As I was reading your story, I literally shook with rage, because it struck such a familiar chord. A year ago, our bank loan officer left her job. Soon after, all our loans were called without warning. Then events began to follow the Rodgers pattern. Bank officers reneged on commitments and threatened to close our stores, dump inventories, and take personal real estate. We were lucky. We escaped by refinancing with other -- reasonable -- banks, but not without damage to the company that has taken a year to repair. And what was the name of our former bank? Why, the Bank of Boston, of course.
You may recall a column Paul Hawken wrote for us a few months back on the subject of problems in business. Businesses will always have problems, he argued, so you shouldn't even try to eliminate them because you can't. Rather, the goal should be to make sure your company has good problems as opposed to bad ones.
Well, this month, we have a good problem: too many thoughtful letters from readers. That's certainly better than having too few, but it is definitely a problem in that we don't have room to publish all we'd like to. Instead, we'll have to settle for a sample, with apologies to those writers we don't mention.
What surprised us most was the overwhelming response to three articles in our April issue. We often get flooded with mail about one piece -- Jim Koch's "Portrait of the CEO as Salesman" in March, for example. But seldom do we have two articles, let alone three, that strike a letter-writing chord among large numbers of readers. It was also interesting to note how different was the response to each article. Our cover story, "Heartbreak Hill," clearly touched deep emotions, eliciting some of the most passionate letters we have ever received. We've decided to feature them in our new Focus section (below). In the future, we will be using this section each month to conduct a dialogue with readers about a specific issue raised in letters to the editor.
We sometimes hear from bankers who are perplexed about their dismal reputations among owners of growing companies. They tell us banks are there to serve their small-business customers and are competing fiercely to do it better. So why do we keep running stories about the troubles company owners have with their banks?
Those bankers should read the letters we received in response to Joseph P. Kahn's April cover story, "Heartbreak Hill," about Bill Rodgers's encounter with the Bank of Boston, which wound up costing him his company and his house. Granted, there were a couple of correspondents who had no sympathy for Rodgers, but not because they sided with the bank. "Bill Rodgers is stupid and a wimp," wrote one reader. "Instead of signing a personal-services contract with the bank, he should have been punching out [loan officer] Jack Bradley and suing the Bank of Boston." Most of the letters, however, were in a more reflective vein: