Here's a classic example of how people wind up on the cover of this magazine. A few months ago I asked associate editor Jerry Useem to start doing some background research for an article on business failure. One of the first people he interviewed was Bill Bartmann, a former Inc. 500 CEO, who indeed had a remarkable tale to tell about his company's demise. Useem soon realized, however, that the story of Bartmann's failure was just the prelude to an even more remarkable story about the building of one of the fastest-growing, most profitable companies in the United States--a company, moreover, that had been virtually ignored by the press.
It says something about the world we cover in Inc. that an assignment on business failure would wind up as a cover story about an astonishing business success. Of course, it takes first-rate journalists to get such stories, and Useem is one of our best. We look forward to many more cover features by him in the future.
A Passion for Numbers
For the past year or so, finance editor Jill Andresky Fraser has been writing our American Dream column--featuring businesses for sale--which appears in every issue, usually on the page facing the back inside cover of the magazine. To each column, she has brought an inimitable sense of the drama that lurks behind the numbers. This month she brings us up-to-date on the status of some of the companies she's written about in the past.
Fraser's passion for numbers has impressed us ever since she came to Inc. from Forbes, in 1989. So, for that matter, has her energy. Not only is she one of our most prolific contributors, but she has somehow found time to be the Wall Street columnist for the New York Observer, the executive-life columnist for the Sunday New York Times, a contributing editor of Bloomberg Personal, and the mother of Max, 12, and Emma, 5. Now she's working on a book about the plight of white-collar workers in large corporations. In her spare time.
I admit I was skeptical when contributing writer Alessandra Bianchi first proposed this month's Anatomy of a Start-up, " No Experience Required." Did we really want to write about another specialty-beverage company--and a tea company, to boot?
But it turns out that this start-up poses a particularly timely question. We live in an era, after all, when good ideas can be copied so fast that they aren't worth much by themselves. Everything depends on your ability to execute well. So how were a bunch of tea mavens with no business experience able to get some of the top people in their industry to serve as their advisers and mentors?
As for Bianchi, well, she certainly knows from start-ups. She's lived with one for the past four years. Her husband, Jigger Herman, is the cofounder of Cutting Edge Inc., #86 on the 1996 Inc. 500, a manufacturer of computer-controlled fabric-cutting machines that was recently acquired by Gerber Scientific. And no, she and Herman didn't meet through the magazine. Her sister is married to his brother--but that's another story.
- Jerry Useem's last cover story was ' The Start-up Factory' (February), about Bill Gross's Idealab.
- Alessandra Bianchi has been writing about start-ups--and living with one--for years.
- Steven Berglas has strong ideas about dealing with star performers.
- Nancy Austin thinks Berglas is all wet. Fax your own opinions to us at 800-335-3348.