Why starting Inc. magazine seemed like such a good idea -- and still does

Recently I spent a few days on Wall Street. I was struck by the way people in that world talk and think in terms of "exit strategy" -- getting in and out quickly is their driving force. It's almost as if they have lost their confidence in the existence of a future. I couldn't help but compare that world with the world of company builders: people who are driven by the need to create something enduring; people whose deep belief in the future gives meaning to their present. My experience on Wall Street reminded me of what the perception of business was in this country 10 years ago, and I realized how much it has changed since. There were company builders then -- as there always have been and always will be -- but you never would have known it from what was being reported in the papers and on television and radio.

Business news consisted of the nightly commodity prices or the price of gold or the price of public securities. While these transactions were important for the flow of capital, it was a distortion to think that was what business was all about. There was another, more important part that nobody was reporting -- news about the people who were creating the companies that in turn were creating the wealth that could then be traded. I saw people starting phenomenal companies and coming up with great products, yet the average person -- the voting public -- was getting the misleading idea that business was the sum of transactions, rather than the sum of companies, products, and services that were being created.

At the time I was growing a company. My first love was sailing, and back in 1970 I had started Sail magazine and later added other marine books and magazines. By the late '70s the company had grown to maybe 50 or 60 people, and the turbulence of rapid growth made me want to learn more about managing my business. I felt as if I were on a voyage of discovery, and though driven by my sense of mission, I knew there were new languages to learn, new techniques to master. So I started devouring business books and business magazines. In no time at all, though, I was frustrated to realize that the three general business magazines were written more for company investors than for company builders.

Then, as I looked around, I began to realize that I had come upon something very interesting. I could see a whole world of people who were creating companies that needed to be controlled, grown, and nurtured; yet none of the business magazines were written about or for them. That's when I knew I had to start this magazine.

In some ways, Inc. grew directly out of my interest in sailing and Sail magazine. The part of sailing that I really like is this: when people go to sea, they have a need for self-reliance and at the same time they are dependent on one another. Much of the satisfaction comes from the mutual trust that develops, particularly after coming through a bad storm. Sail tried to teach people the skills they needed to feel confident in themselves and each other. From the start I said that Inc. would be about helping people who are on the rocky voyage from the garage to the fully managed organization. So that part of it was not so different. It's the same whether you're sailing a ship across the Atlantic or taking your company from start-up to its destination. There are storms, there are calms, and, most important, there are people pulling together to achieve common objectives.

But that wasn't all I found appealing about the idea of Inc. I've always thought of entrepreneurs as being the more artistic members of the business community -- for them, business becomes a medium of creative expression. An entrepreneur uses the elements of business to create a company much as a writer uses words to create a story or a sculptor uses clay to create a statue. Then, as a business grows, the company builder can set up an environment in which others can find fulfillment through the expression of their creativity and intelligence.

That belief, or value, has always informed the magazine. From the start, I've seen business as a human endeavor that can bring great satisfaction if structured right. And company building is full of life's emotions, whether fear, excitement, or joy. We respect the efforts of entrepreneurs and empathize with what drives them. I've always hoped, too, that the magazine could create a sense of community among entrepreneurs. And that we'd affect legislators. My particular hope was that we'd be influential in changing the capital-gains tax structure so that the lowest rate would apply to and encourage long-term investments in entrepreneurial endeavors, offset by a higher rate on quick trades and fast exits.

Once I had come up with the idea, Inc. took on an incredible importance to me. It was an opportunity to shed light on company builders for the rest of America to appreciate. And inherent in it was a social value that extended way beyond helping individuals, although that was there, too. But I also saw the world of company builders as the continuum of economic creation in this country. It seemed to me that we needed to encourage a large number of entrepreneurs to work away if this process of creation and economic growth were to continue. I still believe that. -- Bernard A. Goldhirsh