To look back over 35 years of Inc. is to encounter thousands of entrepreneurs being anything but shy. They are not shy about their startling triumphs or epic defeats. About their billion-dollar ambitions or their fear-shredded stomachs.
When Inc. launched in 1979, our subjects seemed like an exotic new breed, sprung up among unrelatable corporate titans and unremarkable mom-and-pop business owners. That same year, David L. Birch, an MIT researcher (and, later, an Inc. columnist), coined the word gazelles to describe growth companies that-to virtually everyone's surprise-turned out to be the source for the most net job growth in the American economy. Over the next three and a half decades, Inc. established itself as the definitive gazelle zoography. In the pages of Inc., people such as Steve Jobs, Herb Kelleher, Michael Dell, James Goodnight, Fred Smith, Anita Roddick, Yvon Chouinard, Charles Schwab, John Mackey, Paul Graham, Tony Hsieh, and Elon Musk laid out what became the familiar rules for entrepreneurship: Become connoisseurs of risk. Recognize opportunity. Change things up. Above all, do it your way.
In 1981, the Inc. 500 innovated business rankings by celebrating speed rather than size. That didn't prevent some of those fast-growth companies from becoming mighty large-and important. Some of the best-known brands in computing (Microsoft, Oracle, Intuit), food (Jamba Juice, Domino's, Nantucket Nectars), consumer products (Timberland, Paul Mitchell, Jenny Craig), and many other industries proudly trumpeted their numbers in the pages of Inc. on the way up.
Throughout its 35-year history, Inc. has written early and often about the movements that reshaped leadership and organizational behavior, including open-book management, social entrepreneurship, collaborative cultures, servant leadership, innovation, and work-life balance. The subjects of Inc. articles weren't retrofitting established corporations with new practices but rather building those practices from scratch in workshops of their own creation. In telling their stories, Inc. has told the story of late-20th- and early-21st-century business.
To celebrate Inc.'s 35th anniversary, we asked some of the legendary entrepreneurs who have appeared in Inc.'s pages to share their thoughts and experiences. An eclectic bunch, they spoke about what they've survived, what they've learned, what they're up to. Consider it a tasting-menu version of a feast three and a half decades in the making. Bon appetit.
Twenty-five years after Dell went public, Michael Dell took it private in 2013. Now, he aims to transform the business.
Thrillist co-founder Ben Lerer took a big risk by buying a company in a completely different industry.
Crate and Barrel founder Gordon Segal boils down his successful approach to retail.
DailyCandy founder Dany Levy sold at the peak of the market. But now the company is no more.
Eric and Susan Gregg Koger carefully weighed nearly every decision. Except one.
What Virgin Group's founder has learned about working with regulators.
Founder Jim Koch explains why he gives money, materials, and advice to other craft brewers.
Culture is important, says Zappos founder Tony Hsieh. But make it your own.
John Katzman reflects on his best and worst moves in the early days of his first startup.
After a recession nearly killed Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard decided to build the company to last.
Now a VC investor, Tom Stemberg has a warning for entrepreneurs thinking about competing with Amazon.
After selling Mrs. Fields, founder Debbi Fields learned to deal with the entrepreneurial version of empty-nest syndrome.
A great CEO values 'discovery,' says founder Ron Shaich--not becoming more efficient.
When designing Under Armour's new SpeedForm Apollo shoe, Kevin Plank found inspiration in an unexpected place.
DVF founder shares her advice for entrepreneurs: Stay true to yourself.