As INC. staff members will tell you, with a roll of their eyes, I have a certain obsession with, well, cars. A friend of mine shares this problem. This fellow buys all manner of exotics -- Porsche 911 Turbos, Audi Quattro Turbo Coupes, Peugeot Turbo 16s -- and redoes them. He alters the suspension, replaces the exhaust system, puts on aftermarket wheels and tires, installs custom seats and steering wheel, and adds a sound system that costs more than most new cars. Just when envy is about to get the best of me, my friend turns around and sells the damn thing, only to start the process all over again. For anyone who thinks the beauty of such cars is in the driving, the whole thing is more than a bit baffling.
Phil Romano does with businesses (restaurants, to be precise) what my friend does with exotics. Romano comes up with a new concept, transforms it into a business, and -- as soon as he's got your olfactory senses in high gear -- cashes out and goes off to cook up his next recipe. Some of these eateries do better commercially than others. One has gone public (and is, coincidentally, an INC. 100 company for the second time). All have been spiced with a playfulness and imagination all too rare in any business. Many company founders claim that what they do best and enjoy most is to launch, not manage, new businesses. For all of you start-up artists, feast your eyes on "Love 'Em and Leave 'Em," on page 124.