George Naddaff has run, launched, or taken national more than half a dozen companies. He's best known for Boston Chicken, whose shares soared 143 percent in a record-breaking IPO in 1993, the year after he sold it. Though his lifetime of entrepreneurship has not been all smooth sailing, he told Inc. in 2008 that the hiccups are what has kept his career moving. "No business, no problems. No problems, no business. Problems are opportunities for solutions."
Jeff Bezos grew up programming computers, so he definitely noticed when Web usage started growing at 2,300 percent a year in 1994. It was his natural curiosity about computing trends that not only led him to create Amazon.com, but it also kept him intrigued by the business. "One of the huge mistakes people make is that they try to force an interest on themselves," he told Inc. in 2004. "You don't choose your passions; your passions choose you."
Before The Body Shop even began its push into the U.S. market in the early 1990s, the company was enjoying fast growth abroad. But success can do scary things to a company, says founder Anita Roddick. She told Inc. in 1990 why doing well caused her employees to lose some enthusiasm. "We're getting to a point where we can't fart without calling a meeting," she said. "And if I'm bored by them, and I run the bloody thing, Christ knows what other people must be thinking."
Jim Koch left a $2,500-a-day consulting job to get into the business of selling beer. Over a decade after founding Boston Beer Co., which manufactures Samuel Adams, he realized that growing his business was taking a lot longer than he anticipated. In 1996, he told Inc., "We are the 10th-largest brewer in the United States. Do you know what that means? We have one two-hundredth of the beer market. That's minuscule. Twelve years of busting my ass, and we've gone from nothing to infinitesimal. If I'm lucky, I'll go another 12 years and get to be small. That's my life's work."
There's no use in constantly striving for something that will always be out of reach. That was iVillage founder Candice Carpenter's philosophy in 2001, a year after she resigned as CEO. She decided that finding the perfect equilibrium between running a popular women's website and enjoying her personal life was just not possible. "Balance is the new form of self-torture," she said. "If you grew up with a picture of Twiggy on the wall, I think balance is the same sort of thing: You can try to attain it, but it's just not happening."
Husband-and-wife team Evan and Paulette Cole co-founded ABC Home in the early 1980s. Over time, their visions for the business diverged. She wanted to steer the business toward socially responsible ventures, while his focus was on the bottom-line. The couple separated in 2000, and Evan took charge of the company. He treated his staff with tough love and a critical attitude. In 2002, he said of his approach, "Stay constantly irritated. When you walk through your business, focus on what's wrong. What's right is what you pay your staff for."
Henry Bloch, co-founder of H&R Block, is widely known as a pioneer of the tax preparation industry. So you'd think that he'd consider himself the most important guy on board at the company. But, as he explained to Inc. in 1987, that's not the case. Instead, he points to his office managers who hire seasonal tax preparers and liaise with corporate headquarters. "The office manager is the most important person in our organization -- no question. I like to say we have a pyramid organization, and the office manager is at the top."
People told Phil Romano that he was foolish to bake his own rolls at Fuddruckers, and that he couldn't have a butcher slicing beef where people could watch. He knew that if he listened to them, Fuddruckers would look like every other hamburger joint. So he followed his gut. A serial entrepreneur, Romano has learned when to take advice from outsiders and when to stick to his guns. At an Inc. conference in 1991, he asked, "When should a founder bring professional management into a new business? Immediately. When should the founder turn over control of that business to a professional manager? Never."
John Sculley says it was one of the hardest things he'd ever had to do as a CEO: stripping his friend and sponsor, Steve Jobs, of any operating role in the company Jobs had co-founded. Sculley spoke to Inc. in 1987 about what became a very public crisis at Apple Computer, explaining why working with entrepreneurs -- especially those who crave control -- can be trying. "The hardest part of dealing with entrepreneurs is getting them to recognize their own weaknesses. Sometimes they will say they are weak in certain areas, and then try to jury-rig an organizational concept to compensate for those weaknesses. But they really don't mean it -- they don't believe it."
When Ken Iverson orchestrated the turnaround of Nucor Steel from near bankruptcy into one of the largest steel companies in the United States, he did it by paring things down. He reduced levels of management and scrapped perks like reserved parking spots and special health benefits. He once told an Inc. editor, "My most crucial role is maintaining simplicity. When I see two or more people gathering at the coffeemaker, I know they're making this business more complex than it needs to be."