Friday, October 24, 2008


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Creating or re-designing your current news room into a social news room to keep up with today's business requirements means you will have to justify the costs to the CFO.

Be prepared. Your presentation will have to have a hook so powerful you can hang a hat on it.

They will ask questions. Many. Then many more. Each question will have money attached.

What They're Not Looking For

Let me give you a powerful hint. The answers they're looking for are not impressions, views, comments, links, feeds or community building. They won't care how cool it is or how the features or functions are "killer."

CFO's are easy to neuro-linguistically read. They'll usually give you a visceral indication of how you're presentation is faring.

Presentational Logic (Make it Up Math)

You're going to have to be "creative," in a "make it up math for the better of all humanity" type of way. I used a straightforward and fairly simple presentation to my CFO. I hammered and yammered about the value, payback, and powerful possibilities of the Social Media News Room. Of course, being a CFO, they will expect to see the numbers. The math. So, I presented the SMNR ROI (quite effectively I might add, if I do say so myself) with this instructional video.


Yeah - you guessed it.

He suggested I fund it myself through personal payroll deductions.


Return to "Social-Media News Releases Are Absolutely Worthless!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Who Do I Follow on Twitter ... and Why?

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Below are a list of people on Twitter I follow. They're exceptional, interesting, prolific, and professional. They share good ideas, information and insights. Some are well known. Some aren't. Lotta talent on Twitter.

If I was starting with Twitter today ... these would be the first people I'd check out. Wish I had this list when I started.

Some of the people below have 15,000-30,000 followers and they follow that many too. That's not for me. I don't look at it that way. For me, it's all about good content.

Help me learn. Inform me. Educate me. Make me laugh. Challenge me. I don't care if they're rich, famous and everybody loves them, if that doesn't happen I remove them.

Note: I follow tech, industry analysts and news organizations. So these people might not be a good fit for you. If not, at the bottom of this list are more resources and articles to help you find additional people, companies and topics on Twitter.
  • Guy Kawasaki: AllTop: He's the Guy named Guy people talk about. Does a super job of communicating, keeps it light and funny, yet still promotes his latest project AllTop.
  • Jeremiah Owyang: Forrester Analyst: Exceptional. Shares great information, ideas, insights. Pleasant, courteous, consummate professional.
  • Louis Columbus: Author, Analyst, Friend. Prolific writer on social media and complex business processes.
  • Dion Hinchcliffe: Enterpise 2.0 Analyst - Interested in Enterprise 2.o apps, gaps, widgets and blidgets? He's your Analyst. Always interesting. Always informative.
  • David Meerman Scott: Author of the New Rules of Marketing & PR, Blogger, Speaker. One of the nicest guys around.Occasionally funny. But he needs to hire a real cartoon-torialist to help out. Real class act.
  • David Henderson: Author, Blogger, Emmy-Award Winning Former CBS Journalist. I've read his book "The Media Savvy Leader," it's excellent. He's a Twitter newbie but Tweeter Pro. A gazillion times better than me.
  • Meryl Evans: The Content Maven. Hardest working editor/writer I've ever met. Super Person. Stellar writer. Hangs with a bad crowd though ... bunch of other writers that drink too much and still like to break dance.
  • New Media Jim: Intersection of old and new media. Funny, good insights, good read.
  • Paulo Coelho: Author of "The Alchemist." Great writer - storyteller. One of the first novelists I've seen doing the Tweet-Tweet-Tweet.
  • Nettie Hartsock: Author, Blogger, PR Strategist, Friend.
  • Jennifer Leggio: Social Media & Tech Journalist for Zdnet. Prolific in a good way.
  • Shannon Whitley: Founder of PRX Builder. Super source of tech, PR and Marketing content. Disclaimer ... I'm a big fan of
  • Tim O'Reilly: Founder and CEO, O'Reilly Media.
  • Scobelizer: What's a Scoble? Check him out. Have duct tape handy for your head - to keep it from exploding. Not for the slow-tech faint of heart. WARNING: You will get dizzy.
  • Peter Kim: Covers social media. Some excellent articles on Twitter and Social Media.
  • Andrew McAfee: Harvard Business Blogger. Interesting observations. Actively solicits input and feedback. Involves his audience. Real-time Web 2.0 research for business.
  • David Risley: Founder of PCMech. Wrote "Twitter: The User Manual You Can't Find." You want to keep up with the latest on Twitter and Social Networking Apps? Follow David.
  • Wayne Hurlbert: Blog Business Success Radio host.
  • Todd Defren: PR 2.0 & social media thought leader. Always helpful. Shares valuable information freely and often. Doesn't get enough credit for all the good work he does. Blogs at Pr2Squared.
  • Colby Palmer: Web Developer. I like Colby's iTweet app.
Lynne McTaggert: Author of "The Field" and "The Intention Experiment."

