Of Minds and Machines

After reading about Tan Le, the co-founder of Emotiv, and her vision of a world in which machines respond to our mental commands using implanted sensors ["Reality Bites," December 2008], I couldn't help thinking that this is the same kind of hype Dean Kamen engaged in when he predicted that entire cities would one day be built around the Segway. I'm sure there are legitimate uses for the technology Emotiv is developing, especially for the disabled. But I don't want to live in a Dickian nightmare in which my stereo knows when I'm feeling blue and movies know when I'm bored, or in which I need a sensor implanted in my scalp in order to open a door. In the meantime, I'm still waiting for my flying car.

Marc Librescu
Irvine, California

I found it interesting and a bit ironic that your December issue included a feature on Tan Le's brain-wave-reading headset and, only nine pages later, a story on Entrepreneur of the Year Alison Schuback ["What Alison Schuback Wants"], whose brain injury has left her physically disabled. Perhaps these two entrepreneurs can come together to develop an application for this new technology that's more meaningful than revolutionizing the video game world. For one thing, how about helping the mobility impaired?

Susan Satmary Hirschhaut
Publisher, CAREgiver magazine
Northbrook, Illinois

Serving Up Success

There isn't a better example of servant leadership than the Israeli Army sergeant whom Joel Spolsky described in his December column [How Hard Could it Be?]. Some people might say servant leadership is a waste of time, but that's probably because they've never experienced how powerful it can be. Servant leadership isn't just an idea. Actually showing your employees that you aren't asking them to do something that you wouldn't be willing to do yourself can have an enormous impact on your company.

Jeremy Mcneal
Web developer, Kanakuk Kamps
Branson, Missouri

The Heart of the Matter

I couldn't agree more with Norm Brodsky's column about Brian Kelly's reluctance to hurt his business partner's feelings [Street Smarts, December]. I constantly tell my clients to avoid making business decisions with their heart. Emotion has a place in business, but it needs to be kept in check when you're dealing with the day-to-day operations that determine your company's bottom line.

Nathan Paul Womack
Owner, The New Long Term
Lafayette, Colorado

How Cheap Is Cheap Enough?

I was disturbed to read about how Coda Resources saved money by moving its manufacturing from coastal China to the interior of the country ["A Cheaper China," December]. Manufacturers like Coda moved into China in the first place as a way to exploit inexpensive labor. Why couldn't Coda just accept that the cost of developing quality goods is rising modestly? This more-for-less mentality obviously hasn't done much for our economy, and it's about time more businesses stood up for human rights over unrealistic growth and cost cutting.

Tom Henell
Chief marketing officer, NAPLIA
Framingham, Massachusetts

Your Customers Are Talking

More companies should carefully monitor the forums you profiled in your roundup of customer-feedback sites ["Tell Us What You Really Think," December]. There's a new movement in business: Listen to your customers or go broke. One bad customer-support or help-desk experience will turn a customer off. Today, so much of business is commoditized to the point that customer service is the only way to differentiate your company from the next.

Hoyt Mann
President and co-founder, PhaseWare
McKinney, Texas

A Case for Infomercials

In your Ask Inc. section [December], you describe O'¢ZoneLite's experience producing a 30-minute infomercial, and you suggest avoiding infomercials altogether. I, for one, can't believe O'¢Zone spent $500,000 to produce an infomercial and $400,000 for airtime. As a former executive in the industry, I saw a ton of bombs but also many blockbuster ads--and they didn't cost anywhere near $500,000. O'¢Zone seems to have jumped into this far too quickly. We never rolled out an infomercial without spending $10,000 to $20,000 testing it with viewers. Of course, I was a cynic when I first entered the infomercial industry, but I quickly learned that, when done right, an infomercial can be a great way to market your products.

Carol Gamel
Owner, GoldenStarFruit.com
St. Petersburg, Florida

Reality Check

One of the things that entrepreneurs tend to have in common is an inflated sense of what their companies are worth. The lead item in your Ask Inc. section in the November issue may be an example of this kind of thinking. The piece stated that a tech company with $400,000 in revenue could be valued at $4 million to $5 million, or 10 to 12.5 times revenue. In my experience, small companies are usually valued on the basis of their cash flow. If you know of investors willing to pay those kinds of revenue multiples for companies of unknown profitability and cash flow, I can refer several dozen business owners who are likely to be interested.

Terry R. Weaver
CEO, Chief Executive Boards International
Greenville, South Carolina

Ripped to Shreds

Like the majority of your readers, I am very guarded with my time. When my wife recently bought me a subscription to Inc., I thought, Oh, great; another magazine. I was wrong. I generally rate magazines and trade journals by how many pages I tear out of them to file and keep. Yours was shredded when I was done with it.

David Powers
CEO, Powers Court Enterprises
Surfside Beach, South Carolina

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Published on: Mar 1, 2009