As I write this, stock markets around the world are panicking over the realization that China is losing its monopoly as manufacturer of the world's brands. That shift should be no surprise to Inc. readers, because a good chunk of China's lost share is going to American entrepreneurs. Just this month, you can read about Eleven Ravens, BRD Motorcycles, U-Turn Audio, and cinda b, U.S. makers that chose to assemble their world-class products in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, and Fort Wayne, Indiana, respectively.
Economists can give lots of reasons for U.S. makers' inroads, but the most powerful reason is the simplest: Customers want it. Bayard Winthrop, founder of American Giant, which assembles high-quality knitwear in California from fabrics made in South Carolina, credits the mainstreaming of online retailing and consumer intelligence. "Apparel shoppers can now disaggregate the cost stack," as Winthrop puts it. "In the old model, they had no choice but to absorb the cost of physical stores and of mass branding campaigns; now they can choose to pay only for what matters to them, like quality, design, or a Made in U.S.A. label." Randy Komisar, a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, calls this the "atomization" of demand. It's good news for artisanal U.S. manufacturers and bad news for traditional giants--including China--that focus on scale at the expense of quality.
But, of course, there is scale and there is scale, and great entrepreneurs have always found ways to grow without losing what made their companies successful in the first place. That's a theme you'll find repeated throughout this issue. In a feature on scaling, editor-at-large Leigh Buchanan takes the precept for a road test (literally) by touring companies--including In-N-Out, Intuit, and Facebook--that have grown massive while preserving their scrappy essence. Later in the issue, executive editor Scott Leibs unveils the results of a yearlong Inc. research project into the practices of 100 companies that pulled off the stunningly rare feat of growing each of the past five recession-marred years.
All this work had just one goal: to offer you some of the inspiration and insights you'll need to construct your own blueprint for scaling wisely. Having poured so much of your soul into your company, after all, why settle for building something merely big when you could build something great?