A Closer Look Under the Hood

I admire entrepreneurs who have vision and guts like Malcolm Bricklin ["Would You Buy a Chinese Car From This Man?" July]. But I find Bricklin's financial setbacks disturbing. For him to declare bankruptcy and then retreat to his ranch or his 5,000-acre hideout is irresponsible and costs the rest of the work force. Visionary or not, Mr. Bricklin is certainly not an entrepreneur one should look up to. Since I'm struggling to keep my small business afloat, I'm taking a salary of less than $40,000 a year. Maybe I'm not a great visionary or a great motivator like Bricklin, but I have integrity.

Brenda Ingram, owner, Garber Enterprises, Powhatan, Va.

No, I would not buy one of Malcolm Bricklin's cars. Bricklin's current quest is nothing new. His entire career has been a string of flops, and many would call his bombastic style deceptive. So why would Inc. give this guy any more publicity, and on the cover no less? I thought Inc. was about success, not opportunistic dropouts.

John Krzysiak
President, American International Expo Sales
Haines City, Fla.

Trouble in Paradise?

The so-called trouble with lifestyle entrepreneurs is in the eye of the beholder ["The Trouble With Lifestyle Entrepreneurs," July]. There is an underlying assumption in this story that a high standard of living is the same thing as monetary wealth. By this criterion, Sandra and Rory Burke and other entrepreneurs like them in New Zealand are somehow less successful than their stressed-out, overworked U.S. counterparts.

Prime Minister Helen Clark should rethink how she calculates standards of living. By many reasonable measures other than money, the Burkes are extremely successful. We wish nations would measure gross national happiness, not just GNP

Jim Salmons and Timlynn Babitsky
Founders, Sohodojo
Flanders, Iowa

Yes, the "tall poppy syndrome" is rife here in New Zealand--the fast growers are cut back in a quest for uniformity. The previous national administration was trying to change that. It even awarded knighthood to Angus Tait, a New Zealand entrepreneur, in an attempt to change the fear of failure and create role models. Despite Prime Minister Clark's desire for growth, she killed her predecessor's plans.

As an entrepreneur based in New Zealand, I've had my own share of difficulties. The New Zealand public generally is risk-averse. Being the first to do digital fonts and one of the first online publishers isn't a good thing if you want your peers to acknowledge you do a good job. It took nine years from the first press coverage of my font software in the U.S. to the first coverage in New Zealand. There is also a lack of patriotism: "Made in New Zealand" seems to be valued only when products are highly successful overseas. There is a need for a change of mindset, which Clark's cabinet is not willing to initiate.

Jack Yan
CEO, Jack Yan & Associates
Wellington, New Zealand

With seeming chagrin, you note that only 240 New Zealand businesses employ more than 500 people. But considering there are only four million people in New Zealand, that number is proportionate to the number of large companies in the United States. With a population of 296 million, the U.S. has 17,367 companies with 500 or more employees. Given that New Zealand's population is 1.35% the size of America's, New Zealand would be up to par with about 234 big businesses.

Randy W. Dipner
Founding partner, Meeting the Challenge
Colorado Springs

I wanted to get out of Toronto for a year or so and decided to attend an executive M.B.A. program in New Zealand--and I stayed for 12 years. Companies in North America tend to grow larger, but that's not always better for the customer. Now that I've returned to Canada, I miss the character of the services and products in New Zealand. Over there, I felt like a valued customer buying something special, but in North America I am just part of a market for some mass-produced product. I would take my Auckland café over a Starbucks any day.

Ed Bernacki
Founder, The Idea Factory
Ottawa, Canada

Not all New Zealand businesses are run by lifestyle entrepreneurs. There is a very different dynamic in some New Zealand industries--the country's small but rapidly growing biotech sector, for instance. These companies are just as hard-working as any U.S. start-up, perhaps because they must do business globally to succeed. Many New Zealand biotechs (including Protemix, Neuren Pharmaceuticals, and Living Cell Technologies) have operations in the United States.

Joan Kureczka
Founding partnet, Kureczka/Martin Associates
San Francisco

Living in New Zealand sounds great!
Where do I sign up?