One of my favorite authors and people.

We did an interview and article together that allowed me to go to the dark side of physics, intentions, spirituality ... and my Cal and Chichen cartoons.

  • George Bush- The White House: Okay, this one is a hoot. They only follow 9 people. What happened to this Big Brother crap? I couldn't get a rise out of them with 10 Tweets asking why they weren't following me. And ... who are these people they ARE following?
  • Donna Hedge Burns: Marketer, writer, Public Relations maven. If she was running PR for the White House ... they'd have a bigger, more qualified following. And more friends.

  • Julie Devoll: Senior Publicist, New Media for Harvard Business Press. Why Julie? Well, truth be known, a couple years ago I wrote an interview/article with one of the Harvard's authors (Donald Sull) called "Good Companies Gone Bad ... The Donkey Goes to Harvard," (this was before Donkey O'Tee was world-famous like he is now) and Julie was great. Had a sense of humor. And really ... if you ever saw the "Honorary Harvard Donkey Scholar photo" you could see where they might object - if they were huffy-puffy-stuffy intellectual snobs. They didn't. Hmmm. But, now that I think of it, I haven't heard from Julie since.
  • Michael Pranikoff: Dir. Emerging Media at PR Newswire
  • David Wilson: Author, IT Manager. One of the reasons I like Twitter is because of folks like David. Never met him before. Probably never would have met him except for Twitter. But I had some questions on blogging platforms and David offered help and information within minutes of me posing the question. His answers were right on. Check him out.
  • Pam Gilchrist: Pammy is PR Chicken Soup for the Soul. Teacher. Author. Thinker. Friend.
  • John Mangan: Business Development, Analyst Relations expert, Most Excellent Friend (but never picks up a bar tab).
  • Me: Best cartoon-torials on the Twit based on my totally non-objective, spectacularly flawed and biased analysis.

Shortly after publishing this article I received quite a few write-ins votes. All warranted.
Additional Resources:

14 Great Reads About Twitter for Business Use:
  1. Guide to Twitter for Business: By Shara Karasic,
  2. Top 8 Twitter Tips for Business: By Ellen Petry Leanse
  3. Question To Consider Before Using Twitter for Business: By Twitter Maven
  4. Why Twitter Matters: By Stephen Baker, Businessweek
  5. Tweeting for Companies 101: By Tara Hunt
  6. How To Listen for Opportunities on Twitter: By Chris Brogan
  7. The Evolution of Brands on Twitter: By Jeremiah Owyang
  8. Why Brands Are Unsuccessful on Twitter By Jeremiah Owyang (told you he was good)
  9. Is it Time for Corporations to Get a Twitter Presence?: By Valeria Maltoni
  10. Ultimate Guide to Twitter Tools and Resources for Journalists: By New Media Bytes
  11. Twitter for Business Reading List: By Pistachio Consulting
  12. The True Meaning of Twitter: Fortune Magazine, August 2008
  13. How Tweet It Is: Clay Shirky and Bob Garfield
  14. Huge Twitter Resource Page:



Tuesday, October 21, 2008

10 Great Business Presentation Examples

And "1" Gluteus-Maximus PowerPoint Vomitus Eruptus

I have attended literally thousands of business presentations, most revolving around technology products, applications, business systems, methods, practices, etc. Almost all included PowerPoint. Some were god-awful, a few were great; most were in between but usually sideways of good.

We're going to
spotlight ten eclectic examples of some great presentations (purely subjective), some of which you probably know of. But most, not. You'll also be introduced to a resource checklist and book I bet you've never heard of, but if there's only one book you ever read on giving presentations, this should be it. It'll help you nail any presentation.

The standard corporate gobbledygook PowerPoint vomitoria presentation is anywhere from 25-40 PowerPoint slides. Although I attended one that had 87 slides (for a 20-minute presentation). That type of presentation is usually referred to by those well-versed in business presentation malpractice as a "Gluteus-Maximus PowerPoint Vomitus Eruptus."

We're Great. You're Stupid.

Most business presentations ( the standard corporate gobbledygook PowerPoint vomitoria) start off with an introduction to the company or service. It's always the same. "We've been around." "We're great!" "Our customers love us. Industry analysts love us!" "Everybody loves us!" "We're smart ... and you're stupid if you select anyone but us." Somewhere along the line the prospective customer is lost in the PowerPoint shuffle. The solution to their problems or needs always seem to be near the end of the presentation. Therein lies the seeds of discontent. And failure.

