A successful entrepreneur requires adaptability, to adjust to different conditions and or circumstances. In this Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn breaks down why adaptability is so essential and why your whole team needs to embrace a fluid approach to business.
Rob Artigo: Rob Artigo here, once again your host for this edition of the Tough Things First Podcast. I’m an entrepreneur in California. It’s wonderful to be with you again, Ray.
Ray Zinn: Yeah, I’m glad you’re able to do this podcast with me.
Rob Artigo: Wealth of knowledge that I get. I thought today, let’s talk about adaptability, and this is really the ability to see what’s coming or to react properly upon outside stimuli. So being adaptable is important as your role as a leader. So Ray, what is adaptability in your mind and where does it apply in our business and personal worlds?
Ray Zinn: Well, it’s called pivoting.
Ray Zinn Cont.: There’s a saying, it’s kind of like a attitude, “Blessed are the flexible for they will not get bent out of shape”. And you can apply that to your personal life, you can also apply it to a company. So being able to pivot, whether you’re in sports or whether you’re in business or teaching school or whatever your vocation is. It’s that ability to be flexible, to be able to adapt and not just adapt difficulty, but adapt easily. So if you don’t have a pivoting plan or a plan to maneuver, like Who Moved the Cheese is a book that was written sometime ago that talks about adaptability. If you can’t adapt to where the cheese moved, then you’re going to starve to death. So pivoting is the key. And then when I ran Micrel, I wouldn’t say I thought about it every day, but at least many times during the week I would think about, ‘what if this happens?’ ‘What if that happens?’ ‘What do I do?’ ‘How do I recover?’.
And so we talk about a good quarterback. A good quarterback adapts to the defense, and so he reads the defense, he reads his offense, and he just has that ability, that adaptability to make the right call to just to help his team score. And so you got to be able to read. You got to read your defense, you got to read your competitors, you got to be able to read the economics. Don’t keep going down the same path if you’re failing at that path. If the path is leading you to destruction and you have to take a detour, you got to be able to go around the damage or the potential damage that’ll occur if you’re not adaptable. So the success of any business is really having the ability to be able to pivot and to zig when you should zag as you would.
Rob Artigo: I find that another way of looking at that is they always say in the military that no plan survives first contact with the enemy. That success of the mission depends on your ability to adapt. Not all your decisions are going to be the right ones right away. Your adaptability has to be sort of a ever-evolving concept, and you have to be open to options and understanding that you need to adapt to conditions.
Ray Zinn: Well, I know this is a contemporary story, but this war that’s going on between Russia and Ukraine. Russia is a much bigger force, a much larger adversary with more capability, more assets. And we can liken that to a large company, that a multi-billion dollar company and you’re competing against it. Like Ukraine is competing against Russia. It looks like Ukraine is hanging on. I don’t know how well because the news media, I don’t know if I could trust all the information coming out of it, but it is taking Russia a lot longer than they thought to be able to defeat Ukraine. And so you don’t have to be a giant like Russia to succeed. You just have to have that will. And so the difference between the Russians and the Ukrainians is that word called will, W-I-L-L. That means that you’re willing to do whatever it takes.
I’m reminded of that tradition in marriage called having the best man at your wedding. So the story behind the best man is back in the medieval times, the spouse, I mean the bride, her family would try to capture [inaudible], the spouse or the bride away from the spouse. And so the spouse had to surround himself with kind of a little army to protect his wife and from her being taken. So he always had the outer circle. Then you had the inner circle. Inner circle was covered by the best man. So what the best man would do is he would be willing to give up his life. And so you can imagine here you are, you’re the bride’s family, and you’re going to try to take away the bride when the best man’s going to give up his life to save that marriage. And so you want the best man right at your side. And so that’s why I call it the will. His will was I’m willing to give up my life to protect my friend and his wife, his spouse.
Rob Artigo: Yeah.
Ray Zinn: So again, it’s having that determination. And I think that’s the key that Micrel had actually, so we competed against some very, very large companies, was we had that will to succeed. And so we were called the biggest little company. So we may not have had the best fab, the best designers, the best this or that, but we had the will, we had the energy and the ability to slug it out as you would. So I wasn’t afraid of my competition. In fact, I enjoyed my competition because they helped me become better. The best teams are the ones that go against each other like in the Super Bowl. So you don’t have to be the biggest or the smartest or the most money, you just have to have that will
Rob Artigo: The ability to adapt in the face of an ever-changing environment that you can’t predict. I mean, the recent bank failures, the pretty clear downturn in the economy that could last, I think I heard somebody recently say that it could last three quarters under the most favorable conditions.
Ray Zinn: Right.
Rob Artigo: Under the most favorable conditions. And so we don’t really know precisely what’s going to happen, but we have to, as business owners, we have to have the ability to adapt as it changes during this period.
Ray Zinn: Well three quarters is a good metric because that’s, three quarters is what’s 90 days?
Rob Artigo: 90 days, okay.
Ray Zinn: No, that’s one month. That’s one quarter, sorry. One quarter is 90 days. So that’d be three times that just-
Rob Artigo: Yeah, like nine months.
Ray Zinn: Nine months. That’s at nine months. Yeah.
Rob Artigo: Yeah.
Ray Zinn: So, you have to be able to hold on for nine months, and that’s a good metric. So if you don’t have the horsepower, the ability to hold on for nine months, you’re most likely going to fail. So again, going back to the Ukrainians and the Russian War, they’ve gone over a year. And so that just shows that the ability for the Ukrainians to adapt against whatever the Russians throw at them shows their tenacity, their ability to pivot, their adaptability as you would. And so, as I mentioned in the beginning of the podcast, I wouldn’t think about this every day, but I’d think about it many times during the week about what do I do if this happens? What if I do, what happens if that happens? And so we were always looking for the exit or the place we needed to pivot to.
Rob Artigo: For our listeners, I hope they’ll go to their favorite podcast platform and rate this podcast and as always, our listeners can reach out to you, Ray, and if they have questions, just go to toughthingsfirst.com. I know you read those messages. Also there at toughthingsfirst.com, you’ll find the links for social media. There’s blogs, links to other information about the book, Tough Things First for example, and also the Zen of Zen series, which is three books on entrepreneurship, leadership, management, but also on discipline and determination in life, which is adaptability certainly one of those things. So that’s the Zen of Zen series. I hope you’ll pick those books up as well. Thank you again, Ray.
Ray Zinn: Hey Rob, it’s so good to be with you again.