Despite the book and the movie of the same title, “How to succeed in business without really trying” is a fast-track that usually leads to failure. In this edition of Tough Things First, guest host Rob Artigo asks Ray Zinn about the “magic bean” approach to business success.
Rob Artigo: I’m Rob Artigo, your guest host for this edition of Tough Things First, the podcast, with Ray Zinn, the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley. Hi Ray.
Ray Zinn: Hello Rob.
Rob Artigo: I’m sure you’re familiar with the title of the book and apparently Broadway play and movie, How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying.
Ray Zinn: I am. I haven’t read the book, but I’m familiar with the musical.
Rob Artigo: Well we’re talking about it because it sparked a great conversation. It lays out this title, which we think of in the business world as, well we know people like this, I think. I think I’ve met people who have this mindset where they’d like to do something without really trying, but I think you think of it as an oxymoron.
Ray Zinn: Yes. Having run Micrel in Silicon Valley, [inaudible 00:01:24] for 37 years, I can tell you that I busted my butt. I mean, I worked my tail off. And so, when I think of How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying, I’m thinking it’s kind of a joke. It must be a satire. I think the book was written in 1952. It is a belief that some people have that just going into business doesn’t take a lot of work. I mean, I’ve heard advertisements on the radio that said, “Hey you can work part time, still have your full time job, and you can make gobs of money by just hardly doing anything. All you’ve got to do is just follow our success formula, and you’ll just become filthy rich.” There is no such a thing. I mean, to me it’s a sham. Just like the title of the book is a satire. For anyone to believe that they can start a business and run it successfully year after year without really trying is truly an oxymoron.
Rob Artigo: You hit the nail of the head right there because you said that How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying being a satire of a book from Shepherd Mead, and they you brought up real things out there. And I think one of the reasons why the book is appealing is people go, “Huh?” But you’re likely to hear pitches like this that are not intended to be satire, but intended to separate you from your money.
Ray Zinn: Well you hear these advertisements and on the radio and TV glamorizing how, oh if you just follow our special formula, you will succeed and you’ll become very rich, and all you’ve got to do is just follow their formula. That is just, as they say, baloney. There is no simple way to achieve success. It’s a combination of just tremendous skills that you have to develop, as well as a lot of luck. If there’s luck involved in the business, of course then you could say you don’t have to really try. If you’re lucky, for example, you win the lottery. I mean, I don’t call it successful in business, but if you win the lottery, then you can say that, “Oh look at me. I made all this money, but I didn’t have to do anything other than buy a lottery ticket.” This get rich scheme concept of you too can be rich. You just have to follow our magic formula and we know how to do it. We’ll help you become successful is really a disservice, I think, to the average person.
When you think about running a business, don’t delude yourself into thinking it’s not a lot of work and you don’t really have to try. It’ll tax every ounce of knowledge and tenacity and energy you have to do it. It might even cost you your family. When you think about running a business, you’ve got to hope for the best, but expect the worst. And if you don’t, you’re not gonna succeed.
Rob Artigo: This kind of thing has been around for well, probably since the beginning of time because we just go back to early American history and the snake oil salesmen are out there. There’s always somebody around one corner, trying to sell you some magic beans. There is no magic formula.
Ray Zinn: I was at Costco the other day. They had this thing that you’d get on and it would vibrate your feet and it was just a foot vibrator, but you’re standing up on this, like a treadmill sort of thing, or a stepper, and it sits there and just vibrates like crazy. It has different vibration frequencies and so forth. And they say, they’re claiming, “Oh it’ll cure everything from diabetes to ED. It cures everything.” And to me, that’s a snake oil sales pitch it I ever heard one. You don’t have to do anything. All you’ve got to do, just stand here and let this thing vibrate you, and all your organs will start functioning better, and you’ll think better and you’ll become more successful and be a better parent. You’ll be, and all this stuff. You’ll lose weight. It’s just the classic snake oil. And I thought we got rid of those snake oil guys, but they had one at Costco the other day. Just stand in this thing, and it vibrates you into health. This is, again, my example of you’ve got to be careful.
By not having to do anything … Something that you get into that doesn’t require a lot of effort, I would stay away from it. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.
Rob Artigo: And if you’re gonna buy something, and again this is a book that is essentially satire, How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying, but if you’re buying a book or you’re buying a product that promises something like this, that’s a red flag that you’re heading down a path that, hey the remedy could harm you more in this case. Maybe that bad, who knows. It probably says somewhere written on it, “Claims not evaluated by the food and drug administration.”
Ray Zinn: Exactly.
Rob Artigo: So there’s nothing to prove whatsoever that this product does what it says it’ll do, but people will buy it because they think that it’ll somehow cure all of their ills. And like you said, it just happens to cure all of these things that are major sellers out there in the pharmaceutical environment.
Ray Zinn: Yeah. Again, if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Most of these people that write these books have never run a company.
Rob Artigo: No.
Ray Zinn: We see professors and all these other PhDs that have written all these books, but they’ve never experienced these things. They claim to have done research and that’s how they’ve backed up their statements, but we understand how good research is based on this last presidential election. Be careful about even people who base their claims on research because research is all dependent upon how the question’s asked. So be careful again, when you listen to or hear someone expound certain traits or things that will make you successful. Look at their background. Make sure that their background does comport to their experience.
Rob Artigo: Right. The bottom line here is if you want to succeed in business … How to succeed in business, that is you really must try, and you have to try hard.
Ray Zinn: Exactly. It’s like the little children’s nursery story with the little train that could, you know. You’ve just got to keep trying and trying and trying, and never give up. And having that dogged perseverance, as we talked about. Please, don’t believe it for a second that you can succeed in business without really trying.
Rob Artigo: Well, if you want to read a real book on serious success in business, you can read Tough Things First, Ray’s book. And you can find out more at ToughThingsFirst.com. You can also follow Ray on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Thanks again, Ray.
Ray Zinn: Thanks, Rob. It’s been a great conversation.