It's been years since anything I've read has had as great an impact on me as this month's contribution from Jim Collins. I'm referring to its effect not only on my thinking about what I do as a manager but also on me personally and on the way I lead my professional life.

The article, drawn from a series of interviews with Collins, picks up where he left off in Built to Last, the 1994 best-seller about visionary companies that he wrote with Jerry I. Porras. In the future, Collins suggests, great businesses will not be built on the traditional tripod of cutting-edge products, brilliant strategy, and charismatic leadership. Rather, a company's durability will come first from the values that guide the creation of its products and services, second from the development of mechanisms designed to encourage behavior that reflects those values, and third from leaders who function as architects of the entire process.

Of course, the success of any interview depends partly on the people asking the questions. In this case, they were executive editors Michael Hopkins and Jeffrey L. Seglin. Afterward, Hopkins took the transcript and turned it into a cover story, applying the same deft touch he used in crafting the interview with designer and writer Richard Saul Wurman that we ran in May ("Get Dumb and Grow Rich").

Risky Business
I first met Drix Niemann when I was a young editor in Boston and he tried to recruit me for a magazine he'd started in New Jersey. Nothing came of the offer, but we hit it off and stayed in touch. About eight years ago he dropped me a note saying he'd decided to buy a business and wondered if I'd be interested in having him chronicle the experience for Inc. I accepted without a moment's hesitation.

In this issue Niemann gives us the third and final episode of the saga. It's a moving story in its own right, but I'd strongly urge you to go back and read the first two installments as well. You can download them from Inc. Online. Only after reading this month's article can you appreciate the irony of his statement in the first one that he was buying a business, rather than starting one, because he "didn't want to risk everything."

Extra Credit
Speaking of Inc. Online, we were thrilled to learn in August that it had been selected as the winner in the on-line category of Folio magazine's annual Editorial Excellence Awards competition. This followed by six weeks the news that Inc. Online had been honored with the Computer Press Association's award as best overall new publication, beating out strong entries from both print and on-line media. Proud as we are to receive such recognition from our peers, we are even more delighted that we are now reaching almost 500,000 people each month through Inc. Online.

Another Milestone
Physician Sales & Service (PSS) founder Patrick Kelly is a guy who thrives on big goals, like creating the first national physicians' supplies company or building a billion-dollar business from scratch. I don't know if becoming an Inc. columnist measures up, but we sure are happy to have him. His first column is on page 35.

  • Jim Collins returns with fresh insights into the qualities that help companies endure.
  • Drix Niemann recounts the sad ending of the story he began seven years ago.
  • Michael Hopkins asks the right questions and helps shape the answers.
  • PSS founder Patrick Kelly reaches another milestone as he joins our merry band of columnists.