Business by the Bay
I was fascinated by Leigh Buchanan's piece on Tranquilo Bay ["Paradise the Hard Way," May]. As a University of Texas alum, I was even more fascinated by the fact that one Aggie could work and coexist with three Longhorns. My sister and brother-in-law purchased some waterfront property in Panama a few years ago with the intention of building a retirement home. Your story gives me hope that they, too, will someday actually build a place in Panama. After reading six pages in Inc. about Tranquilo Bay, I'm ready for the book.
Tom Bielefeldt
Rialto Media Group
Highlands Ranch, Colorado

I just finished reading the article about the founders of Tranquilo Bay, and I'm ready to hop on a plane and go down there. What a great story. Since visiting a lodge in Puerto Jiminez, Costa Rica, earlier this year, I've had a hankering to move somewhere down there and start something of my own. I'm young, and building enough capital will likely take years, but it's still a goal of mine. Congratulations to the founders of Tranquilo Bay for taking the leap.
Joe Hughes
Long Branch, New Jersey

Much Ado About MCAs
As a small-business owner who has benefited from MCAs on multiple occasions (from both AdvanceMe and Rewards Network, the providers your article mentioned), I thought that your headline was a bit of a cheap shot ["Thanks, but No Thanks," April]. When banks wouldn't lend to me, an MCA was a lifesaver, and it saved me from going out of business.

Today I run multiple successful restaurants, and merchant cash advances are one of the most important financial tools I have. If your message was "be careful and choose a credible, trustworthy provider," then I wholeheartedly agree. But bashing the entire MCA industry will only cause business owners who are in need of capital to dismiss an option that can help them.
Dave Ulmer

Thanks for the excellent story on merchant cash advances. At one time I thought of taking one of these but hesitated, as it sounded a little fishy. Your story only confirmed my suspicions. Thanks for looking out for us.
Ron Cole Jr.
House of Specialty Gifts
Anderson, California

Thanks for a long overdue and truly insightful article on MCAs. My firm, Outside Ventures, owns and operates three market-leading companies in the merchant services and cash advance space. One of the most frustrating things our salespeople routinely encounter is small-business owners and merchants who say they do not really know much or care much about truly learning about and understanding the product. In any field, an uninformed customer is bound to make a poor decision and is most vulnerable to being scammed. Merchant cash advances are not for everyone. Whether their names are Ponzi, Milken, or Skilling, the worst people in any industry should not serve as an indictment of an entire sector. On behalf of companies built to serve and help the market for the long term, your article was music to our ears.
Michael A. Berman
Outside Ventures
New York City

A History of Service
I recently opened my copy of Inc. and was confronted by a store I hadn't thought of in many years, the Iwan Reis Tobacco Shop ["The Success Gene," April].

In 1956, we stopped at Iwan Reis to ask directions to a nearby lamp shop. Mr. Reis came out and said that he hadn't heard of such a store in the area. When we told him we'd driven a hundred miles to purchase a particular lamp, Mr. Reis asked us to wait while he looked into it. Forty-five minutes later, he came back with the shop's address (it turned out to be two blocks up the street). He also introduced me to several blends of tobacco, gave me samples of each, and invited me and my wife to spend an afternoon at his beach house on Lake Michigan. Until I stopped smoking, I was a walk-in customer on my twice-a-year visits to Chicago. I think your article captured the true aspects of how the Reises run their business. These types of companies make America a great place to do business.
Robert W. Sorenson
Poland, Ohio

Finding Freebies
I consider myself an astute technologist, having spent 20 years in the software business. Your article on free technology tools for the office ["Go Ahead and Take It," May] is saving me many multiples of the $4.99 I paid for the issue. I was resigned to the fact that I was going to spend hundreds on Web conferencing software, but thanks to Inc., I'm now able to do Web conferences at no cost. I've been consumed with so many other tasks of launching a business, I didn't even consider that there might be a zero-cost option. Keep up the great work!
Michael Carpenter
Grand Rapids, Michigan

Wrong Audience
I was shocked that you chose three male experts to give their view of a company owned by men, trying to sell a newfangled toilet [Elevator Pitch, April]. Brian Dunn states, "The problem is that everyone uses the bathroom, but we don't talk about it." Here's a blinding glimpse of the obvious: Women socialize in the bathroom all the time. I went to the Brondell website and was not surprised to see its homepage looking like a plumbing supply site. Women are the largest audience to shop the Internet, and we like things to be beautiful. If Brondell is selling luxury items, it should act that way.
Rosemary Senjem
Hand Spun Digital
White Bear Lake, Minnesota

Moving Forward
Joel Spolsky's article on the concept of fire and motion [How Hard Could It Be? April] really opened my eyes. It was exactly what happened to my firm, which I closed last year. Until I read Joel's piece, I didn't fully understand what happened. It turned out that my problem was that I simply spent too much time chasing after my competitors instead of focusing on actually winning the battle. Thanks for showing me what I sadly didn't see with my own eyes.
Mark A. Lucie

Joel Spolsky's piece on fire and motion is definitely one of the best that I've read in a while. I try to read as much as I can by Spolsky. I really admire the way that he makes arguments in such simple terms. Everyone in the software development industry should know who this guy is.
Trevor Joseph
Senior developer
DeO Networks
Kanata, Ontario

Courtesy of Mr. Piasecki
I was saddened to see that Frank Piasecki, the aviation pioneer, had died [Legacy, May]. When I was in eighth grade--more than 50 years ago--our social studies teacher gave us an assignment to write a report about a local business. I was assigned to write about Piasecki Helicopter.

This was long before the days of e-mail and Google, and with great trepidation I wrote a letter in my very best handwriting to the company explaining who I was and why I was asking for information. To my surprise and delight, I promptly received the largest envelope I had ever seen. It certainly contained everything and more that I needed for my report. And the photographs of helicopters in action over an aircraft carrier were--to borrow an expression from another generation of 13-year-olds--way cool!

I know this story would be a lot better had it inspired me to become an eminent rocket scientist working for NASA. But that's not what happened. I did other things, but a thrilled kid never forgot Mr. Piasecki's courtesy. Your article mentioned that Mr. Piasecki died at age 88, leading his company through test flights. You can't ask for more than that--living to 88 and still doing what you love to do.
Marvin Goldberg
Goldberg & Associates

In "Entrepreneur: Friend or Faux?" (June), we erroneously suggested that an events business owned by Crystle Stewart, Miss USA 2008, also sold books.

Our guide to free software for the office ("Go Ahead and Take It," May) misstated how many employees may use Untangle's open-source security programs for free. The programs are free for an unlimited number of users.