The Power of Positive
I have been reading Inc. for about four years, ever since I graduated from high school and started my own company. Bo Burlingham's article on Joe Cirulli ["The Believer," August] was amazing. Some of the quotes are the best I have read in Inc. My favorite, which I'm having hung in my office, is, "There is no limit to what you can learn or how much better you can become, as long as you keep reading, listening, and searching for wisdom." Thanks for publishing such compelling articles. I actually had to ask people to leave my house tonight so that I could finish reading one of Burlingham's other pieces.
I would take issue with one point in Joel Spolsky's article about Starbucks' (NASDAQ:SBUX) newfangled operational systems [How Hard Could It Be? August]. I would say that "Starbucks believes it is great at operations research."
At every Starbucks in St. Louis, my favorite vanilla bean scones sell out by 11 a.m. daily. This is just basic Operations 101. In order to maximize profits, Starbucks should order enough of these high-margin, replenishable items to be throwing away extras at closing time. In operations research, you are taught to prevent the possibility of losing customers because of a shortage of products. But Starbucks' store managers create their own orders and have likely never had trainingin operations theory.
Spolsky's article about Starbucks and its use of expediters really hit the nail on the head. To me, serving coffee correctly and with a pleasant attitude is not too much to ask. Isn't it supposed to be an "experience"? From a service perspective, Starbucks focuses on the unnecessary things, like the expediters, before the necessary things (clean bathrooms, faster service). And, of course, this is obvious to customers.
New York City
I used to laugh when I heard employees say, "We could get a lot of work done around here if it weren't for all these customers." Based on Spolsky's article regarding Starbucks' changes to its coffee service, this seems to be how this company is thinking.
Real customer service results are noticed and appreciated by customers. Ineffective process fluff encourages them to take their business elsewhere. My guess is that it will take real leadership to turn around Starbucks' multiyear decline.
"Keep Running" [August], by Robert Andrew Powell, provides a nice peek at Newton Running. But in an attempt to demonstrate the hype associated with this brand, Powell took a swipe at my reputation as a runner and as a newspaper columnist who reviews gear.
Powell writes: "I noticed that the [Gear Junkie] columnist who ranked the Newtons No. 1 in his gear-of-the-year column said the shoes kept him 'feeling faster' in the Twin Cities Marathon. And then I saw that his finishing time of four hours and 36 minutes was 46 minutes slower than his time in the same race two years earlier."
Powell is right that I ran a slow marathon in the Newtons last fall. But he did not phone to ask why. Indeed, the weekend of the marathon I was attempting an endurance feat of sorts, as I raced in (and won) a 12-hour adventure race on Saturday, got a couple of hours of sleep, then arose early to run the marathon on Sunday.
My message to Powell and Inc.: Next time, get the story straight. I'll sign off now to go take a training run -- in my Newtons.
Four Start-up Stories
Of the four start-ups you profiled in your start-up issue ["The Ultimate Start-up Reality Check," July], I would cast my vote for LiaMolly. All the business concepts had their strengths, but LiaMolly had something the others didn't: originality. LiaMolly is actually making new and distinctive sweaters from scratch.
West Coast sales manager
District Administration magazine
I was intrigued by ScanDigital's business plan. I agree with former E-Trade (NASDAQ:ETFC) chairman Christos Cotsakos's assessment that ScanDigital should focus on building brand awareness because of the relatively low barriers to entry in the digital scanning field. ScanDigital is right to differentiate itself on something other than price. A race to the bottom would probably hurt the entire market.
Co-founder and CEO
West Palm Beach, Florida
I was taken aback by your many references to socialism in the article about the employee-owned business Chroma Technology ["A Socialist CEO Grows Up," July]. It's disheartening to watch political dialogue in the U.S. center on labels such as liberal and conservative, which no longer have much connection to policy positions. Socialism is a set of policies that vests responsibility for the financing of social services in government agencies and responsibility for economic activity in the private sector. Whether or not a company decides to issue stock to all its employees has nothing to do with socialism. There are well-run and poorly run employee-owned companies all over the world. Chroma confused ownership, governance, and management.
President and CEO
I think it's great that Jack Miller is going to make a push for a proper website for Successories [Case Study, July]. I've enjoyed seeing those motivational signs for years. But that's part of the problem that even the experts did not get. Those signs and posters have been aroundfor years, and they seem pretty dated today. The messages will stand the test of time, but I'm not sure the signs will. Can Successories come up with a different way of getting those messages out there? Maybe it should rethink that part of the business as much as it is rethinking going to the Web.
Not Just Networking
As a small-business owner and entrepreneur, I have tried my hand at a variety of networking groups, some of which were profiled in the article by Elaine Pofeldt ["Gold-Plated Networking Groups," July]. I would point out, however, that, in my experience, the Women Presidents' Organization is more than just a networking group. The WPO is a peer group whose members counsel one another on crucial business decisions. That's more than a networking group can do.
Avalanche Creative Services
Tomkins Cove, New York
In the Inc. 500 listings in our September 2008 issue, we misidentified the CEOs of WilDon Solutions and SyApps. WilDon's CEO and president is Dana Jones. SyApps's CEO is Bala Sundar. In the same issue, we omitted Rory Wilfong and Steve Young, two of the co-CEOs of GetMyHomeValue.com.
In our August issue, the article "Keep Running" misidentified the American marathon runner Ryan Hall. On the Contributors page in August, the photos of Robert Andrew Powell and Scott Westcott were reversed.