Our annual State of Small Business issue gives us the chance to reflect on the myriad entrepreneurial developments we've covered over the past year. In that spirit, we've decided to offer readers a similar opportunity for reflection.
Compliments and Criticism
I would like to begin with a compliment. I read your magazine regularly and believe Inc. is taking the true pulse of business in America. But with success comes responsibility, and with compliments comes constructive criticism.
The cover of the March 1998 issue reads " The Hottest Entrepreneurs in America" and sports a fiery picture of an Iowa Engineering student [Tony Mirchandani] who we are led to believe is seriously on his way to making his first $10 million by the age of 35. Yet, while reading about this student it becomes clear that he is simply an energetic engineering student who has taken some business and marketing classes.
Many businesspeople, like myself, respect your publication for its insight on small business. I feel you disrespect many real entrepreneurs and small-business owners by depicting a college student with a business plan and a dream as a person who is in the trenches and fighting on the front line of business every day. Although I wish him well, Mirchandani will face many, many unforeseen obstacles between now and $10 million. Please reserve the cover of your beloved magazine for people who have invested the blood, sweat, and tears that it takes to really make it.
Manager, Sales & Marketing
Clinton Township, Mich.
Pardon Our French
This reader appreciated Michael Hopkins's January profile of CEO Doug Mellinger in " The Antihero's Guide to the New Economy," with one caveat:
Great article on Doug Mellinger, but can you answer this question: Why is the use of profanity necessary in a business article? Does salty language make the writer or the subject seem tough? Personally, I believe it demeans the reader. In an article devoted to a humble man, why include words that stem from the prideful?
Management Development Institute
Michael Hopkins responds: If you thought the language we printed was vulgar, you should hear the tapes. Mellinger is no Richard Nixon when it comes to colorful use of the vernacular, but like most businesspeople we know, he doesn't delete all his expletives, either. Striking a balance between accuracy and good manners is always "tough"--as in difficult, not macho. In this case, I felt that it was appropriate to present Mellinger and the rest of the story's cast in a light that reflected the truth.
This reader was intrigued by " Start-up Covets Spokes of Northwest's Hub" (Upstarts, February), Marc Ballon's profile of Pro Air Inc., one of the latest ventures in the uber-risky airline industry:
More power to Kevin Stamper and Pro Air Inc. He has definitely tapped into a large and frustrated market. Here in Minneapolis, another Northwest hub, the airline company received a huge handout a few years back to save itself from bankruptcy. It has returned the favor by charging fliers here substantially more than the average for fares. Once Pro Air Inc. is established in Detroit, beg Stamper to bring his airline and its fairer fares to the Twin Cities.
Editor's note: While it's true that Northwest Airlines found itself on the steps of bankruptcy court, the company was saved not by a handout but by its employees, who accepted wage concessions in return for a 32% ownership stake in the airline.
Inc. wants to know what you think. Please address all correspondence to Inc. Letters Editor, 38 Commercial Wharf, Boston, MA 02110, or call our editorial-commentary line at 800-238-1756. (Messages will be recorded.) Or E-mail your letter to firstname.lastname@example.org or fax it to 800-335-3348. Include your name, address, and phone number for verification. Letters must be signed, and all correspondence may be edited for space and style. For help with subscription problems, call 800-234-0999.