How to Stay in Control
We all know that many people wind up in business by pursuing their passions, only to wake up one day with a company to run. The lucky ones are those like Paul Eldrenkamp, the carpenter who learned to love business as much as woodworking and thereby stayed in control of his destiny. You may remember the story we published about him a year ago (" Taming the Beast," April 1996). The unlucky ones are those like Sue Mackarness and Christopher Notley, whose saga appears on page 72. The article about them grew out of research by staff writer Stephanie Gruner, who normally works the vineyards of our Hands On section. She was intrigued by the number of owners of private companies who still wind up losing control of their businesses. Her article will no doubt strike some readers as a case study on the hazards of giving up stock. I, however, am reminded of a comment I once heard from Powersoft Corp. founder Mitchell Kertzman, who gave up far more stock than Mackarness and Notley did and yet managed to thrive. You're kidding yourself, he said, if you think you can stay in control by holding on to equity. There is only one source of control in business today: the ability to perform.
Branding for the Rest of Us
I suppose many people will read this month's cover story, " Brand New" (page 48), with an eye toward assessing Peter van Stolk's chances of succeeding with his start-up. What interested me most about the article, however, was his provocative way of thinking about branding. It's a subject that's gotten a lot of ink in recent years, but most of the coverage has been utterly irrelevant to any company that can't afford to pour millions into marketing. Van Stolk shows what you can do if your major resource is your own creativity.
The article's author, by the way, is staff writer Christopher Caggiano, who works after hours building awareness of another sort--as an actor in local theatrical productions. Sometimes, he says, it's hard to tell where one world ends and the other begins.
"If you had to choose between your business and your kids, which would you choose?" That was the question posed to four successful female business owners, as recounted by Nancy K. Austin in her column on page 37. I have to say I was astonished by their response. The subject of Austin's column is balance. If you find that goal as elusive as most of us do these days, you owe it to yourself to read what she has to say. Austin, you may recall, was the coauthor, with Tom Peters, of A Passion for Excellence. We look forward to her future contributions to the magazine.
"I bet you're all wondering what it feels like to be a billionaire. It's disappointing, really. I remember when it happened to me. I'd been watching the value of my stocks climb, and I realized that when they hit a certain point, I'd become a billionaire. On the day they hit, I was so excited. I wanted to tell someone. But who? I couldn't tell my employees. They'd say, 'Great. Now pay me more money.' I couldn't tell my friends. They weren't nearly as wealthy as I was. So that evening I told my wife [his first wife] as the kids were running around. She said, 'That's great, but I have to deal with the kids right now.' I've learned since then that great wealth isn't nearly as good as average sex."
--Ted Turner, in a speech to the American Society of Magazine Editors on February 5, 1997