Bo Burlingham is the author of Small Giants: Companies that Choose to Be Great Instead of Big, and co-authored with Jack Stack, The Great Game of Business, on open-book management. Bo says the question is how to accomplish business in a way that is highly productive, allows for the creation of great things, and enhances the lives of the people in the business, and those whom the business touches.
[2:51] Bo is not sure he’s a thought leader, but he is a journalist. In 1982, writing at Fidelity Investments, he started learning about business; shortly after, he was invited to write for Inc. That was his introduction to the entrepreneurial economy, and to many of the leaders of companies that have since become household names.
[7:11] Bo captures the essence of leadership and stewardship in his books. There is a theme of ownership, and engagement with the entire company. Bo starts with the essential concept of capitalist business: a group of people working together to create something that other people want to buy.
[10:13] The question is how to accomplish business in a way that is highly productive, allows for the creation of great things, and enhances the lives of the people in the business, and those whom the business touches. A leader is someone who educates people on what they are doing together, and how they are creating value and making the world better. A leader helps people learn and grow.
[13:04] Bo observes that great entrepreneurs live a life of value. Entrepreneurs are idealists and dreamers, and are driven to change the world for the better. The great entrepreneurs are primarily motivated by vision, not by gain.
[20:09] A business gets to a certain size and complexity, and the numbers become very important. Entrepreneurs are generally not accountants, and they need to learn that aspect of business to see how the enterprise is creating value. This was the basis of The Great Game of Business, with Jack Stack.
[24:40] There is a trend among young professionals to reject capitalism, while taking its benefits for granted. There is ignorance about how business works, while the media focuses on the problematic aspects of business. Business is a tool to use to meet your goals.
[28:49] There has always been tension between the numbers side and the people side of business.
Jack Stack said that’s only a problem when the numbers are not in the hands of the people themselves. When the people know the numbers, it becomes a matter of figuring out together what to do to create a more successful business.
[44:15] Be careful about choosing your employer.
How to contact Bo:
Great entrepreneurs live a life of value.
‘Entrepreneur’ is a symbol of prestige.
Great entrepreneurs are motivated by a vision.
Entrepreneurs start as salespeople – not accountants
Be careful who you go to work for
Bo Burlingham is a contributor at Forbes magazine. Previously he worked at Inc. Magazine for 33 years, first as a senior editor, and after six months, an executive editor, later as an editor-at-large. His most recent book is Finish Big: How Great Entrepreneurs Exit Their Companies on Top. He also wrote Small Giants: Companies that Choose to Be Great Instead of Big, and co-authored, with Norm Brodsky, Street Smarts: An All-Purpose Tool Kit for Entrepreneurs, and with Jack Stack, The Great Game of Business, on open-book management, and A Stake in the Outcome, on running an employee-owned company.
Before joining Inc. Magazine, Bo freelanced for various publications, including Esquire, Harper’s, Boston Magazine, and Mother Jones. He was also managing editor of Ramparts magazine for a while. In 1982, Bo joined Fidelity Investments, where he wrote for Peter Lynch, Ned Johnson, and others, until coming to Inc. Magazine. From 1992 to 1997, Bo served on the board of The Body Shop Inc., the U.S. subsidiary of the international cosmetics company. Bo was a founder, with Tom Peters, of PAC World, that gave Bo a chance to meet a lot of zany — and brilliant — people from around the globe.
Bo has been married 35 years to his wife, Lisa. They have two children and one grandson, with a granddaughter on the way.