We've been chronicling the managerial and economic consequences of the "entrepreneurial revolution" in the United States for almost 20 years, but the cultural implications of the revolution are only now becoming apparent. One striking example can be found on college campuses around the country, where students are launching businesses like never before. Whereas previous generations have been inspired by people such as John and Robert Kennedy in the 1960s or Woodward and Bernstein in the 1970s, today's college students grew up in the 1980s and 1990s, when entrepreneurs like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Andrew Grove were becoming not just business legends but cultural icons. The message--namely, that starting a business is a legitimate and downright exciting way to get a life--hasn't been lost on these kids, who are giving a whole new meaning to the phrase working your way through college, as staff writer Marc Ballon documents in this month's cover story. There are many compelling reasons for paying attention to them--not least of all the possibility that some of them may soon be your competitors. If you think that sounds far-fetched, try asking Bill Gates about one student's start-up that calls itself Netscape these days.
Speaking of cultural change, we've also been writing for years about the "solo" phenomenon--people setting out to build companies in which they would be the only "employee." Recently, one of the most successful book editors in the country, Harriet Rubin, left her job at Currency/Doubleday to do just that. The first stop on her solo journey was Claremont, Calif., where she met with perhaps the leading soloist of the 20th century, Peter Drucker. "No human being has built a better brand name by managing just himself than Peter Drucker," Rubin writes. In the article, she says to Drucker, "You're your own boss; you have choice assignments; clients come to you, not vice versa. How can I get a life like that?" Read " Peter's Principles" to see what happens when two of the most original business minds anywhere get together to discuss creating the perfect business life.
By the way, you may recall an interview I did with Drucker two years ago (see "Flashes of Genius," The State of Small Business, 1996), in which he referred to Newt Gingrich as the most visible entrepreneur in the country. Not long ago, I met with the Speaker in Washington, and Gingrich talked--quite eloquently, I thought--about the influence Drucker has had on him over more than three decades. That's how we came to ask Gingrich to review Jack Beatty's new book, The World According to Peter Drucker.
Almost everybody I know who runs something develops quirky little theories over time. I have several myself. One of them relates to hiring. I call it "the rule of three": it takes three years before even the best new hire performs at his or her peak; it takes three tries to get the right person for the job, especially a key one; and on average we invest three times more time and energy in making a capital-investment decision than a comparable hiring decision. I can't tell you how many CEOs I know who, when they finally decided to get as rigorous about their recruiting as they were about any other serious part of their business, turned to Pierre Mornell for help. Now, thanks to his new book (which we excerpt), we all can glean the same advice and insights that people like Gordon Segal at Crate & Barrel have been getting from Mornell for years.
We were deeply saddened to hear about the death of Wilson Harrell, in December. Wilson first made a name for himself as the man who rescued Formula 409 from bankruptcy and obscurity and built it into a national brand by outwitting Procter & Gamble in one of the most colorful entrepreneurial escapades in recent memory. Shortly after we met Wilson back in 1984, he was profiled in the pages of the magazine. The article was so popular that we signed him up as a columnist. Subsequently, he was named the publisher of the magazine, managing our sales force and making frequent public appearances on our behalf. I can still recall what Wilson told me the night he agreed to join Inc. "I've never been good at working in anyone's organization but my own," he said, "and I don't know the first thing about publishing. But one thing I promise you: it'll never be boring with me around." Wilson made good on that promise, and everyone who worked with him will be poorer for his passing.