Want to See it from Their Eyes?

Online Videos by
(Okay, I gussied it up a little, Animotorized and Veoh-ed it to reflect real-life)

My Fair Share of Stinkers

I have given a lot of presentations and polluted the business world with more than my fair share of business-presentation stinkers. Some were so foul I’m surprised Al Gore didn’t cite them as a cause for global warming in his “Inconvenient Truth.”

I’m terrible. No doubt about it. I'm the best of the worst.

When You’re Bad, You’re Good

But that’s good. When you’re bad, and know it, you’re always trying to improve. And I am. I’m also enamored (jealous) of those professionals who connect with and mesmerize the audience. They are rare, but not as rare as you might think.

I’ve written with and interviewed many best-selling authors, business presenters and storytellers. People like Steven Pressfield, author of ”The War of Art, Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae,” and “The Legend of Bagger Vance’; Al Ries, author of ”The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR”; Robert McKee, screenwriting guru and author of the best-seller ”STORY”; Dr. Paul Pearsall, international best-selling author of ”The Beethoven Factor”; Dave Stein, best-selling business author of “How Winners Sell”; Bo Burlingham, author of “Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big”; Sam Horn, author of ”POP! How to Stand Out in any Crowd”; Lynne McTaggert, author of “The Field” and “The Intention Experiment”; David Merman Scott, author of ”The New Rules of Marketing and PR”; Marc Seifer, author of ”Wizard; The Life and Times of Nikola Tesla”; Skip Press, author of more than 20 books including “How to Write What You Want and Sell What You Write”; and Jeff Thull, author of "Mastering the Complex Sale" and CEO of Prime Resource Group.

A very eclectic group with an incredible amount of knowledge and expertise. Storytellers all … but by necessity, business presenters as well.

All had one thing in common.


Well, almost nothing. All had different styles. Different methods. Different personalities. Different differents. But, all have successful histories of connecting emotionally with their readers.

Trial and Terror

One hundred percent of the business people I’ve questioned (very unscientific, I know) about how they learned to give business presentations said they taught themselves. Trial and error. Some were trial and terrors. That includes the good, the bad and the gluteus-maximus fugly presentations. They all had horror stories, even the great ones. All had flopped terribly at some point. Some had moments of high-exhilaration - spectacular moments of success when the visceral connection to the audience was almost spiritual.


None of them were taught traditionally “in school.” Most had researched, read, listened, learned and questioned others. Some had invested thousands of dollars in attending forums, conferences and classes from self-professed business gurus.

What did they learn? Each class, teacher or guru said something that contradicted the other. Or .. worse, said exactly the same thing. Boring.

Sales Survival Skill

All agreed giving a good business presentation is a mandatory sales survival skill. It should be taught in high schools and colleges. Businesses should make it a priority to train all their people, not just their salespeople, on how to make a good business presentation. Why? It helps others in the company understand the business, be involved, be more knowledgeable of the problems and solutions that can be offered to customers. It also enables employees to better advocate and evangelize for the company.

They Don’t Teach “Moving Mountains” in School

So, while doing research for this article, I ran across a book by Henry M. Boettinger titled “Moving Mountains: Or the Art of Letting Others See Things Your Way.” I was referred to it by an old and trusted friend (well not really old, he is only 82 and has 50 years of experience in the film industry as a writer and actor.)

I had never heard of the book, or the author, and was, quite frankly, prepared to use it for fireplace fuel. It took me a couple weeks to get a copy – hard to find – which in my mind meant it was probably worthless.

But then I cracked it opened and read …

"I have heard and watched practitioners in most areas of modern life in their attempts to persuade lawyers, natural and social scientists, soldiers, civil servants, executives, physicians, engineers, foremen, politicians, mechanics, labor union leaders, shop stewards, artists, musicians, architects, philosophers, film makers, advertising men, accountants, college students, clubwomen, men of the cloth, sundry teachers, and lesser breeds without the law, to name a few.

Some were eminent, most unknown. All were persons of intelligence, having something worthwhile to say, but the range of persuasive skill ran from embarrassing, painful failures (including cases of physical collapse) to skillful performers whose presentations were perfectly tuned to their audiences, and who made changing your mind an exhilarating experience.

What makes the difference? Neither schooling, material, nor rank of this I'm sure.

Whether the audience was one or a thousand, success invariably attended only those who both understood and presented their ideas from the viewpoint of the needs and characteristics of the persons in their audience."

- Henry M. Boettinger, “Moving Mountains: Or the Art of Letting Others See Things Your Way.”

