Most of you have probably seen them -- tests that claim to measure one's "entre-preneurial quotient." Invariably, they feature questions like:
(1) Are you
(a) reflective, (b) action-oriented, (c) short?
(2) Were your parents (a) suburban professionals, (b) urban liberals,
(c) emigre Jews who abandoned you to a Catholic orphanage?
(3) If someone gave you a million dollars, the first thing you'd do would be to (a) quit your job (b) locate a shrewd tax adviser, (c) count the money, then locate a shrewd tax adviser?
If you answered "c" to each of the above, watch out Fred Smith and Donald Burr, neither of whom ever saw the inside of an orphanage.
As inane as such quizzes might be, they are based on attitudes about company founders that are all too often shared by many otherwise serious and influential business observers. (The reference to height, for instance, is culled from no less august a source than The Wall Street Journal.) And so the company owner appears as a genetic and environmental freak, for whom starting a business is a matter of personal economic survival, unfit as he or she may be for the demands of mainstream commercial life.
This month's cover story -- a joint editorial project by INC. and USA Today -- explores the results of a detailed questionnaire sent to the founders and chief executive officers of the INC. 500, America's fastest-growing private companies. Whatever else the survey reveals, it should put to rest any notion that America's growth leaders are the rebellious, wild-eyed misfits of business legend. Welcome instead to "Main Street, Inc."