The King and Queen of Spades
Thank you for introducing me to Kate and Andy Spade ("Power Couple," March). I wasn't familiar with the Kate Spade brand previously, but one item in the article makes me certain this brand and the emerging Jack Spade line for men will be successful. CEO Andy Spade is quoted as saying, "Younger consumers are most intrigued by things they find themselves, not what's shoved down their throats through advertising." As a younger customer, truer words were never spoken, and a company that recognizes this is sure to do well.
They say a picture tells a thousand words. If so, then your Kate and Andy Spade cover tells it all in one word — unhappy! If that's the look of success in this decade, then I'll take failure and be able to smile all day.
St. Simons Island, Georgia
One Guru You Need to Know
I enjoyed your story on Marcus Buckingham ("The Clear Leader," March). I particularly like Buckingham's correlation between leadership and winning, which I think might be the most important dimension of leadership. That's too often overlooked, even by leading writers on the subject.
Charles B. Larson
St. Joseph, Missouri
I want to thank you for one of the most focused and concise articles on leadership that I have ever read. I believe I have learned more in your three-page article than in many 200-page business books. You hit the nail on the head in your opening paragraph when you wrote, "[Leaders] succeed only when they find a way to make people excited by and confident in what comes next."
A Fast Thank You
I want to thank you personally for choosing me and Sonicbids for this year's Fast 50 list (March). You cannot imagine my excitement when I received my FC issue and saw that I had been selected. It's truly an honor to be among such a distinguished group of fellow entrepreneurs and professionals. Fast Company has single-handedly influenced both the conception of Sonicbids (dating back to "Free Agent Nation") as well as its day-to-day management and strategy execution. Recent articles, such as the ones about Amazon's Jeff Bezos and Whole Foods' John Mackey, have shaped both my own personal thinking and business outlook, as well as that of our entire team. You guys manage to do something that few publications can boast: inspire. It's great to be recognized by a group of people you already admire.
Not So Fast
I am a pet-store owner, and you guys completely missed the point on why Iams has shown the recent spike in sales, and really missed the point as to why it won't last ("The Fast 50," March). Iams is seeing record sales because of its entry into the mass market. Previously sold only through independent pet stores, Iams is now available at Wal-Mart and most major grocery stores. While these places initially took on the complete Iams line, they are quickly adjusting to carry only those SKUs that show the highest sales. Iams has already alienated the independent retailers, the very businesses that created it, many of which discontinued carrying its products. President Jeffrey Ansell is shortsighted and really has no clue as to how the pet industry operates. He is at best a shooting star.
Loving What Marshall Goldsmith Does
Marshall Goldsmith's March column, "Do You Love What You Do?" stopped me dead in my tracks. As an administrator at a large university undergoing many changes, it has made me walk around and think much more about what I am doing. Combined with the Playbook piece in that same edition, "Mount Morale," dealing with corporate goals and personal development, you've given me a lot of food for thought.
College Station, Texas
Marshall Goldsmith asks, "Do you love what you do?" Sadly, the answer for me is no, and I haven't for almost 33 years. I get more enjoyment from reading your magazine each month than from my job.
John K. Bieschke
One Kool-Aid, Please. Make It a Double
Mr. Kihn reveals both his age as well as his ignorance of history in "Don't Drink the Grape-Flavored Sugar Water..." (March). The phrase "drink the Kool-Aid" doesn't come from the Jim Jones 1978 Guyana tragedy. It comes from the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Tests in San Francisco in the '60s, where concertgoers were encouraged to "drink the Kool-Aid" (laced with acid) to see if it would help to "immerse" themselves in the music.
It's All About Me Inc.
I was surprised to see the 180-degree turn your magazine has taken with regard to personal branding ("Me Inc.: the Rethink," March). You neglected to look at the hundreds of personal-branding consultants who are operating successful businesses, and more important, the thousands of people who have advanced their careers or businesses by applying the concepts of personal branding.
In a world where we are being Googled before we get a job interview or get in to see a client, personal branding is one of the only tools we have to ensure our success. In a recent newsletter, ExecuNet — which your magazine dubbed one of the best Web sites for executives — called personal branding the number-one tool for executive job seekers. The Ladders, a job service for $100,000-plus jobs, has published no fewer than five articles related to personal branding in the last three months. And your Paris Company of Friends group chose personal branding as its theme for 2005. I don't know how your author defines revolution, but personal branding is a movement that still has lots of momentum.
Readers Demand a Smart Car
I have to admit that driving a car as small as the European Smart would make most Americans nervous given all of the huge vehicles on the roads ("Super Size Me!" February). But I work for a large insurance company in Ohio, and some of our recent research indicates a steadily growing population of single people of all ages. If the car manufacturers started looking at this population index, they might take this interesting fact and run with it. Mercedes should give it another year or two and try again in the United States, as I know there would be a market.
I don't think there's anything wrong with expecting the smaller Smart car to do well in large U.S. urban centers. I live in Chicago, for example, and a lot of us single urban dwellers could use something exactly like this. When I visited Munich last year, I stayed with someone who owns a Smart car, so I can attest to how much fun they are and how efficient they can be in a big city. Maybe they won't appeal to the average suburban SUV driver, but there is definitely a significant niche market for them here in America.
Not all Americans are fat, SUV driving, 3,000-square-foot-house dwellers. Some of us would be quite happy driving a Smart here in the United States. It's ironic that Smarts are being sold just a few miles away from me in Vancouver, British Columbia, but I, as an American citizen, cannot legally buy one and drive it home here to Seattle.
Let me get this straight: Mercedes is selling a reliable, ultra-fuel-efficient car in Europe that's priced so I can buy it with a check, sized so I can park it anywhere, and styled to turn heads, but they're not sure if the American market will go for it? It won't beat a souped-up Honda in a drag race, but I'll be able to take a vacation off the savings in gas alone.
Ft. Riley, Kansas
Hondas in Space
Kudos to Elon Musk and his team for redefining the entire space business ("Hondas in Space," February). Beyond space, though, this is really a great attempt to completely rethink the way business gets done. The ideas in the story will hopefully inspire other companies to redefine their cost structures so as to serve poor people in the developing Asian, Latin American, and African markets. For that reason, I look forward to SpaceX's success.
The Urge to Unbundle
You talk about a pay-for-performance model of public relations in "The Urge to Unbundle" (February). I've tried that approach with clients, and I know the hazards. What happens is that clients emphasize tactics over strategy, and they have a tendency to misrepresent the work, which is about a lot more than placements. The unbundling idea can work in PR, though. I've found that clients are motivated to try public relations with an a la carte menu of services that includes traditional retainer, as well as project and hourly rates. The advantage: The client pays for what best suits his or her needs.
Let's Hear It for Hardball
I'm not surprised at the failure of American companies to respond positively and aggressively to George Stalk's theories of competition ("The 10 Lives of George Stalk," February). Americans can design the guts of manufacturing to create more productivity, but the desire to kill the competition — whenever, wherever, however — must be the motivating force. Unfortunately, most CEOs (and their boards) just can't stand the heat.
A reference to terabits in the Fast 50 (March) entry on Tom Buxton should have been terabytes.
In "The Business of Design" (April), we incorrectly referred to the Rotman School of Management as the Rotman School of Business.
"Consultant, Heal Thyself" (April) inaccurately described Katzenbach Partners LLC's work for its client Aetna. Katzenbach did not advise Aetna on the spin-off of its property and casualty business.
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A version of this article appeared in the May 2005 issue of Fast Company magazine.