Wal-Mart redux

Just to play out the Wal-Mart thread…Compare the current Business Week cover story with the February Fortune piece that I touted a few posts ago, and ask yourself, what do we learn in the Business Week story that we didn’t already know? Both articles cite the company’s size, growth rate, number of employees, and spectacular impact on the economy. Both cite studies by consultancies on the company’s impact. The Biz Week story does cast a critical eye on Wal-Mart’s scary cultural impact of keeping magazines like Maxim and Stuff from customers; and admirably critiques its role as the largest creator of jobs that pay wages under the poverty line.

But I can only read this piece and ask: why can’t you tell me something new? Why did it take ten reporters, and "bureau reports" to boot, to research a story that Fortune did with one writer and one researcher, eight months ago? And, if you get a chance to look at this story on the newsstand, you can’t help but ask: could it be any uglier? The cover is a hideous and unimaginative drawing of a shopping cart with monster truck wheels. The inside story’s headline runs over a blurry, two-page photograph taken from the ground up, looking up an aisle of goods (none of which, by the way, are the Wal-Mart private label goods, which would have jogged an intriguing point about the company’s inroads on brands….but oops the story didn’t explore this.) Down the aisle we see the ass of a shopper pushing a cart. And hold that ass image, because this theme continues throughout the snapshot-quality photos that run throughout this story, as we see eight more asses in Wal-Mart stores. And a rack of underwear.

Ah….there goes my job at Business Week.

Okay, here’s my new favorite business story: this incredible Inc. piece on the ten year struggle of a persistent entrepreneur to commercialize Russian technology. In particular, the insane struggles of a Nevada businessman who stumbles onto the world’s strongest fireproof material, straight out of the Soviet Union space program, as he attempts to cut deals, raise funds, and navigate the insane puzzle of turning this resource into a profitable venture. It's a great piece, and a reminder of what business journalism can be.

Posted by tom at September 30, 2003 10:46 PM

Recent Writing

Flow as the Grand Unifying Theory of Productivity

Lowering the Personal Entrepreneurial Threshold

Sufjan Stevens, Entrepreneur

Good Writing Begets Good Writing



Book cover



Read or print the Intro and Chapter 1 .

Read some book reviews at Inc, 1-800-CEO-READ, and the Miami Herald.

Read the publisher's press release.

Visit the companies that Tom discusses in the book

Hear a recent lecture by Tom on the Startup Garden


Read about other books and web sites about starting your own business.


Just Managing – articles that Tom wrote for The Industry Standard and some Business Articles written for Inc., Fortune Small Business, Harvard Management Update, and other places.



To buy directly from me, simply go to Paypal and send 15 bucks to Tom@startupgarden.com. I'll take care of the rest. If you have any questions, email me at that address.

© 2001-2003 Tom Ehrenfeld | Site design by Tim Swan