Timeless - Timely

I read the book and was floored. ”Moving Mountains” was published in 1969 – but it is timeless and timely. It’s based upon observations and key concepts Mr. Boettinger identified over a long and successful career in business. None other than Peter Drucker hailed it as a "First-class and highly original, but also highly practical, treatise both on how one thinks and how one presents thinking."

Two Presentation Checklist Tools

If you could read only one book on how to give an effective presentation (for any occasion) – read this one. At the end of this article, are two checklists from the book (Henry if you’re out there still, e-mail or call me, I want to thank you.) that will help you give the best presentation possible and evaluate presentations of others. You need to read the book to fully understand all of it, but it’s a great resource document to forever change the way you think of business presentations … and the way you deliver them.

Every presentation is a story.

Every story a presentation.

Below are some presentations I think are exceptional stories. They run the gamut of industries and topics. Some are about business. Some are about life. Some are funny. Some tragic. Some humorous. Some have no spoken words, just images. Some use PowerPoint. Some are PowerPoint-less. But they all have one thing in common. Do you see it? Send us an email with your answer.


If you have suggestions or nominations of other great presentations, let me know. E-mail them to me, and if selected, they’ll be used in the follow-up article. The first ten presentations selected will win a copy of “MOVING MOUNTAINS: The Art of Letting Others See Your Way.”


Did You Know?

Shift Happens: Effects of Globalization

Created by Karl Fisch, and modified by Scott McLeod; Globalization and The Information Age


I've Been to The Mountaintop

Doctor Martin Luther King Jr.


When it Comes to Tech, Simplicity Sells
(this is a humorous, realistic classic)

by New York Times technology columnist David Pogue


Tribute to the Challenger Astronauts

- Ronald Reagan

"We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and "slipped the surly bonds of earth" to "touch the face of God."


Don't Give Up. Don't Ever Give Up.

- Jim Valvano

Arthur Ashe Courage Award Acceptance Speech - March 4, 1993

iPhone Introduction

Steve Jobs - 2007


Introduction of the First Macintosh

Steve Jobs - 1984

Change Much?


How NOT To Use Powerpoint

By Don McMillan



Single Biggest Rule in Sales

By Jeffrey Gitomer


Want to get really good at presentations? Try stand-up comedy. There is no harsher audience. No quicker road to feedback. This is a routine (presentation) by Ron White (caution ... a few profanities, and alcohol, and laughs).


I Had The Right To Remain Silent
But I Didn't Have the Ability


End With a Question

Question With an End


What's the Best Kept Secret of Great Presentations?

It's ...



Additional Resources:

Evaluation Checklist for Presentations of Others

1. Is the opening interesting?

2. Is a problem stated clearly?

3. Are the points developed to give a well-rounded view of all relevant aspects?

4. Is the action or belief desired stated clearly?

5. Does the presentor show that he has a vital and passionate interest in the idea presented?

* Is he dominant, submissive, or does he treat the audience as equals?

6. Is the style appropriate for the content?

* Brevity

* Clarity

* Variety

* Mystery or Suspense

* Recapitulation

7. Does the presentor explain or translate technical material well?

8. Are the visuals well designed and related to each other?

9. How well is cross-examination and discussion handled?

10. Is the layout of the room distracting, or does it inhibit discussion?

11. Are the examples, anecdotes, or humor relevant to points made and matched to the style selected?

12. Does the presentor's idea appeal to Reason, Emotion, and Common Sense?

13. If a "project" type presentation, does the presentor take note of all relevant factors?

* Personnel

* Intelligence

* Operations

* Supply

* External Relations

14. Is the impression created by the presentor one which inspires the confidence of the audience?

* Are there any embarrassing points?

* Are there any nervous or irritating mannerisms?

* Is there a willingness to listen to the suggestions of the audience?

15. Did you learn anything new, or discover new ways to look at the old?

16. Did you see any new approaches which you can use in your own presentation in the future?


1. Problem-Statement

* What are the two clashing images?

* What exists?

* What do you want to exist?

* Which of the various forms of statement is best:

o Historical Narrative

o Blowing the Whistle

o Crisis

o Adventure

o Disappointment

o Response to an order

o Opportunity

o Revolution

o Crossroads

o Evolution

o Challenge

o The Great Dream Confession

2. Opening Sentence --- Will it excite the interest of the audience?

3. What is the "plan" of development?

* Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis, etc.

4. Do you have examples or anecdotes?

5. What devices do you have to get and hold attention?

* Is there a balance between Reason, Emotion, and Common Sense?

* Can you use assertion, refutation, doubt, and affirmation?

6. Style

* Have you made it as brief as possible?

o Is it oversimplified?

o Is it overembellished?

o Are there any tortured passages?

o Are there any embarrassing ones?

* Is every point clearly expressed?

