Kick Adware Off the Inc. 500?

Having spent far too many hours trying to repair--and eventually rebuild--a PC infected with software from 180solutions, I was disgusted to see its destructive and unethical business model validated in the pages of Inc. [The Inc. 500, November]. The methods used by 180solutions and its cohorts are akin to sending junk mail postage-due--and occasionally including a cherry bomb that destroys the mailbox. Its products often use security holes to install themselves either without the user's consent or under the guise of enabling the use of a website. Presence of 180solutions software is associated with system lockups and crashes, and once installed, it avoids detection and removal. It is inevitable that a few bad apples will find their way onto a list of fastest-growing private businesses, but when a company with such obvious ethical issues makes it into the Top 10, it cheapens the value of the Inc. 500 list.

Chris Knox
IT architect
Phoenix

180solutions responds: Our company serves more than 20 million consumers who enjoy rich content, downloads, and applications supported by our software. We maintain a high retention rate among our thousands of advertisers, which range from high-profile household brands to small businesses.

180solutions takes customer complaints very seriously and makes a priority of constantly improving our software, our install processes, and the user experience overall. Visibility to consumers is of paramount importance to us, and we strive to ensure that our business model, purpose, and software are completely apparent to all of our users all of the time.

Editor's Note: Inc. reserves the right to withhold a listing on the Inc. 500 if we have concerns about a company's business practices. In the course of researching 180solutions' business last year, we became aware of the issues Mr. Knox raises. Similar charges have been raised against many others in the controversial adware business. We took a hard look at 180solutions, and because at the time it seemed the company was taking steps to address the concerns we raised, we decided to give it the benefit of the doubt. We will give 180solutions another hard look should it qualify for the list again this year.

Preventive Medicine

Whether or not health savings accounts turn out to be the best approach to take for his rising health care expenses, I commend Guille Cruze, CEO of White Stone Group, for seeing a need for change and making it happen [Case Study, November]. The best possible outcome will be an improvement in employee usage of health care services and, more important, health care dollars.

Ken Coffey
Client partner
Scott Benefit Services
Knoxville, Tenn.

Diversify Your Data

Your article about the relationship between diverse employee backgrounds and innovation begins with the statement, "Research shows that innovation won't happen without a diverse work force" ["Dealing With Diversity," November]. But the only support for this assertion you show is a study of how well some students solved murder mysteries. Some big innovations have come from homogeneous teams: at IBM in the '50s from employees of mainly European descent and at Sony in the '80s with an almost entirely Japanese research team. And a large part of the advances in cell phones have come from Finnish researchers.

I'm not against diversity, but I think you need more supporting data before you can conclude that innovation isn't possible without a diverse work force.

Jack Marrion
President
Advantage Compendium
St. Louis

Winning the Name Game

How can Norm Brodsky say that choosing your company name isn't a big deal ["The Name Game," November]? Several years ago, my wife and I sat down to pick a name for my upstart bus sales company. We could have picked Mel's Bus Sales or Friendly Bus Sales, but if I were going to solicit potential customers in New York City, I needed a name that didn't sound so small and unsophisticated.

Thirteen years later, I am still the only working employee of my company and nobody knows the difference. If I had called it Mel's Bus Sales, I might be out of business today on name alone.

Mel Freedenberg
President
Broadway Bus Sales
Elizabeth, N.J.

Deconstructing the M-Word

Lately, Norm Brodsky has been on a crusade against marketing ["Marketing for Dummies," October]. After nearly two decades in sales and marketing, I have a pretty thick skin when it comes to criticism of my profession. But Brodsky's criticism isn't directed toward just deceptive or ineffective marketing.

He defines marketing as "using advertising, signage, [etc.] to manufacture an image of your company [to make consumers] more interested in buying whatever you sell." He rightfully objects to marketing that manufactures an image that isn't "based on who you really are and what you really do." Indeed, understanding who you really are and what you really do, studying how that distinguishes you, deciding how to present it to clients and prospects--that's what marketing is, by my definition.

Brodsky narrows that definition considerably. He puts marketing activities that support sales under the label of sales. Then he redefines marketing to mean only those activities that don't truly support sales--what I refer to, with derision equal to Brodsky's, as marketing for marketing's sake. Good marketers handle what Brodsky himself identifies as crucial functions: "to locate, land, delight, and serve customers." That necessarily includes communicating with them. The better those functions are handled, the better the bottom line. In short, good marketers sell.

In talking to clients, I often set the M-word aside if it seems to be an obstacle to discussing the real issues that impact sales. One problem with an antimarketing stance like Brodsky's is that what starts out as an aversion to marketing for marketing's sake can lead to avoiding a whole range of activities related to strategy, market research, communications, and relationship management.

As for Brodsky's contention that "much of what passes for marketing these days is a waste of time and money," he's dead on. But the same could be said for some of what passes for R&D or a host of other business activities. The goal should be to seek out best practices and continually improve performance.

It's interesting that in Brodsky's November column, "The Name Game," he relates giving advice to a young businesswoman that, like advice he's given in the past, matches exactly what you'd hear from a good marketing consultant: Focus on what you do well, clarify your understanding of your business, then communicate that to your market.

George Potts
Director of business development
Kolbrener
Pittsburgh

Corrections

"Building a Global Alliance" in the September issue contained several errors. We listed an inaccurate job title for Chuck Foley, who is president of Tacit Networks. Greg Grodhaus is the company's CEO. We also misstated the time frame of the manpower dilemma at Tacit Networks. The company had 60 employees and revenue of less than $5 million at the start of 2005. And, when the article was printed, Tacit Networks was projecting its revenue would reach $10 million by the end of 2005. It had not already jumped that high, as we stated.

The photograph of Joe Fernandez on page 165 of the November issue was incorrectly credited. It should have been attributed to Patrick Fraser. In the December issue, we misspelled the name of Peter Yang, who photographed Shun Yen Siu and Deirdre Quinn on page 62.

To alert us to an error, send an e-mail to corrections@inc.com. To submit a letter, write to mail@inc.com or Inc. Letters, 375 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10017. Letters may be edited for space and style. Submission constitutes permission to use.