Editor's Letter: What It's Really Like to Be the Boss

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Zan Jones, a reader from Keller, Texas, wrote recently to praise Inc.'s recurring feature The Way I Work, in which company leaders describe the rituals, rules of thumb, and radical departures that make up their days. She compared the articles to reality television and confessed that "reading about the daily life of successful entrepreneurs, complete with their obsessions, quirks, and commitments, makes me feel almost normal!"

I'd never thought of company building that way, though over the years Inc. has written about thousands of Survivors (and, unfortunately, quite a few Biggest Losers as well). Reality TV tells the stories of ordinary joes competing in extraordinary conditions. The stakes are high, emotions fraught, and life a bit surreal. I started thinking about Matt Mullenweg, founder of Automattic, the developer of blogging tool WordPress, and the subject of this month's TWIW. Automattic hosts gatherings of open-source enthusiasts all over the world: At a recent one in the Philippines, Mullenweg was rushed like a rock star. "People were like, 'Will you sign my laptop?' 'Will you sign my badge?' 'Will you sign my body part?' " he told us. Surreal, indeed.

What I love most about TWIW, though, and what many readers respond to, is the voyeur's-eye view of amazing, dynamic, successful leaders struggling with everyday challenges and tradeoffs. Which meetings must I absolutely attend? Is it better for my business if I go to the gym to clear my mind or slam down a burrito while preparing for a big sales call? How accessible can I be before it kills me? I come away from these pieces with practical ideas. I also gain an intimate understanding of the strange and wonderful world that is an individual business.

As for me, I'm a boss with ants in my pants. I wander around munching Haribo gummi bears and conducting impromptu meetings: People working on something interesting (which, here, is almost everyone) can expect to run into me daily. The walls of my office are glass, so I can see people at their desks or walking by, and I'll sometimes (cheerfully) yell to get their attention. I don't like e-mail.

And, of course, I spend part of each day talking to and reading about entrepreneurs and imagining what it's like to be one. It's nice work if you can get it.

janeb@inc.com

Last updated: Jun 1, 2009




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