* What alternations in mood exist?

* Is there a mixture of the lofty and commonplace?

* Can you use suspense or mystery?

* Do you need a recapitulation?

* If a multiple presentation, is a leader appointed?

7. Is the tone one of equality, dominance, or submissiveness?

* Do you really believe in the idea itself?

8. Is the group small or large?

* If large, do you have some humor to "break the ice"?

9. What prejudices, fears, or constraints can you expect from this audience?

10. Have you checked the room for distractions? Have you neutralized them?

11. Is the room layout one that encourages discussion?

12. Are visual aids appropriate?

* Does each one carry a statement of its significance?

* Are the best graphical methods used for statistics?

o If technical, have they been checked for competence by experts?

* Is their size correct?

* Are they related to one another so that someone could extract your message from the set of visuals alone?

13. Have you identified the weak points?

14. What cross-examination questions would you ask if you were in the audience?

* Do you have an answer for each one?

* If challenged on your competence, can you reply appropriately?

* Have you identified those in your audience who may oppose, and who are neutral?

15. Do you state clearly: (1) What you want the audience to do when you are finished? (2) What you wish them to believe?

* Does every point made lead to your ending statement in some way?

* Does the audience need to make great leaps to get to you conclusion?

16. Does the presentation use any special vocabularies unfamiliar to your audience?

* Have these been translated into terms intelligible to them?

17. Are unfamiliar techniques employed?

* Have these been explained?

* Have you established why these are used instead of more familiar methods?

18. Have you considered alternative methods of presenting technical points?

19. If the presentation is a "project" type, have you touched the five areas common to all programs?

* Personnel

* Intelligence

* Operations

* Supply

* External Relations

20. Have you exposed the ideas involved to the original, inquiring, and skeptical minds among your acquaintances?


Contact: Steve Kayser

Monday, October 20, 2008

Small Giants ... Shoot the Donkey

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Take the Money and Run

Is there a new breed of entrepreneur rising? Building and leading companies large and small, foregoing revenue and geographical growth to focus on, of all things, being the best at what they do?

Is there really an emerging breed of entrepreneurs that don’t plan to build, or want to build the next Microsoft or Google, then “take the money and run"?

Take the Money and Have Fun

Is there a new breed of entrepreneur rising that has as a mission “take the money and have fun?" Entrepreneurs that want to build enduring companies, great places of employment, great products, provide great customer service ... and have fun too?

We'll find out in this interview with Bo Burlingham, author of Small Giants: Companies That Choose To Be Great Instead of Big.

But first …


It was a distinctive ring … a warning-bell ring. The ring I set for the one person I never want to hear from ... or ever answer.

But I had to.

It was, “answer the phone on the first ring” customer-service day at the company. I knew who was on the other end. I handled it professionally (after a brief moment of staid reflection).

Who was on the other line?

Perfidious, Perorating Perforator

The most exasperating, frustrating, obdurately obnoxious, perfidious, perorating perforator of corporate gobbledygook in known history - and most probably unknown history too. A person that could unleash a tornadic swirl of immeasurably long and undecipherable words lasting upwards of five minutes without taking a breath, or, making any sense whatsoever. Not even a miniscule pause, which is, in my opinion, always his most singular accomplishment, as I usually have no idea as to what he’s trying to say.

I’ll admit, however, that this person has the most impressive repertoire of corporate gobbledygook I've ever heard. He uses every acronym known to mankind, and possibly most extraterrestrials; a corporate gobbledygook automaton of epic proportions. The best there ever was … or will be.

Because of this talent, I dubbed him …

“CAL 9000” (Corporate Automaton Linguist - 9,000 pre-programmed acronyms for release upon the slightest provocation [such as breathing])

However, CAL 9000 should not be confused with HAL 9000 (Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic computer) of “2001 Space Odyssey” fame.

Hal had a personality.

I’d hoped changing my phone number and e-mail address 17 times over the last seven months would have discouraged him.

It hadn’t.

I picked up …

“Steve! I know you’re there. It’s me. Answer.”

“What?” I despairingly choked out.

“You know who this is?” asked Cal.

My silence, to him, assumed assent and consent.

“How have you been? I just took the helm of a new company!”

“What happened to … ”

“You mean my market-leading, universal, enterprise-content application tool with extensible, real-time, interactive, scalable, multi-alphanumerical particularities supported by multi-colored platforms?”

Note to Reader: To translate the above, please take a deep breath and visualize

“Yes,” said I.

“Well, we got blinked in a tipping-point paradigm shift because of the politically mega-dynamic CRM, BPM, ECM, ERP-like, non-BI, WI-FI market space, game-changing, evolving evolution. Combined with some global leveraging incompatibilities, it made our projected cash flow go upside down in the futures market, and our equity became … ”

… “Inequity?”

