Bo Burlingham’s work as a reporter and writer has changed the lives of many entrepreneurs and business leaders.
If you’ve followed any of his work over the years, like me, you can see how he has a profound, deep interest in the inner workings of many purpose-driven companies.
And, not to be forgotten: he also has a deep fascination in uncovering the stories behind the leaders who have helped launch or build those organizations, too.
If you’re unfamiliar with his work, you can think of Bo as a bit of a hero of private business journalism.
Bo is someone who uplifts and inspires leaders, and through his reporting and writing, you can tell that he, too, is just as stimulated as the rest of us in hearing these often unheard-of stories.
While others focus their reporting solely on publicly-held companies and uncovering their truths, Bo has remained focused on the motivation that drives the leaders of privately-owned organizations in particular.
Small Giants: Maverick Companies That Pass Up the Growth Treadmill
Bo was a contributing writer and editor-at-large of Inc. magazine for decades. Today, he is a contributor at Forbes. You may also know of him from his five books. Small Giants: Companies That Choose To Be Great Instead of Big may just be one of his most popular books.
That groundbreaking book—a kind of “field report” on remarkable companies—has even inspired the Small Giants Community, a group of values-driven business leaders that we’re proudly a part of.
Bo recently came to Cincinnati to talk about companies who have a passionate dedication to becoming the absolute best they can for the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber’s 2020 Leadership Roundtable Kickoff.
Although there were many other takeaways from his discussion, Bo told one short story about the often-overlooked soul of business leaders. This reflection stood out to me, and I feel it’s worth sharing here.
A Different View on Entrepreneurialism
Bo shared a few short stories about Bernard Goldhirsh, the founder of Inc. who Bo had the pleasure of working under while at the magazine for many years.
As many are aware, in the 1980s, and well before that time, being an “entrepreneur” wasn’t considered prestigious, as some would argue it is today.
But, as Bo shared with us, Bernie (as Bo called him) and Inc. magazine ended up transforming how media covered and thought of small and mid-sized businesses.
That shift in how we think about founders of small/medium-sized businesses—and just as important “entrepreneurialism”—was, in part, due to Bernie’s deep curiosity in people who did business differently. (Today, we know of these kinds of leaders as small business entrepreneurs, many of which would be Small Giants.)
Bernie saw these business leaders different than many other people at the time. He saw them in a way that many others could not see.
He saw how they could use both their heart and their head as they launched and grew their enterprises.
Entrepreneurs are like artists, only business is their means of expression, he said.
Bernie’s notion—while paraphrased here—has stuck with Bo over the years. That idea helped to shape his reporting and writing at the time, and still to do this day.
Entrepreneurs Are Artists Creating Value In Their Communities
Just as that notion has stuck with Bo, I can’t help but consider how true that really is: how creative entrepreneurs really are, which they aren’t necessarily given enough credit for.
We may see them as risk-takers, or people who are strategic, or we often think of entrepreneurs as people with a lot of grit or ambition. But entrepreneurs are also extremely creative.
And they really are creators at heart.
For me, it’s a shift in thinking about just how remarkable entrepreneurs are, given all they do to build, to create, and to put their ideas out into the world.
Celebrating Those Who Are Bold & Creative
While Bo’s discussion on Small Giants covered a great deal of insights about extraordinary companies, this short story he told stood out to me the most.
Business owners and founders are bold artists—artists using both sides of their brain. They are artists who are expressing themselves through the business and enterprise they create. Their passion and their contribution not only creates a living thing, that is, an enterprise, but it creates jobs, and adds deep and lasting value to our communities.
Maybe it doesn’t seem profound to you, but thinking about entrepreneurialism that way is invigorating to me, and I can’t help but smile in thinking about how both Bernie and Bo have helped shape the way we see entrepreneurs and small business today.
Learn More About Small Giants in Cincinnati & Beyond
Small Giants is an organization committed to the development of purpose-driven business leaders. Small Giants takes entrepreneurs on a journey, supporting them each step of the way with the resources, events, mentorship and connections needed to take their business to the next level.
The 2020 Small Giants Summit, the annual gathering of Small Giants leaders, offers a great chance to build those meaningful, open, and invaluable relationships. Register today: this year’s Summit is from May 12 to May 14 in Detroit, Michigan.
Visit this website to learn more about the Small Giants Community in Cincinnati, including our future gatherings. Our next Small Giants Executive Breakfast meeting on April 3, 2020 featuring Tim Rettig, President & CEO of Intrust IT, who will be breaking down everything you want to know and OUGHT to know about implementing an ESOP.
the Small Giants Community in Cincinnati, including our future gatherings. Our next Small Giants Executive Breakfast meeting on April 3, 2020 featuring Tim Rettig, President & CEO of Intrust IT, who will be breaking down everything you want to know and OUGHT to know about implementing an ESOP.