the tide appears to be causing a ripple effect for businesses around the world. Let’s keep it going.