Mail: June 2002
He went from physical therapist to gym kingpin to pro basketball's madcap impresario. Pat Croce, the subject of Joe Rosenbloom's April cover story, exudes new-agey bombast and heartfelt sincerity, which combine to create a unique leadership style. Croce's vaudevillian mugging plays well, if this month's gushing letters are any indication.
C'mon, Get Happy
"I feel grrrrrreat!" The uncomplicated mantra that expresses Croce's extravagantly positive worldview has the power, apparently, to do big things.
Like Croce, I believe there are many talented individuals in our society and in business who could do revolutionary things if they had a positive attitude. Unfortunately, most of them hold back for fear of being labeled a phony. May those of us with "corny" perspectives own up to our power to influence others. I feel damn proud of my Pollyanna attitude. I am really beginning to understand how rare and powerful it can be.
Paula Zajac, R.N.
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
I find myself to be a mild version of Pat Croce, often doing crazy things to keep my people on their toes. I haven't seen too many leaders or managers effectively use this style, so I began to think I was going to have to "conform." I now know that I am doing just fine with the "Pat Croce style." "Mr. Happy," as I'm known by my colleagues, will remain as intensely upbeat as ever.
U.S. Air Force
And despite being relentlessly chipper, Croce comes off as just one of the guys.
Do you know why I love Pat Croce? Because he gave me one of my favorite sports memories. After the Sixers won their first playoff game in seven years and the fans were filing out of the arena cheering and screaming, guess who was the loudest? Pat Croce, perched precariously on a railing at the highest level of the lobby and screaming his damn fool head off just like the rest of us. And though he was the owner up on high, you could tell that what he wanted most was to dive into the crowd below and celebrate with us, not without us.
Advertising Specialty Institute
The Selling-Your-Company Blues
The discouraging business-for-sale marketplace assessed in Jill Andresky Fraser's " Nothing's Moving" (April) prompted this reader to look for scapegoats: accountants.
Businesses do not sell during times like these because the costs associated with such transactions are quite significant. A combination of brokers' fees and legal due-diligence costs often exceed more than 10% of the total transaction price -- and the percentage is likely to be higher the smaller the business is. Ironically, owners incur many such costs because they follow their accountants' advice. CPAs routinely direct clients to run their businesses with the goal of minimizing tax payments -- justifying their fees by pointing to the tax savings. Since the accountant's objective is to retain the client, not to put the owner in a better position to sell the business, a serious conflict of interest pervades the private-business-transaction market, making it highly inefficient.
Stanley Jay Feldman
Editor's note: The writer is also an associate professor of finance at Bentley College.
Try to Top Yourself
If you were going to launch a new venture, what would it be? That was the question posed to business pooh-bahs in Thea Singer's March cover story.
As an individual who has worked for cutting-edge start-up companies for most of my career, I was fascinated to read about where some top entrepreneurial minds feel the world is moving. It's those sorts of insights on many topics -- from the social issues we face to the technology that will redefine our world -- that true business leaders must consider.
Brian K. Brady
Principal and CFO
Gates and Co.
It Doesn't Make Cents
In his March Street Smarts column, " A Failure of Responsibility," Norm Brodsky said that CEOs who believe layoffs will strengthen a company are simply misguided.
Thanks to Norm Brodsky for highlighting one of the fallacies of business. Layoffs are just a temporary fix for long-term strategic errors. Studies have shown that cost reductions from layoffs have typically been accompanied by reduced productivity. Anticipated stock-price gains have been nonexistent or short-lived. Before considering layoffs, executives should be forced by shareholders, as well as stakeholders, to evaluate any cost savings or expected increase in earnings against the total sum of personal and societal costs. Alternative actions -- like reduced hours, job sharing, and other, more creative methods -- may prove to be the best economic solution for the company, its employees, and society.
VP Sales Development
Avis Rent A Car
In the Cesar Chavez-Ayn Rand debate, this reader champions the individualist.
There's no difference between being obligated to carry "deadwood" employees on the payroll and being obligated to continue working at a job that you hate. A job exists because an employer needs something done and is willing to pay someone to do it, and there is a person who is willing to take him up on it. An employee is not obligated to remain in a job longer than it suits him, even if the survival of a company is at stake. Likewise, a CEO has no obligation to retain someone whom the business no longer needs. Give the employee adequate notice, and then let him fend for himself.
Dr. Michael Halpert
House of Correction
Due to an editing oversight, we neglected to provide credit for the source of the data on community-development venture capital in April's " The Bucks in Your Backyard." That information was provided by Julia Sass Rubin, a fellow at the Taubman Center for Public Policy, at Brown University.
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Imagine loving software so much, you rescue its maker from certain death. Twice.
Tom Danner never expected -- or wanted -- to own Haven Corp. And yet, fate seems to have settled upon him as the company's ultimate protector. Having saved Haven once before, he's been thrust back into that role by events he couldn't even have imagined nearly two years ago.
It all began in August 2000, when Haven founder and owner Bruce Holmes shut down his company in Evanston, Ill. (See " Rescue at CC:" in February 2001.) Back then, a group of dedicated customers -- most of them small direct marketers -- refused to let the company die. Not only did they rely on Haven's Wizard software for managing their order flow and inventory control, but they were fiercely loyal to Holmes and his company. Led by Danner, a Haven customer whose company sold electronics and data-storage products, the group explored a variety of options to keep Haven alive, including raising capital for the company themselves. Ultimately, Danner got Holmes to sign over Haven's intellectual-property rights, including source code, and then reassigned those rights to $46-million Ecometry Corp., a publicly traded software company in Delray Beach, Fla. As part of the agreement, Danner agreed to step in and temporarily run the new subsidiary, dubbed NewHaven Software Corp. He hired Haven's crack programmers, signed on Holmes as a consultant, and promised customers that Ecometry's deep pockets would get things moving again. But it was not to be.
Last summer, reports Danner, NewHaven was ready to roll out a beta version of CMS, its long-awaited replacement for Haven's non-Windows Wizard software, but it couldn't get the green light from Ecometry. "We didn't feel it was ready for market," says Ecometry chief financial officer Martin Weinbaum. Counters Danner: "We couldn't get direction. We couldn't even get their attention. I told Marty, 'Either get out of my way, or sell the company back to me."
As it turned out, Ecometry had problems that included a plummeting stock price, a departing CEO, and shareholder lawsuits in the works. So at the end of September, Weinbaum called Danner. "I've got good news and bad news," he declared. "The bad news is that we're shutting down NewHaven. The good news is that we're willing to sell it to you." Déjà vu!
Danner jumped on the opportunity and agreed to buy NewHaven for more than double the price he had originally agreed to pay Holmes. In a November 9 letter to customers, whom Danner calls "salt-of-the-earth entrepreneurs," he vowed to "fulfill the promise" that Holmes had made to update the beloved software. CMS debuted in final beta form two months later.
In retrospect, says Danner, Ecometry's cash allowed NewHaven to make its new software "more robust than it would have been." But Danner and his customers are fully ready for the next chapter in NewHaven's saga. "I'm thrilled because the company is back in the hands of an entrepreneur who does what we do for a living, as opposed to a big software company that might see us as just a segment of their market," says customer Peggy Glenn, owner of Firefighters Bookstore. "Now it's Tom's business, by God, and he can run it his way." --Donna Fenn
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