Nearly a decade ago, two exceptionally bright and passionate people were prowling New York for money and talent. Alan Webber and Bill Taylor, a pair of editors from the Harvard Business Review, had little more than a dream to do something extraordinary: to create a new business magazine for people hell-bent on making a meaningful difference with their lives.
Somehow, they found me at Business Week, where I was working as a senior writer. I had spent the better part of my career writing about people and organizations that either dared to be different or that were paralyzed by complacency.
Instantly, I fell in love with Alan and Bill's dream — and with them. Who wouldn't? Their business plan was no ordinary venture. Unlike traditional magazines that merely cover the news and provide analysis, Fast Company would stand for something important. It would be a magazine of deeply held beliefs, a journal that helped create and shape the business conversation.
I didn't join Fast Company back then. But a few months ago, I was given a second chance — this time to succeed Alan and Bill as editor in chief. I jumped at the opportunity, largely because I was a longtime enthusiast of Fast Company, but, more important, because I had always shared and embraced their notions of what a top-quality business magazine can and should be.
To this day, those early beliefs form the basis of Fast Company's vision and mission. We believe that there is no greater power in the world than the force of a great idea. We believe that people are the lifeblood of every organization. We believe that the best companies are true meritocracies, where people rise and fall through their own contributions, not through game playing or politics. We believe that work isn't simply a paycheck; it is the ultimate expression of a fully realized self. We believe that a company's obligations extend far beyond its bottom line and its shareholders — to a wider constituency that includes employees, customers, suppliers, and the community.
We know that competitive advantage goes to fast-moving people and organizations that embrace change and welcome innovation brought about by new advances in technology and globalization. And we believe that there is a new and growing number of innovators, leaders, and change agents who are reshaping the future of business — for good, for better, and forever.
In keeping with those beliefs, the debut issue of Fast Company in November 1995 was more a proclamation than a magazine. It spelled out the new rules of business, declaring that work is personal, computing is social, and knowledge is power. It encouraged people to break the rules. Over the next eight years, Alan and Bill challenged Fast Company readers to dream large, to defy convention and ritual, and to persevere in the realization of their beliefs and feelings, even in the absence of organizational support.
In every company, large or small, fast or slow, there are people who buy into our vision of this new world. They are the visionaries, advocates, champions, builders, and trailblazers. They are, in short, the people who do the real work of organizations, the people who lead and inspire all of us with their ideas and their actions. They are also the readers who made Fast Company the fastest-growing business magazine ever, going from zero to a circulation of 725,000 and 3.2 million readers in seven years. It took Business Week 41 years, Fortune 62 years, and Forbes 67 years to reach the same number of people.
The question now is, Where do we go from here? Over the next few months, Fast Company will change dramatically in the service of fulfilling the vision and mission of its founders. We will draw every reader into an ongoing debate about people, ideas, organizations, society, and rules. We will engage and provoke, inform and entertain, surprise and delight. We will give our readers the knowledge to help them work smarter and lead better. We will be the magazine for every thinking person in business.
For the nearly 18 years that I worked at Business Week, I rightly believed that I had one of the world's best jobs. I trafficked in the world of ideas, trying to bring clarity and sense to an often chaotic world. Until recently, I didn't realize that there could be another job that would be more fulfilling than the one I left behind. But at Fast Company, I know that I have that job now.
Already, the learning is as intense as drinking from a fire hydrant. And yet, I haven't had this much fun since I was the editor of my college weekly. Just know this: As we move forward, you will see this magazine's pages come alive with new thinking, new energy, and new passion. We want to help our readers reinvent themselves and the future and to carry on Alan and Bill's dream of a business magazine that does much more than report the news. For us, this work is personal.
A version of this article appeared in the August 2003 issue of Fast Company magazine.