Our August issue certainly struck a responsive chord. Letters poured in about our profiles of two CEOs who, as several readers noted, represent both sides of the same coin: Paul Eichen, who launched a company with the express purpose of balancing his work and his life, and Pat Cavanaugh, who, as CEO and top salesperson at his company, works 24-7.
The heart of the matter
In 1995, Paul Eichen left the fast track in hopes of saving his marriage, his family, and his sanity. His aim was to build a company that put peace of mind before growth potential, and balance before market positioning. The result was Rokenbok Toy Co., based in Encinitas, Calif., which is expected to reach $12 million in sales this year. Eichen's journey, as portrayed by executive editor Michael Hopkins in " The Pursuit of Happiness," nearly brought readers to their knees.
I wanted to thank you for your lovely piece "The Pursuit of Happiness." It was well written, thoughtful, and even moving -- and the last is not a word I use often in describing articles in Inc. It was also refreshingly different from the usual glorifying of the out-of-balance workaholic lifestyle (" The Nonstop, 24-7 CEO Salesman" in the same issue, for example) that usually dominates Inc.'s editorial content.
I too have created a balanced work life by maintaining my priorities of family, exercise, and serenity -- all of which are more important to me than promises of riches. My graphic-design business is entering its sixth year, and I wouldn't swap my life for anyone's. My philosophy is, What good is lots of money if I have only two weeks a year to enjoy it? I make enough money, and I enjoy every day -- on my own terms, with the rewards of creative expression and self-direction.
I hope that your article inspires others to join those like me -- and that that leads the way for more articles that reflect this "other" side of business. Our choice is just as valid as that of the 24-7 beeper crowd.
Stephanie Fitz Ariel
El Sobrante, Calif.
I just read your cover story about Paul Eichen. Congratulations on bringing to light the most important reason for starting and running a company. As management consultant Lanny Goodman says: "The sole reason for your company to exist is to meet your needs."
As the CEO of a former Inc. 500 company (then called High Tide Inc.), I believe that when our companies fail to satisfy our fundamental need to contribute to the community and instead exist predominantly to fill a bank account, then we lose our souls. Life is short. No one's gravestone reads, "He made a lot of money." Making a difference in your own life, your employees' lives, and your customers' lives is the real payoff.
The reaction to Pat Cavanaugh, CEO and top salesperson at $6.2-million Cavanaugh Promotions, a promotional-products business in Pittsburgh, was decidedly mixed. Some readers of " The Nonstop, 24-7 CEO Salesman," by senior writer Susan Greco, applauded Cavanaugh's seemingly endless drive. Others, however, speculated about the price he's bound to pay for his lifestyle.
I enjoyed your article about Pat Cavanaugh and will use some of his tactics to help motivate the salespeople at my brand-marketing agency. In fact, as soon as I finished the article, I gave it to all my salespeople and told them, "This is your competition. If you're not calling your clients, he is."
New York City
I just finished your piece on Mr. Cavanaugh. Great writing. It really captured how the man operates. Unfortunately, that is exactly what he does -- operate.
Even if I earned $500,000 a year, I would never, ever live as he does. I am very happy with how I work, whom I work for, and the pace of my job. My goal is not to be a millionaire or tops in my field. Cavanaugh is on the fast track to a heart attack, a stroke, or some other health problem.
I'll drive my 20 minutes to work, take my one-hour lunch break, be home at a decent hour, and get my seven hours of sleep each night. I may not be #1 in my field, but I'll bet I'm much happier than this guy.
I applaud Paul Eichen for having the courage to design a business that supports his life. Living in Silicon Valley, I know how strong the cultural pull can be, even when you know it isn't in your heart, your soul, and your body's best interest. I only hope Pat Cavanaugh takes a moment to read Eichen's story. He may get a glimpse of what his life will look like in 20 years if he doesn't slow down and enjoy the journey.
Nicholas J. Hall
Castro Valley, Calif.
Jim Collins, coauthor of the classic Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, penned an August article that debunked the theory that says the first to market always wins. History, he wrote in "Best Beats First," proves the point: Does anyone today use VisiCalc, the first major PC spreadsheet, he asks, or an Osborne Computer PC? This reader welcomed Collins's setting the record straight.
Thank you for pointing out a huge strategic-marketing issue that most companies overlook. As the president of an advertising and marketing agency, I frequently meet with corporate CEOs and directors of marketing who are hell-bent on being first to the marketplace. Although speed is good, it rarely endures. I live by the motto "Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment."
Meers Marketing Communications Inc.
Kansas City, Mo.
Play's not the thing
In his August E-Diaries column, " Let the Good Times Roll," Andrew Raskin, cofounder of San Francisco-based Gazooba Corp., showed how fun rules in the new economy. Although many readers wrote to express their delight at Raskin's outlook, this CEO found it no laughing matter.
After six years of hard work, long hours, financial wizardry, and a bit of luck, my company finally became an Inc. 500 winner this year. Then, just when I thought I knew what it takes to be successful, I learn that I've been going about it all wrong. I'm referring to "Let the Good Times Roll," in which Andrew Raskin informs us that solid business plans, creative marketing, and well-managed growth are out, and fun is in.
I can't tell you how ridiculous I find it to visit the offices of a new-economy business that is overrun with pool tables, water pistols, beanbag lounge areas, and other so-called morale boosters. Are those items supposed to make people forget that most of these start-ups have barely enough cash to make payroll each week? I wonder how the venture-capital investors would react to learning that their money is being handed out in $100 increments to all employees for a shopping spree.
I'm not opposed to incentive plans, nor am I opposed to creating an environment that is both fun and challenging, so that employees can take pride in their jobs and their company. What I am opposed to is the notion that fun somehow equals job satisfaction, employee productivity, or -- dare I say it? -- corporate profitability. Think of it this way: Would you invest in a company whose employees are there because that company has a better Nerf arsenal than the competition?
I have this image in my mind that won't go away: all the Gazooba employees are shooting each other with Nerf guns, eating hot dogs, and chanting the new corporate yell -- while standing in the unemployment line.
Dynamic Resources Inc.
New York City
Babies having babies
In her July story, " Inside an Internet Incubator," associate editor Thea Singer investigated whether incubators like the one she chronicled have any real value for new dot-coms. This reader believes that, by and large, they don't.
After reading Thea Singer's "Inside an Internet Incubator," my gut reaction was that it should have been entitled "In Search of an Adult."
During the past two years a glut of incubators have flooded the market. Most have very little to offer their tenants other than cubicle space and free soft drinks in exchange for majority control. The main reason behind their dismal performance has been a general lack of entrepreneurial skills by the incubator management. In most cases, that management consists of individuals who were fortunate enough to vest before their previous dot-com employers tanked. However, the fact that one was in the right place at the right time back in early 1999 does not translate into a set of transferable skills by which others can benefit. Ask yourself this question: Would you seek advice from a lottery winner about how to get rich?
The other lesson from the incubator fiasco is that drive-by entrepreneurship does not cut the mustard. A start-up requires its own dedicated, savvy, full-time team to succeed. The fact that start-ups with strong teams avoid incubators like the plague further exacerbates the latter's performance problems.
My prediction is that most of today's Internet incubators will be little more than smoking craters by early 2001.
City of Industry LLC
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