“No … the correct way to assess, analyze and actionably communicate the business-model position would be to say our revenue and profits were seamlessly outsourced to the competition,” said Cal 9000.

He can compress the most words into the smallest idea of any man I ever met."

- Abraham Lincoln

“I thought competing against the PC might be tough.”

“To your credit, in retrospect, you may have had a strategic insight we missed. But you should have seen our PowerPoint presentations. Boffo! The best 109 slides of artistic business acumen ever created. I’ll probably revisit, rethink, reuse and recycle them in my new business.”

It’s hard having ears sometimes.

“But that’s not why I called. I wondered if you could tap into one of your experts.”

“What for?”

“To help me ‘Shoot the Donkey!’ HA HA HA HA. I made a funny. HAR HAR HAR. Used your meta-metaphor.”

For readers unfamiliar with Cal 9000’s “Shoot the Donkey” unfunny mucking-up of a metaphor, it refers to a classic scene in the movie "Patton" (based upon a true-life event) where the Seventh Army gets critically held up in battle on a bridge, by a cart-pulling donkey that has stopped and refuses to budge, totally blocking the bridge. Life and death are at stake. An MP struggles with the donkey and the owner, trying to get them out of the way.

The entire Seventh Army halts for this recalcitrant donkey.

General George Patton roars up, leaps out of his jeep, whips out his ivory-handled pistol, shoots the donkey, and immediately has it hurled off the bridge, removing the obstacle.

That classic scene not only revealed Patton's character in a cinematic way, but also embodied the great leadership principle of taking decisive action to remove all obstacles to fulfill one's mission.

Insight 1

Pragmatic, Patton Pistol-Powered Philosophy

Take decisive action. Remove all obstacles to your success.

“My grandfather, heaven rest his recently departed fantastically wealthy soul, left me a unique business opportunity.”

“Left you? You mean you inherited?”

“Not exactly. There was a clause in his will. It specifically said, “over his dead body would I ever get his company.”

Wow. I think Cal 9000 might have had a really smart grandpa.

“I’m confused,” said I.

“I have a great lawyer,” Cal gushed. “Grandpa was dead. We read the will over his casket. Over his dead body … aren’t lawyers great?

Insight 2

Plain questions and plain answers

make the shortest road out of most perplexities."

– Mark Twain

I’m no longer confused.

“Anyway, to get back to the topic, you think you might have an expert that could share some global-macro-micro–socio-economic, web 2.0, horizontally vertical focused, long-tail strategic visionings?”


“Let me explain. My grandfather wasn’t much of a businessman. He had his company for 30 years. Produced ‘okay’ revenues … over 100 million dollars for the last 25 years.”

I’m waiting for the downside.

“But he never tried to grow the company and go public. He thought big was bureaucratic and bureaucratic was bad.”

Hmm ... I surmise Cal 9000’s Grandpa was, in the words of that underrated, yet existentially famous philosopher, Tony the Tiger, “Great!”

“Grandpa preached, ‘Our customers are family.’ Is that old-time lameroo or what? He bragged that industry analysts always called his company ‘the absolute best’ at what they did. So what! The company never got big. And worse, it remained a private company for crapsola sakes. You can’t even get the media to cover a small private company.”

“What would you want the expert to discuss?”

“My visioning strategy.”

I couldn’t wait to hear this. After Cal 9000’s Tom Petersian-inspired, re-imagining, re-inventing, re-invigorating, wowing strategy for the way-past-defunct dinosaurific typewriter business, he had nowhere to go but up.

“Go public. Get as big as possible, as fast as possible.”

I hate to be a downer, but what’s wrong with the company the way it is? It’s profitable. Customers and employees are happy. You have any idea how tough running a public company is?”

“I read your article, Give Me Liberty or Give Me an … IPO? You used a bunch of well-researched facts to convolute, pollute and refute what everyone knows is an absolute … a truism. Bigger is better! Always has been. Always will be. Grow or die! You’re a negativist Steve. Give it up.”

Grits Teeth

Vows to never answer phone again

“Don’t you think there might have been a reason your grandfather kept his company the way it was?”

“Sure. No vision. No corporate acumen … he wasn’t a deep thinker like me.”

Cal continued. “I mean he couldn’t even talk ROI or shareholder value. All he ever talked about was a nebulous ROLL.”

“ROLL?” asked I.

“Return on Living Life” – being able to create good jobs, giving substantial parts of his profits to charitable causes and pretty much being able to do what he wanted, when he wanted (on a small scale … remember he wasn’t a big public company). What kinda egalitarian, do-the-hokey-pokey, non-business business strategy sense is that?”