Sam Paul
Account executive, Business Wire

CAFTA and Its Costs

Just like NAFTA, illegal labor, outsourcing, and foreign worker visas, CAFTA is another quick fix that costs American jobs and communities ["It's Son of Nafta!" July]. Economist Larry Davidson says the deportation of jobs in the textile and auto industries creates more jobs in the long run. But where and for whom? Eliminating tariffs on Central American goods won't benefit American workers, many of whom are already being asked to provide their services at a Third World rate.

Johnny Rhino
Owner, Big Horn Music Services
Englewood, Colo.

A Cut Above the Rest

It sounds like it has been a tough road for Stephen Gass and his power saw that shuts down when it touches skin ["He Came, He Sawed, He Took On the Power-Tool Industry," July]. I'm glad he pushed ahead and didn't let industry heavyweights stifle his innovation. The SawStop cabinet saw is a splendid piece of machinery that far surpasses anything else I've seen. I love mine.

Jay Knepper
Andersonville, Tenn.

Kudos to Stephen Gass for having the courage to fight for something he believes in. I admire his passion for excellence and his desire to make the world a better, safer place to live and work. I've worked in advertising since 1974, and I have an idea for Gass. I think he should, working state by state, give one SawStop to each and every public school, free of charge. Letting students and shop teachers spread the word about SawStop would generate sales in a new way.

Trajan Weaver
Owner, Trajan's Coupons
Salt Lake City

Avoiding $150 Million Mistakes

Another way to avoid a computer system development disaster is to hire developers who use the agile development process ["When Technology Runs Amok," July]. This process provides immediate feedback and constant course correction, so business owners don't have to wait until the end of a project only to find out they didn't get what they were expecting. One of the more popular of these project management systems is called Scrum. Many companies are finding the process dramatically improves the ROI of their projects.

Bill Brothers
Software Architect
Roseville, Calif.

We Fired Them All Too

Good for Vance Patterson for having the courage to fire all of those problem employees [Case Study, July]. Our company had a similar problem at one point. We terminated the troublemakers and, to our surprise, the company became immensely profitable almost overnight. Sometimes the most progressive policy is to just start over.

Bruce Jorgensen
General manager, Interlog
Santiago, Chile

Don't Discount Service

As a fan of Norm Brodsky, I was disappointed about the way he compensated the interior designer he was so happy with ["How to Lose Customers," July]. He was 100% satisfied with her performance, but paid her 75% of her value. Paying people what they're worth is truly how to get good service.

Kirk Fybel
President, Radio Spectrum Services
Mission Viejo, Calif.

Unhealthy Investment

In more than 20 years of treating obesity, I've rarely recommended the types of bariatric surgery that are attracting venture capitalists ["Obesity Whets VC Appetites," June]. Mortality rates for bariatric surgical procedures--such as gastric bypass, adjustable gastric banding, and duodenal switch--can be as high as one in 100.

Boyd Lyles, M.D.
Medical director, LA Weight Loss Centers

Arbitration Prevention

Yes, mediation and arbitration are preferable to a long court battle, but it's even better to catch problems before a lawsuit ["Can't We All Get Along?" June]. Ombudsman services can provide a comprehensive early-warning system for emerging concerns like workplace bullying and appearance discrimination. These consultants empower employees to resolve troubles early and without executive involvement, freeing up owners to focus on their business goals.

Dina Beach Lynch
CEO, WorkWellTogether.com

Raising the Green Roof

Installation of green roofs is not inherently difficult ["Green Is the New Black," June]. I'm not sure why the green roof leaked at New Belgium Brewery. The failure may have been incorrectly engineered growth media, the wrong plants, or improper waterproofing materials. An experienced team of designers and installers working with high-quality products and accurate specifications should ensure a successful project. Most buildings can hold the weight of a green roof.

Linda S. Velazquez
Publisher, Greenroofs.com
Alpharetta, Ga.


Norm Brodsky's new dentist is in Rockville Centre, N.Y. The town's name was misspelled in July's Street Smarts column.

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