For the past 30 years, Inc. has covered the greatest business leaders of our time, from Peter Drucker to Scott Cook to Michael Bloomberg. Here, a group of visionaries share their reflections on the rise to prominence of entrepreneurship, and how their lives and perspectives have changed over the course of the past 30 years.
Before becoming a fixture on CNBC, entrepreneur Donny Deutsch got his start in the advertising industry, heading his father's company Deutsch Inc. and managing top clients such as Pfizer and Ikea until the company was sold in 2000. Today Deutsch Inc. is a $2.8 billion full-service agency and Deutsch remains chairman. Looking back on more than two decades in the business world, Deutsch mused in 2005, "I have yet to meet a genius in my business. Actually, I've yet to meet a genius in anything. Once you realize there are no geniuses out there, you can think, I can do that. One reason I've succeeded is I have that naïve sense of entitlement."
A star entrepreneur on the pages of Inc., Scott Cook in 1983 founded Intuit, the company known for creating the financial planning software Quicken and QuickBooks. As CEO of Intuit for more than 20 years, Cook's entrepreneurial legacy has been fostering an environment of open-mindedness and a culture where great ideas are nurtured. Reflecting on the sanctity of the entrepreneurial workplace, Cook said in 1994, "People who suggest the end of the workplace totally misunderstand the social nature of work. There is a social fabric to work. Techno-geeks will talk about people wanting to get out of the office and wanting to work by e-mail only, but techno-geeks don't have the social side of life. They don't miss what regular people do."
It's hard to believe, given the major success of Burt's Bees today, that co-founder Roxanne Quimby ever had many challenges along the way. Truth is, it took almost a decade of trial-and-error and selling her handmade beeswax products at local craft fairs before she amounted substantial sales that could sustain her. The company hit almost $150 million in revenue in 2007. Recalling the experiences that got her where she is today, Quimby told Inc. in 2004, "I had some midnight-of-your-soul type of times. Once, I came home from a fair and found the window in my cabin blown in. Snow was all over. It was 20 below and 3 in the morning. I hadn't made any money, and the car had just barely made it there. I really believe that success is just getting up one more time than you fall."
Scott Adams became famous for creating the Dilbert cartoon, about a socially inept electrical engineer dealing with the banality of corporate America. Adams conceived of Dilbert while working at Pacific Bell and based it on his own distaste for corporate culture as he plugged away in a cubicle each day. Throughout his career, and in his cartoons, Adams was intrigued by the role technology played in changing the business world. Commenting on the initial impact of technology in the early '90s, Adams said in 1994, "The biggest impact of technology has been to allow us to do more unproductive things at a far more impressive rate."
Since his early days starting out, Michael Bloomberg has approached his career as an entrepreneur from a unique perspective. Never quite content with the status quo, he left Bloomberg LP, the financial media empire he started in 1983, to run for mayor of New York City in 2001. Clearly a skilled businessman, he maintained that progress only happens when organizations are purposely thrown off course. In discussing his decision to walk away from his company, that same year he told Inc., "Things are going great now, and that's the time to leave. If you want to walk out rather than being carried out, you have to go when everybody says, 'How could you possibly leave? Things are so good.' Every time I hear that, I think, Damn it, I have to go. I don't have any choice."
Thanks in part to his love for travel, but mostly for his belief in the power of global communications, Pat McGovern paved the way for the communications technology market when he founded International Data Group (IDG) in 1964. McGovern spent a majority of his career abroad, forging ahead in new global markets and practically writing the rulebook for doing business in foreign countries. In 2007, he reflected on building a global company. "Even after 40 years, my adrenaline starts pumping every time my plane touches down in a new country. Every trip is a story waiting to happen."
At the age of 26, Harvey Mackay bought a failing envelope company and transformed it into a $100 million business. Today Mackay Envelope is one of the nation's major envelope manufacturers. But more than this entrepreneurial feat, Mackay achieved fame and recognition as the author of several best-selling business books, including How To Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive. Mackay's guiding principle in business is to build strong relationships with customers and employees, and practice the lifelong art of networking. True to his philosophy, he told Inc. in 1990, "If the house is on fire, forget the china, silver, and wedding album -- grab the Rolodex."
Ted Turner revolutionized the media industry when he launched CNN, the first 24-hour cable news channel in 1980. Already a mogul in the television business -- he started Turner Broadcasting System (TBS) in 1970 and later Turner Network Television (TNT) -- he went on to lead Turner Broadcasting through a merger with Time Warner. When Time Warner subsequently merged with AOL in 2001, Turner's stock in the company collapsed and so did his position as an executive at the company. Undefeated, he returned to his entrepreneurial roots and started Ted's Montana Grill, now a nationwide chain of 55 restaurants. Looking back on his rise and fall, he said this to Inc. in 2004: "I got fired. I was over 60, and it's hard to get a job when you're over 60. People don't want to give you insurance. I thought: I better get a job! Hell, I lost $8 billion!"
Named Inc.'s Entrepreneur of the Year in 2006, largely for his entrepreneurial work in helping to revitalize his hometown of Beloit, Wisconsin, Ken Hendricks is perhaps best remembered as the common man's entrepreneur. His building supplies company, ABC Supply was a No. 1 Inc. 500 company and hit $3 billion in sales in 2007, just before he passed away after falling from a roof. Despite his huge financial success, Hendricks always kept the business small at heart. Speaking to Inc. in 1991 about the importance of frugality in business, Hendricks said: "We still buy used, but nice, furniture. My desk came from somebody that had gone bankrupt. I've thought about the tears that had to fall on that desk, and it's something that reminds me every day I'm not going to let this happen to me."
For countless entrepreneurs, Peter Drucker helped define the way people do business. Frequently referred to as the father of modern management, Drucker wrote more than 35 books, in which he discussed management trends and what it means to be a good manager. In his nearly seven decades as an author, consultant, and teacher, Drucker observed a great deal about the leaders that emerged in the entrepreneurial community and found that not all managers are cut out for the world of big business. Recognizing the value of small companies from a management perspective, Drucker said in 1985: "There are people who don't belong in large organizations."