Hmm …. is it dense in here? Or is it just me?

“And Steve, get this, it’s weird. Cultish. Freaky really. His small but devout group of customers, vendors and employees wear t-shirts and hats with the company name on it. You’d think the company was a high-fashion clothing retailer. That’s the down side of being small. People think they’ve found something special.”

My silence deepens; my thoughts accelerate … to quickly ending the conversation.

“You know, I respected and loved Grandpa, but come on – he lived and breathed his company. What kind of strategy or life is that? You need to grow, grow, grow! Bigger, better, best! I have a vision! I’m going to build the next Google, flip, cash out, and retire.”

“Do you have an expert in mind already maybe?”

“Yes. I’ve heard about this guy, Mo Curlingham, who was supposed to have written a book about making small companies giants. Let’s see if Mo can help us ‘Shoot the Donkey!’ Uh-oh, the other phone is ringing, must be investment bankers. I must exit this conversation.”


A click never sounded better.

Never sounded sweeter.

Against my saner judgment, I decided to search for this Mo Curlingham and his new book. Did I mention that Cal 9000 often has ...

Three Stoogian Freudian slips?

The author’s name was not “Mo Curlingham,” and his book isn’t really about transforming small companies to giants.

It’s about something better, much better - an emerging economic force, maybe new way of life, based not upon size, but choice.

ENTER: Bo Burlingham, author of “Small Giants.”

Bo is the author of “Small Giants: Companies That Choose To Be Great Instead of Big” and an editor-at-large of Inc. magazine.

The BUZZ on BO

Bo Burlingham reminds us of a vital truth:

Big does not equal great, and great does not equal big.

- Jim Collins, co-author of “Built to Last” and author of “Good to Great”

Steve: What are Small Giants and why are they important?

Bo: In answering that question, I need to make a distinction between the criteria I used to choose the companies in my book and the characteristics that they had in common. I chose the companies first, and then I looked at the qualities they shared. The two were similar, and related, but not identical. I’ll start with the criteria. There were five of them.

First, I wanted companies that had had the opportunity to grow very fast, get very big, go public, go national, or whatever, but had chosen not to because they had goals they considered more important than getting as big as possible as fast as possible.

Small Giants have goals that are more important than getting big fast.

Insight 3

Small Giants have goals that are

more important than getting big fast.

Second, I wanted companies that were considered to be the best at what they did by their peers and competitors - that is, the people in the best position to judge.

Third, I looked for companies that had been recognized outside the industry for their contributions to the greater good.

Insight 4

Small Giants are the best at what they do and

exceptionally good at doing good.

Fourth, I focused on companies that had been around long enough (10 years or more) to experience all of the ups and downs of business and had managed to remain profitable through thick and thin.

Finally, I realized that - because of the choices the companies were making - I would be looking at businesses that were private and closely held. After all, these were businesses that had decided not to make maximization of return on investment their number-one goal. That’s tough to do if you have outside investors.

So those were the criteria I used in selecting the companies. I found that the companies I selected had five characteristics in common.

Their owners were crystal clear in their own minds about who they were, what they wanted out of business, and why.

Second, the companies had close, symbiotic relationships with the communities in which they did business.

Third, the companies cultivated personal, one-on-one ties with customers and suppliers. Nevertheless, I also found that the customers came second with these companies: The employees came first.

Insight 5

Customers come second.

Employees come first.

All of the Small Giants had what I call a culture of intimacy, which was the fourth defining characteristic.

The fifth one had to do with the attitude of the owners and leaders toward whatever it was that the business did: They loved it. They were absolutely passionate about it. They were so crazy about what they did that they wanted everyone they came into contact with to feel the same way about it.

Why are these companies important? Because businesses are the building blocks, not just of an economy, but also of a whole way of life. What they do and how they do it have an impact that extends far beyond the economic sphere. They shape the communities we live in and the values we live by and the quality of the lives we lead.

Insight 6

Being a “Small Giant” is a way of life.

If businesses don’t hold themselves to a high standard, the entire society suffers. There are no businesses that hold themselves to higher standards than do Small Giants.

Insight 7

There are no businesses that hold themselves

to higher standards than do Small Giants.

What’s more, it’s a standard that every company can aspire to, and many can achieve. As more companies become Small Giants, it can’t help but make our world a better place.

Steve: In your book you say Small Giants have mojo. How do you define mojo and how do Small Giants generate it?

Bo: I define mojo as the business equivalent of charisma. When a leader has charisma, you want to follow him or her. When a company has charisma, you want to be associated with it. You want to buy from it, sell to it, work for it, wear its hats and t-shorts, be part of whatever it’s doing. That’s mojo.

