Letter from the Editor

The most confident person I ever met was Richard Petty, the king of Grand National stock-car racing. Petty, who finished first in one out of every six events he participated in, was supremely confident even about his own confidence. "I have more of it than anyone I race against," I remember him saying. "Other guys expect to lose. They beat themselves. I know I won't win every time I set foot on the track, but I expect to." Anyone who runs a business understands how important confidence is. It takes confidence to start or buy a company. It takes confidence to make decisions, to hire employees, to invest in equipment, and to sell a product. At the most fundamental level, it takes confidence to be in charge. Yet despite the obviously crucial role that confidence plays in many aspects of life, senior editor Leigh Buchanan found the pickings slim when she set out to explore the topic for this month's cover story. "There doesn't appear to be that much formal research about self-confidence in either economics or psychology," she says. Leigh also drew a blank in the business aisle at Barnes & Noble. (She avoided the self-help section out of an "aversion for exclamation points.") So she did her own digging, conducting interviews with more than 50 business owners and several other experts about the role of confidence in commerce. She asked them what the word meant to them and how it had affected their fortunes. She also asked how confident they feel now -- at a time when prospects for global peace and economic growth are uncertain. Leigh's findings are both illuminating and encouraging. Almost without exception, the interview subjects told her that their experiences of the past few years have made them feel more confident in their abilities, not less. Yes, the business environment is difficult today, they said, but true confidence comes as much from working through difficulty as it does from outright success. Certainly, Richard Petty would agree with that. After all, even the stock-car king lost five times as often as he won.


Editor John Koten can be reached at jkoten@inc.com.


Contributors


Writer Eamon Javers, who is based in Washington, D.C., spent the lame-duck postelection session of Congress staking out the halls of the Senate to find out what the new Republican majority means for small-business owners. Previously, Javers was editor in chief of Washington Business Forward magazine, where he covered businesses ranging from AOL Time Warner to the CIA's own venture-capital fund. Before that he was the senior editor of The Hill, a Capitol Hill weekly newspaper, and spent five years covering Congress. He has appeared on CNN, Fox News Channel, CNBC, MSNBC, C-Span, and other television outlets.

In this month's How I Did It column, associate editor Thea Singer talks to retired Memphis business owner Richard Lightman about his experience integrating the city's movie theaters in 1962. Singer came upon this story when she was doing research for an interview with Lightman's famous son -- Dr. Alan Lightman, the best-selling author of Reunion and Einstein's Dreams -- for a piece on his latest novel, The Diagnosis, for Inc Technology. Singer also writes for the Washington Post and the Boston Globe.

Street Smarts columnist Norm Brodsky was trained as both an accountant and a lawyer -- and says that when he started his first business, 25 years ago, he had to unlearn almost everything he'd been taught. His first company, Perfect Courier, landed on the Inc 500 list for three consecutive years in the mid 1980s. It then merged with a public company, CitiPostal, and appeared on the Inc 100 list of the fastest-growing public companies. Since then, Brodsky has run several other businesses, ranging from a records-storage company to one that manages public golf courses. Those businesses have given him a wealth of experience to draw on in Street Smarts, which has been a staple of the magazine since 1995.

In this month's cover story, senior editor Leigh Buchanan tackles the topic of confidence: who's got it, how those people use it, and how the rest of us can get it. Her interviews with business owners convinced her that "confidence is the entrepreneur's -- perhaps the business world's -- most important asset." Buchanan joined Inc in 1997 as the editor of Inc Technology, having been the executive editor of CIO and cofounding editor of WebMaster, the first magazine about business on the Internet.


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