Seven Stories from the Forbes Top 25 Best Small Companies List

Amber Johnson Care for people, Culture, Ethics, Leadership, Return on Values, Values, Values-Driven Leaders

Forbes coverForbes Features Friends of the CVDL in New List

In late January, Forbes magazine published it’s first list of the best small companies in the country. Explaining what makes these companies so great, Bo Burlingham, the Forbes contributor who organized the list and the original author of Small Giants – the book that inspired the list, writes:

All of the companies on this list have had opportunities to get as big as possible, as fast as possible. Growth is good, but the leaders of these companies have had other, nonfinancial priorities as well, such as being great at what they do, creating great places to work, providing great service to customers, making great contributions to their communities and finding great ways to lead their lives. The wealth they create, though substantial, is a by-product of success in these other areas.

We were delighted to see many familiar faces on the list. Several of the Forbes companies were studied in our Return on Values research project (in partnership with the Small Giants Community), or are led by executives who regularly partner with the CVDL for our Senior Executive Roundtables, conference presentations, or publications.

We want you to get to know these companies too – so here are six stories, drawn from firms on the Forbes Best Small Companies list.

Tasty Catering: How to Build a People-Centered Culture from the Ground Up

In the Chicago area, Tasty Catering has an exceptional reputation for its food and its service. But the organization’s health was threatened a few years ago when some of its high potential young leaders threatened to leave: the culture has to change, or we go, they said. Hear the story of Tasty’s transformation:

New Belgium Brewing Company: Shared Ownership

Do differently cover with shadowOur research indicates that strong leaders and strong companies are most effective when they practice shared ownership. This is the concept that employees are trusted and have autonomy to lead within their area of responsibility. At New Belgium Brewing (makers of the popular Fat Tire beer), this takes the form of literal ownership – the company is owned by its employees. Read more about New Belgium and shared ownership in our e-book, Do Differently: How CEOs of Values-Driven Companies Spend their Time.



Integrated Project Management: Leading the Way – How Honesty & Integrity Drive Longterm Growth

If you’ve ever doubted that character matters, CEO Rich Panico of Integrated Project Management will convince you otherwise: he’s built his successful business on the foundation of integrity – and it has paid dividends. Hear more in this video:

BlinkUX: One CEO’s Reason for Doing Business – People are the Purpose

People at BlinkKaren Clark Cole, CEO of user design interface firm BlinkUX, wants her business to make a difference in the world, through its people and its purpose. To do so, she’s creating a culture she summarizes with one word: authentic. This process takes intentional investment, not just employees but in the individual lives of clients as well, as Karen shares in this article from our blog.



Service Express: How to Empower Your People & Save Yourself from Burnout – Coach, Don’t Tell

Managing can be exhausting. Done right, leadership can be exhilarating. Executives at data server maintenance firm Service Express try to get leadership right by coaching employees rather than giving directives. See how it changes energy levels:


Fresno First Bank: Three Steps to Creating a Passionate Workforce

If passionate isn’t the word you’d use to describe the staff at your bank, then you must not be banking in Fresno. “Passionate” was the word we heard most in research interviews at the bank – so our researchers began to watch how the leaders at Fresno First Bank created a workforce who is deeply invested in what they do. Here’s what we learned: – Giving Up the Growth Addiction

Mike Faith headsets.comFor competitive people – as many CEOs are – it’s easy to keep pushing for growth and bigger wins. But sometimes, in doing so, you miss out on your company’s true purpose. “Looking back, I can’t see why being on the growth lists was so important to me,” says Mike Faith, CEO of He shares more in this short article. (And don’t miss hearing the story of how Faith missed out on the chance to invest in Zappos at its founding!)




Bonus Materials

If these companies intrigue you, you may want to check out the following resources as well:


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