Arthur Battaglia touched a nerve. The lone-wolf inventor struggling to bring his idea to life, featured in Mike Hofman's July story, " #5,524,641," inspired a flood of empathetic letters. Almost all encouraged Battaglia to keep plugging away.

1% Inspiration, 99% Business Acumen?

Battaglia's invention -- the use of a geodesic design in athletic equipment -- is not enough, suggests a fellow inventor.

Battaglia's problem is that he thinks like an inventor, not a CEO. With a business perspective, he'd see his assets and liabilities more clearly. He needs to go industry by industry and examine the potential users, the standard operating procedures, and the purchasing structure, and assess whether a geodesic structure would enhance performance or protection. When you think like a CEO, it becomes clear who'd use your product and why, and how it would be distributed. Battaglia will sink or swim based on his prowess as a CEO, not on his invention's merits. He has my best wishes for success on both accounts.

Mitchell Adler
Inventor and CEO
SportsTowels Inc.
New York City

The life of an inventor is often not only financially challenged but also painful, notes this reader.

Your article on Battaglia rings so true. I've been down a similar road. In 1999 I invented a license-plate frame on which a team name lights up. I've spent $150,000, and still I can't seem to interest any investor. I've lost everything! At 37, I'm starting over. I understand Battaglia: it's hard to let go of your dreams when you've worked so hard.

Michael McGuire
Git Lit Inc.

The Golden Rule

Do unto your customer as you'd do unto your aunt. That's the lesson this reader learned from July's cover story, " America's Favorite Hometown Businesses."

Too many businesses forget that you should treat your customers as you would a family member. You can call your employees "associates" or anything else you want, but if they don't understand that the customer is the bottom line, your business won't succeed. The little guy can compete with Wal-Mart just by providing a little better service: open the store after hours when customers need something they forgot, deliver the product to their home, treat them all as if they run a Fortune 500 company. They may someday.

Daniel J. Kauffman
North Warren Associates
Oil City, Pa.

Through the Gantlet

Susan Greco's June cover story on entrepreneurs preparing to present to VCs, " Finding the Perfect Pitch," continues to draw praise from readers.

My partners and I just celebrated our real estate company's first anniversary. It hasn't been an easy road, but we wouldn't trade it for the world. Your story on pitching investors had me whooping in my backyard. We've been pitching investors since we started, and often we'd stumble through presentations, then regroup and evaluate. We haven't had the resources or contacts to develop our presentations. When your article came out, it mirrored all the anxiety and excitement of this past year.

Nydia Barham
General Counsel
Lay-A-Way Homes
Bronx, N.Y.

Time to Roll

In June's Street Smarts, Norm Brodsky was a contrarian when he argued that it might be time to give roll-ups a second look.

I used to cover roll-ups at Crédit Lyonnais and BlueStone Capital. Brodsky's outline for how to roll up the gift-and-souvenir business is on the mark. And the model can no doubt be applied to many other industries.

Roll-ups offer opportunities for spin-outs also. Many companies that have made dozens of acquisitions may have some pieces that don't fit. There may be riggers and outfitters with an equipment-rental company, or a factory-labor temp agency with a computer-personnel agency. To an outsider, it may be impossible to even know about these businesses within businesses. Readers familiar with their markets and the competition, though, might be able to identify and do those strategic divestiture deals.

Jeffrey L. Evans
New York Society of Security Analysts
New York City

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Published on: Sep 1, 2002