Thanks for the incredibly insightful interview with Jim Collins ["In Times Like These, You Get a Chance to Show Your Strength," April] in your 30th-anniversary issue. As a 25-year-old budding entrepreneur, I found it particularly refreshing to read Collins's inspired views on Gen-Yers. It's encouraging that such a visionary believes our lack of cynicism is an attribute that shouldn't be mistaken for a sense of entitlement. Especially in this economy, thoughts like these keep me believing the best is yet to come.
New York City
I read Good to Great while getting my M.B.A. years ago, and I always find Jim Collins's thinking refreshing and thought-provoking. In particular, I found Collins's comments on risk in your recent interview with him to be right on target. Having left IBM a few years ago to start my own business, I had to chuckle at his comment that being an entrepreneur is less risky than working for a big company like IBM. I couldn't agree more, and I hope that those leaving large corporations in this downturn will find entrepreneurship to be a viable option.
The Game Changer
We just read your piece on Nolan Bushnell ["The Gamer," April]. It's terrific. We've read hundreds of articles about him over the years, and Inc.'s best captures the spirit of the man. We hope our movie does the job equally well.
Craig Sherman and Brian Hecker
[Sherman and Hecker are the authors of an untitled screenplay about Bushnell's life.]
I just wanted to say thank you for writing an excellent article about one of my favorite entrepreneurs of all time, Nolan Bushnell. I've always said that he doesn't get the credit he deserves. Being a classic video game collector and an entrepreneur myself, I was pleasantly surprised to see such a thoughtful article that details both his contributions to the entrepreneurial community and his tribulations. I can't wait to see the movie about his life.
Joel Spolsky's "objective" pay-scale system [How Hard Could It Be? April] is great on paper. Taking the stress and judgment out of difficult pay decisions certainly takes a load off of HR people and business owners. But Spolsky's system is flawed, because it takes an all-other-things-being-equal approach. As we all know, all other things are not equal.
Standardized pay for employees who have the same years of experience, level of responsibility, and skill set is a good place to start. But it ignores the reality that some employees are just adequate, while others are outstanding. If one of these employees works late, consistently steps up, brings in more business, or just has a better attitude, Spolsky's system does not recognize it. The exemplary employee is being told that his or her performance is no better or worse than that of a passable counterpart. That's no way to recruit, retain, and motivate the best of the best.
President and CEO
Rochester, New York
Buzzwords, for Better or Worse
Your list of the best and worst business jargon was terrific ["15 Buzzwords We Don't Want to Hear," April]. My current favorite? Rightsizing. I was having lunch with a friend who used this term without even realizing it. He said, "My company laid off a lot of people in this round of rightsizing." I nearly dropped my sandwich.
No, my friend was saying, his company wasn't downsizing; it was rightsizing. The laid-off employees were just part of the wrong size.
So, incentivize isn't a word. What's wrong with motivate? Absolutely nothing, if you ask us. Motivating employees, especially these days, helps keep them engaged even when they're often doing the jobs of laid-off co-workers and wondering if they're next. It doesn't have to be expensive or lead to congressional inquiries. Motivating your employees just may ensure your company has a big hairy audacious goal to retain its core competency and survive while it has the bandwidth to be frictionless as a learning organization.
Michelle M. Smith
Vice president of business development
In It for the Long Haul
I've never felt compelled to e-mail an author before, but I just spent the past 45 minutes researching everything Meg Cadoux Hirshberg has ever written [Balancing Acts, May]. She captured so perfectly the ups and downs and the intensity of running an entrepreneurial business, or being around this kind of business. I look forward to reading her column in the upcoming months.
Founder and president
Stella & Chewy's
Meg Cadoux Hirshberg dared to tread where many would not in describing the travails (and joys) of starting a new venture and its inevitable effect on a relationship.
Thank you for putting into words some of the thoughts that seem to hover in the air around our home on frequent occasions. My wife and I are two years into bringing a product to market, and it was reassuring to know that others are certainly dealing with the same emotions that are sometimes felt around our household.
I have to say thank you. My husband and I are in business together as well. Our company is his passion, and it's my job -- some of which I love, much of which I don't. But we're in it together for the long haul. It's good to hear about someone else's experiences and similar frustrations and fears. It's good to know I'm not alone.
Pepper Dog Specialty Foods
Apex, North Carolina
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