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Thursday, May 22, 2003

Would it be such a crime to build a business worth "only" $10 million?

Am I the only one who can't spot the "small" in Fortune Small Business magazine?

It just seems to be story after story like this one about the cable magnate (who admittedly was the "son of a hog farmer") who needs to raise $50 BILLION with a b to make waves in the massive waste management business.

My idea of a small business magazine - call me crazy - would be stories about finding good ideas, avoiding the pitfalls that cause most small businesses to fail, managing work-life balance, and about growing one flower shop into six, or building a one-limo operation into a medium-sized fleet, or going from one employee to five, then ten. Or about four lifelong skilled tradesmen who buy out a failing shop and turn $200,000 in profit per year, eventually selling out for $2 million apiece. Or about the guy who buys that shop and turns it into a manufacturing operation that grows into a $50 million business. Or how about a dentist who simply practices as a dentist for 30 years with three hygienists and a receptionist, earns a tidy income, and golfs on Wednesdays? Isn't there a right way and a wrong way to go about that? Doesn't the guy get to drive around in a Lexus if he feels like it? Aren't his mom and dad proud?

Would that be so incredibly small-potatoes? What's the deal, then?

I think the answer lies in the biases of business journalists, most of whom know nothing about business, but know everything about image and style, because they live in the world of daily observation and mass broadcast. If it weren't for that one misstep at their last assignment, many of them would be interviewing Martin Scorcese or Nelson Mandela... so they want the next best thing, the "business celebrity." Business celebrities generally own impressive structures and call themselves "billionaires." So that's who you're gonna call.

The alternative would be interviewing genuine small business people. Terribly messy business. Certainly not something that reporters for shiny, glossy, business magazines (even those with "small" in the name) would soil themselves with.

For readers looking for levity, of course, there are plenty of chances for FSB readers to learn about the latest "fun gadgets" (because that's what business is about, eh?) like camcorders, and of course, "CEO Fashion Tips" (hilarious!). And here I thought CEO's were those guys who cashed in millions in stock options working for companies worth billions. But nope, I guess that flower shop owner and dentist must be CEO's too! Kind of leaves you breathless, doesn't it?

Posted by Andrew Goodman




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