Small Giants
ANCHOR BREWING – San Francisco, CA. The original American micro-brewery. Owner Fritz Maytag was working on an IPO to raise the capital needed to increase production and avoid a capacity crisis. But he called it off. “This is not going to be a giant company,” he said, “not on my watch.”


The nation’s premier independent records-storage business.
Founder Norm Brodsky took his first business’s sales from nothing to $120 million in eight years—and from $120 million to almost nothing in eight months. He vowed to focus on making his next business, CitiStorage, great instead of big.



CLIF BAR & COMPANY – Berkeley, CA. A leading maker of energy bars and other nutrition foods. Founder Gary Erickson was about to sell the company for $120 million, to be split between him and his partner, but he called off the deal at the last minute because it felt wrong.


ECCO – Boise, ID. The foremost manufacturer of backup alarms and amber warning lights for commercial vehicles. The company was constantly getting calls from large potential acquirers who wanted to buy it, but majority owner Jim Thompson decided to sell his stock to ECCO’s employee stock ownership plan instead.


HAMMERHEAD PRODUCTIONS – Studio City, CA. A cutting-edge supplier of computer-generated special effects to the motion picture industry. The four founders were in great demand but turned down other offers and started Hammerhead because they wanted flexibility to do their own projects and an environment that was fun to work in.


O.C. TANNER CO. – Salt Lake City, UT. The pre-eminent employee recognition and service awards company. Founder Obert Tanner was revered by his more than 1,000 employees, most of whom he knew by name. His successor, Kent Murdock, had the challenge of preserving Tanner’s values while reinventing the business.


REELL PRECISION MANUFACTURING – St. Paul, MN. A top designer and manufacturer of motion-control products. The three founders wanted a business that promoted harmony between their work lives and their family lives—and wound up creating one of the most democratically run companies in the world.


RHYTHM & HUES STUDIOS – Los Angeles, CA. An Oscar-winning (“Babe”) producer of computer-generated character animation and visual effects. In creating a legendary workplace, CEO and co-founder John Hughes insisted on providing health care benefits—some of the best in the U.S.—to part-timers as well as


RIGHTEOUS BABE – Buffalo, NY. Including the celebrated record company founded by singer-songwriter Ani DiFranco. Every major studio tried to sign DiFranco, but she didn’t want to be part of a giant corporation. So she started a record company, later adding a concert hall, a touring company, and a retail business.


SELIMA INC. – Hollywood, FL. An exclusive fashion design and dress making catering to a select clientele. Born in Iraq, Selima Stavola moved to the U.S. with her GI husband in 1945 and started designing clothing to help support the family. She was soon being courted by fashion industry executives and investors who saw in her another Christian Dior or Coco Chanel, but she decided to have her own two-person business instead, designing clothing only for people she likes.


THE GOLTZ GROUP – Chicago, IL. Including Artists’ Frame Service, the country’s best-known (and largest) independent framing business. Like a lot of entrepreneurs, Jay Goltz couldn’t imagine doing anything but building his company as big and as fast as possible—until it almost ruined his life.


UNION SQUARE HOSPITALITY GROUP – New York, NY. The company of renowned restaurateur Danny Meyer. “I’ve made more money choosing the right things to say no to than choosing things to say yes to,” says Meyer. “I measure it by the money I haven’t lost and the quality I haven’t sacrificed.”



W.L. BUTLER CONSTRUCTION – Redwood City, CA. A world-class general contractor specializing in major commercial projects. W.L. Butler was growing like crazy in the late 1980s, when Bill Butler decided to rethink the entire business. He didn’t want it to get so big that he would no longer know everybody’s name.


ZINGERMAN’S COMMUNITY OF BUSINESSES – Ann Arbor, MI. Including the famous Zingerman’s Delicatessen and seven other food-related companies. Ari Weinzweig and Paul Saginaw turned down numerous opportunities to take their acclaimed deli national, deciding instead to build other great businesses in the Ann Arbor area.

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