My husband and I went to see the movie The Departed on a recent Saturday afternoon, and when we walked out of the theater, there was a Mister Softee truck in one of its usual places--West 67th Street, in Manhattan. Even though it was autumn, and cold, New Yorkers were standing in line to get ice cream. My husband ordered his usual: chocolate and vanilla swirl on a sugar cone.
Mister Softee is one of those brands that wiggles its way into childhood and only slightly lessens its grip as we get older. So when I read "In Memoriam," the opening feature of our Priority section this month, I was sad to see that James Conway Sr., one of the founders of Mister Softee, died this year at the age of 78. I'm sure he must have known how much the company he launched with his brother had buoyed the lives of sweet-toothed Americans. I hope he was grateful to the composer of the Mister Softee jingle, that clarion call to kids.
Magazine editors like to celebrate accomplishment in their December issues. The last issue of the year gives them the perfect opportunity to look back instead of forward, to mention some of the stars of their universe, and to give credit where credit is due. At Inc. we do this in two ways: by running short obituaries of people who founded and built notable companies--like James Conway; George Millay, who gave the world Shamu, the killer whale; and Gary C. Comer, founder of customer service exemplar Lands' End--and by naming an Entrepreneur of the Year.
This year we have chosen Ken Hendricks, owner of ABC Supply, and a whole bunch of other companies, as our Entrepreneur of the Year. Leigh Buchanan's story about this quintessential company builder--the workingman's tycoon, we're calling him around here--starts here.
But if you can't wait, and you need a hint, I refer you to the opening line of The Departed. Okay, the line was uttered by Jack Nicholson's character, not a person to emulate. Yet when I heard it, I thought it perfectly expressed the worldview of so many successful entrepreneurs. The line? "I don't want to be a product of my environment. I want my environment to be a product of me." Few people have accomplished this more than our Entrepreneur of the Year, Ken Hendricks. Check him out and you'll see what I mean.
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