Inc.'s executive editor tells both the official and unofficial story of why Bernie Goldhirsh decided to launch our small-business magazine 20 years ago.
Inc. At 20 Years! Look back at the people and trends that shaped our world, 1979-1999
Stories always begin further back than we think.
In the sanctioned version of Inc.'s story, our founder, Bernie Goldhirsh, was building his first magazine business--the company that published Sail--in the 1970s when he made a discovery. Desperate for advice that would help him tackle the daily management challenges he faced, he went looking for magazines or books that could help him. There weren't any. "And I realized something interesting. I began to see a whole world of people who were creating companies that needed to be controlled, grown, and nurtured--yet none of the business magazines were written for or about them. That's when I knew I had to start this magazine." Inc.'s first issue appeared in April 1979.
But if that's the official story, the unabridged variation would start like this: "I wanted to have a school on a boat...."
That was Goldhirsh's childhood dream, and he pursued it. After college he chartered a sailboat, attracted students, and headed for South America. He had adventures and eventually went broke. And he made a discovery: no magazine on the market answered the practical questions that novice sailors were asking him about the skills they needed to become self-reliant at sea. To answer that need, he started publishing educational pamphlets that eventually became Sail. And Sail's business challenges led to Inc.
So to understand where Inc. came from, it's not enough to know about the frustrated Sail publisher who needed advice he couldn't find. Really, you need to know about the young man who loved voyages ("It's the same whether you're sailing a ship across the Atlantic or taking your company from start-up to its destination"), who admired people's quests for self-reliance, and who liked to teach. Those characteristics became Inc.'s as well.
Twenty years after the magazine's launch, they still are.