Insight 8

Small Giant Mojo = Charisma

No Mojo ... Business No-Go-Mo

Small Giants generate their mojo by working very hard on the relationships they have with all the groups of people they come into contact with - employees, customers, suppliers, neighbors, and so on. The Small Giants realize that those relationships have a huge impact on a company’s success and must be maintained. If you get distracted and start to neglect the relationships, the mojo is lost, and the business is usually headed for trouble.

Steve: What are the benefits of buying or dealing with a Small Giant?

Bo: Well, do you want to buy from a company that treats you as another party in a commercial transaction or from a company that cares about you and what you want and will go the extra mile to see that you get it? Small Giants are fanatical about customer service. They don’t want a customer to be satisfied. They want the customer to be delighted.

Insight 9

Small Giants don’t want customers to be satisfied.

They want them to be delighted.

Small Giants care.

They cultivate personal, one-on-one relationships with customers with the goal of understanding and providing them with whatever it is that they are looking for. That’s the benefit to the buyer: The Small Giants care.

Steve: I penned an article titled Give Me Liberty or Give Me an … IPO? that lays out a case for remaining a private company. Do you think Small Giants will begin to proliferate because of the excessive drag and anti-competitiveness of regulatory burdens?

Bo: I think that there are many advantages to staying private these days, including the increased government regulation of the public equity markets. But more significant from a Small Giants standpoint is the emergence of a new generation of entrepreneurs with a business perspective dramatically different from that of the generations of 1980’s and ’90s.

Insight 10

Small Giants want to build an enduring business …

not flip, cash out, and retire.

Most of them aren’t out to build the next Microsoft, nor are they building to flip, cash out, and retire.

They want to build enduring businesses, great businesses, but not necessarily huge ones. I suspect that we’ll see a lot of Small Giants arising from their ranks.

Steve: Examples of some of the companies you profiled?

Bo: There are snapshots on my profile webpage.

Steve: Why is shareholder value so different in public and private companies/Small Giants?

Bo: As I point out in my book, the definition of shareholder value depends on who the shareholders are. If you’re a shareholder who has invested your savings in a public company because you hope to make money on your investment, you want the value of your stock to increase as much and as rapidly as possible. That’s why the vast majority of people do invest in public companies, so it’s natural to think of shareholder value in that context as a direct reflection of return on investment.

On the other hand, if you’re the 100% owner of a private company, you can define shareholder value any way you please. In that context, shareholder value is simply what you want to get out of the business. Maybe your number-one priority is to increase the value of your equity as much and as rapidly as possible, in which case, you’d measure shareholder value the same way that public company investors do. Then again, maybe ROI is third or fourth on your list of priorities. Maybe you figure you’ll maximize your ROI over the long run by focusing on building a great, enduring business. Or maybe you don’t care about maximizing your ROI as long as you have a great business you’re proud of and a great life you enjoy. In any case, it’s your decision.

Insight 11

Small Giants have the freedom to choose.

They choose to be great.

You get the freedom to make that choice when you stay private - and that’s another reason why I believe a lot of owners are going to decide to keep their companies private in the future.


About Bo Burlingham

Bo Burlingham is the author of Small Giants: Companies That Choose To Be Great Instead of Big and an editor-at-large of Inc. magazine.

My story in brief: I joined Inc. in January 1983 as a senior editor and became executive editor six months later - a position I held for the next seven years or so. In 1990, I resigned and became editor-at-large for a number of reasons, including my desire to go back to writing. I subsequently wrote two books with Jack Stack, the co-founder and CEO of Springfield Remanufacturing Corp. and the pioneer of open-book management. One of the books, “The Great Game of Business(Doubleday/Currency, 1992), has sold more than 300,000 copies. (It explains what open-book management is and how it works in practice at the company that does it best.) The other, “A Stake in the Outcome (Doubleday/Currency, 2002), has also done pretty well and gotten great reviews. (It’s a book you should read if you want to know what it really takes to run an employee-owned company.)

Before joining Inc., I freelanced for various publications, including Esquire, Harper’s, Boston Magazine, and Mother Jones. I was also managing editor of Ramparts magazine for a while, if anyone can remember back that far. In 1982, I joined Fidelity Investments, where I wrote for Peter Lynch, Ned Johnson, and other honchos until coming to Inc. From 1992 to 1997, I served on the board of The Body Shop Inc., the U.S. subsidiary of the international cosmetics company. I was also a founder, with Tom Peters, of PAC World, a weird international networking group that gave me a chance to meet a lot of zany - and brilliant - people from around the globe.