"Some of the most popular features in business magazines, in general, and entrepreneurship magazines, in particular, are the success stories—the articles that describe how an entrepreneur or a company achieved success," says Daniel Faintuch in a post at A Marketer's View.

The adulatory tales, he notes, often follow a familiar trajectory: brief summaries of humble beginnings and initial setbacks that culminate in a lengthy discussion of the differentiating factor that drove a company's trailblazing success.

There's nothing wrong with finding inspiration in such stories, argues Faintuch, but he does worry about readers who treat the profiles too literally—as if they were comprehensive case studies.

"[M]any entrepreneurs tend to assume that the implementation of the factors mentioned in the article alone will allow others to replicate the same results," he says. "That, unfortunately, could not be farther from the truth." According to Faintuch, these magazine features:

  • Are not designed to give readers the full picture. "Too many well-intentioned [readers] tend to focus on the success stories as if they provide a basis for building a successful company," he notes, "when they actually simply discuss a portion of the reason for success."
  • Should not be seen as unbreakable commandments. The CEO of one online retailer stated in no uncertain terms that his company did not compete on price—then offered broad, 70-percent discounts not long after the article's publication. Faintuch sees no contradiction; rather, he says, it likely demonstrates a sensible exception to a general strategy.

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