The Start-Up Spirit: How Thinking Big and Acting Small Builds Winning Companies

Good leaders know that business success boils down to two things: thought and action. Healthy perspective and intentional operation create an environment where people are motivated to contribute, building the kind of culture that is required for a prosperous future.

Interestingly, the best companies possess the strategic skill of large global corporations and the uncommon teamwork and commitment of successful family businesses. This is the premise of Think Big, Act Small: How America’s Best Performing Companies Keep the Start-up Spirit Alive, an enlightening book by Jason Jennings which examines the growth of thousands of companies, both public and private. The most successful companies (those who experienced more than 10% annual growth in revenue and profits over a 10 year period) shared a simple philosophy: think big while acting small.

Jennings’ research also found that companies that think small tend to stay small and those that begin to act big tend to get into trouble. Winning cultures reside in the upper right hand quadrant of this matrix:


Your Own Culture Matrix

As a Christian business owner or CEO, you may have already made the connection between the think big/act small culture and God’s design for your business. But where does your company stand? We’ve boiled down seven key leadership building blocks to help you analyze and build your own matrix. After circling the pair of closest descriptors (e.g, Think Small, Act Big), mark an ‘X’ in the appropriate quadrant for that Key in the scorekeeping matrix below. Repeat this process for all seven keys.


Key 1: Shirt-Sleeve Leadership: Engaged leaders who facilitate team performance

Think Small: Our people are content to “put in their time” but don’t have a reach goal or worthy cause to rally around. They rarely look outside their own area to better understand what others are doing.

Think Big: We feel like one team and keep our big goals in view while tending to daily details. We know that our success and teamwork depends on each of us becoming more knowledgeable about the overall business.


Act Big: Departments rarely share information. Our people shift blame and resist accountability. There’s no easy way to elevate issues or ideas. Leadership is out of touch with our daily challenges and front-line customer issues.

Act Small: We all work together, and with our customers and suppliers, on a basis that promotes shared information and understanding. This keeps unreported problems from festering. People are routinely encouraged and recognized. We cross-train to be more responsive and managers sometimes help out.

Key 2: Short-Term Goals & Long-Term Horizons: Balanced planning and execution

Think Small: People are so focused on hitting monthly or quarterly targets that they play games that hurt the long-term profitability and health of the company.

Think Big: We know that our long-term plans are important, but they can’t be achieved if we don’t execute our daily responsibilities well in serving our customers.


Act Big: People are complacent, believing that the company’s future is secure. They think the business will survive no matter what they do.

Act Small: We know that strategic planning is a dynamic process, since external events can make our plans obsolete. We’re always sharpening our strategy based on new information and executing the small daily steps that will get us there.

You’re on a roll. Download the other five keys now to complete your company assessment.

What does your matrix reveal?

Are you thinking big and acting small? Doing business with this philosophy may not always come naturally, but research shows it’s worth pursuing. Big thinking — a strategic plan, strong understanding of your customers, and relentless pursuit of excellence — can put you on the path to remarkable growth. Acting small — uniting around common values, sharing pain and gain, and practicing servant leadership — will maintain a culture that people want to be a part of today and tomorrow.



  • Kevin Miller Bio

    With over a decade of experience in marketing leadership, brand management, and business development, Kevin has helped numerous companies refine and implement plans to create exponential growth.

    Prior to joining C12, Kevin led a successful Florida-based brand strategy consulting business focused on growing small and medium-sized businesses. Entrepreneurial in spirit, Kevin also has a diverse background in launching start-ups as well as helping struggling or stagnant businesses develop a new course of action. His experience incorporates knowledge from multiple industries including textile manufacturing and design, medicine, real estate, technology, web development, and the creative arts.

    After attending the University of Central Florida where he studied Music Performance, Kevin became involved in worship arts and youth ministries, serving for several years in various leadership roles. He and his wife Beth, an elementary school administrator, have been married since 2000. Together with two sons Kyle and Kamden, they enjoy a wide variety of outdoor activities including hiking, hunting, fishing, and backpacking.

  • Troy Blackmon Bio

    Troy came to The C12 Group in 2008, with a diverse background in executive leadership, sales development, team building, and operations. Through his role as VP of Field Operations, he is committed to serve, equip and encourage CEOs and business owners to lead thriving companies that honor the Lord and serve people.

    During his tenure at Chick-fil-A, Inc. Troy learned that business excellence and glorifying God in the marketplace go hand in hand. Troy managed a P&L of $35+ million in revenue and coached business owners in operational excellence and improving financial results.

    In addition, Troy has been involved in leading small group ministry, including planting a church in Seattle, WA. Troy was formerly Partner at OneAccord, a management-consulting firm focused on accelerating revenue for mid-market companies. While at OneAccord, Troy was privileged to work with numerous technology companies in senior leadership positions, managing sales, marketing, and business development activities. Troy most recently served as the President of a technology private equity group, where he led the management teams of 4 portfolio businesses.

    Troy is married to his high school sweetheart, Shanna, and has been blessed with 4 children. He enjoys golf, cycling, and mountain biking with his family.

  • Mike Sharrow Bio

    Mike joined C12 as a member in 2010 while serving as an executive pastor for a large church in Texas and owner of a healthcare strategy consulting group.  Prior to that, he had served in a variety of leadership roles in both operations and sales corporately for the Walgreen Company, financial services as well as strategic development work with Health by Design.  In 2011 he exited his commitments to join the local C12 practice in San Antonio as an associate chair serving CEOs across that market.  In 2013 he and a partner acquired the greater Central Texas region and stewarded it as it grew to a team of 8 full-time chairmen serving nearly 150 leaders.  Mike is passionate about collaboration, strategic planning, Gospel initiatives and BHAG endeavors.

    With a background spanning Fortune 50 corporate settings, startups, non-profit and local church, Mike has been discipled into an integrated life perspective around the calling all believers share to be disciple-making disciples and ambassadors of Christ across all vocations and contexts.  It was in 2005 when God revealed to Mike the perils of a “sacred versus secular” duality in life and since then he’s been on the adventure of living one life in Christ, with work as worship, business as ministry and life as mission.

    Mike grew up in Alaska, graduated from Trinity International University and the Loyola Graduate School of Business.  He married his bijou of an Iowa farmers daughter, Jacqui, in 2002 and they have 2 girls, Elayna and Sophia.