Tough Things First Podcast
The Tough Things First podcast is where you receive short bursts of Ray Zinn’s leadership, executive and entrepreneur’s wisdom. Tough Things First podcasts are typically five minutes long, giving you one important concept to ponder for the rest of the day.
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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.
The nature of indecisive leadership and its effect on a company.Read more
A job title doesn’t make the leader. In this edition of the Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn explores the idea of indecisive leadership and he is hardly indecisive on the matter.
Rob Artigo: I’m Rob Artigo, your guest host for this edition of the Tough Things First podcast where I get a chance to talk with Ray Zinn, as noted, the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley. And that’s for good reason. He has life experience, he has work experience, and obviously success at the helm of a company for more than three decades. It’s just amazing. So, hi Ray, it’s good to be back with you.
Ray Zinn: Thanks, Rob. Good to be with you this morning.
Rob Artigo: Well, Ray, we’ve all been around and worked for or worked with leaders who from time to time have shown an inability to make a solid decision when the stakes are highest, and obviously that can not bode well for a company. So what’s the nature of indecisive leadership in your mind?
Be more than just about profit, and profit follows.Read more
Fictional Wall Street tycoon Gordon Gekko famously uttered the words, “greed is good.” But, for real life CEOs with hundreds, sometimes, tens of thousands of employees, should there be something more than profit? In this Tough Things First podcast, CEO Ray Zinn, says greed doesn’t make profit, good employees who love their work do.
Rob Artigo: I’m Rob Artigo, your guest host for this edition of The Tough Things First podcast with Ray Zinn, the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley history. Hello, Ray.
Ray Zinn: Hello there, Rob. Good to be with you again.
Rob Artigo: Well, Ray, you have said, and you’ve written a lot, and you’re musing zen. The Zen of Zinn is also a great example of this, but jotting down thoughts and expanding on an idea that helps all of us when we’re leading our companies to profitability and success…
Bank Failures Start with Human FailuresRead more
Silicon Valley Bank was not the only bank to fail in early 2023, but it shines as an example of mismanaging risk at enormous expense to depositors. In this Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn discusses the man made ingredients that have caused a banking crisis. (Click here for the Video Podcast.)
Rob Artigo: Welcome to the Tough Things First podcast, your indispensable source for business, leadership and life advice with the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley. I’m your guest host, Rob Artigo, and he’s Ray Zinn. Hello again, Ray.
Ray Zinn: Hi, Rob. So good to be with you this morning.
Rob Artigo: Good to be back, Ray, and this is an interesting subject. I should let the listeners know that this is a video edition as well. So if you’re just listening to the podcast but you’d like to watch it, you can just click the link next to … you can go to toughthingsfirst.com and find the podcast, click the link that says video podcast and it’ll take you to Ray’s YouTube channel where we have the video posted, and you can watch it on video. I think it enhances what we do, and we don’t do it all the time, but we try to do it semi-regularly, and it’s fun to be on the same screen with you, Ray, and make videos.
Ray Zinn: Yep.
Rob Artigo: Well, today’s topic is something that’s been in the news a lot lately. I think people will understand this as being an important issue. I mean, people are always concerned about bank failures, and we had a big one. We had the largest … I think it’s gone down as the largest in history, the Silicon Valley Bank collapse.
“Crap Happens”Read more
“The Failure of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) was a prime example of people and organizations who seek to place blame instead of learning from the experience.” In this Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn discusses how the successful business leader profits from knowing what to do when “crap happens.”
Rob Artigo: I’m Rob Artigo, your guest host for this edition of the Tough Things First podcast. I’m a writer and investigator in California. Here with me is Ray Zinn, the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley history. Hello again, Ray.
Ray Zinn: Hi there, Rob. So good to be with you today.
Rob Artigo: I thought it might be a good idea to talk a little bit more about Silicon Valley Bank. Only in that you wrote, “The failure of Silicon Valley Bank was a prime example of people and organizations who seek to place blame instead of learning from the experience.” I thought, you know what? We talked about Silicon Valley Bank, but this is a great aspect of this because it’s not the issue about the failed banks, which includes Silicon Valley Bank and others. Credit Suisse comes to mind, but going forward, we’re going to learn more about what happened and we don’t really know much.
But tell me a little bit about what you mean about an organization where the culture basically is to place blame instead of learning from the experience. Let’s talk a little bit about that.
Ray Zinn: Well, that’s an interesting one. As I’ve mentioned in that musing, I said, “Crap happens”. The word that term crap comes from is John Crapper invented the toilet, and so it’s a play on his name as you would. It’s what we mean when we say crap happens.
Belt Tightening in RecessionRead more
You can’t control the world, but you can lead your company through a downturn. How? In this Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn explains, in simple terms, how to tighten the budget belt while saving your profits and people.
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 back with you, Ray.
Ray Zinn: Well, I’m looking forward to this one very much, Rob.
Rob Artigo: Well, let’s talk about the fiscal belt and tightening it. Current circumstances in the economy and America around the world indicates that a lot of businesses are going to be interested in trying to figure out how to save money. I mean, we’ve already seen layoffs in 2023. And this is about how to cut expenses, how to also conserve cash in a downturn. So, you’re famous for decades of profitability at Micrel Semiconductor, and part of that was ensuring that you had operating capital in the bank to make sure that you could weather those storms for a period of time. So, let’s start with telling the listeners about having a strong foundation.
Ray Zinn: Well, the strongest foundation you can have, of course, is cash, because that’s what keeps the doors open.
Confirmation Bias!Read more
Do you want it to be true so badly that you sink the ship? In this Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn explores the truth behind one of techs greatest blind spots.
Rob Artigo: I’m Rob Artigo, your guest host for this edition of the Tough Things First podcast with Ray Zinn, the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley. Hello, Ray.
Ray Zinn: Hi Rob. Boy, so nice to be with you again today.
Rob Artigo: Well, Ray, I’ve got a good subject here, because it’s one of those buzzword types of subjects. Because we always have buzzwords these days, and confirmation bias is one that has come up in conversation in the business world for me frequently, recently. The definition that I found for confirmation bias is the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one’s existing beliefs or theories.
So in my mind, that means that it’s when you grasp onto those elements that prove your original idea and discount those things that disprove, like surrounding yourself with people who say, “Yeah, that’s good, that’s good, that’s good,” and they’re not really being honest about it. But you get a lot out of it because you’re like, “Hey, this is great,” but it’s not necessarily true. Have you seen this kind of thing occur in the creative environment of research and development?
Ray Zinn: Absolutely. This is kind of the NIH concept, not invented here. You always think that your idea is the best idea, or when you first get the first evidence you have that something is been true that you found to be true, then you don’t look outside of it. It’s kind of like that flat Earth theory.
The Pitch: AudienceRead more
No matter how dialed-in, intriguing, and dynamic, your startup pitch is, if you try to sell hamburgers to an aardvark, you’re just wasting the aardvarks time. In this Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn talks about why choosing your audience carefully earns respect and results in success.
Rob Artigo: I’m Rob Artigo, your guest host for this edition of the Tough Things First Podcast where I get a chance to talk with Ray Zinn, as noted there, the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley, and that’s for a good reason. Hi Ray, it’s good to be back with you.
Ray Zinn: Hey Rob, so good to be with you again.
Working hard or Work-a-holic? There’s a costly difference.Read more
Is it easy to fall into the work-a-holic trap. Did you know that working 80 hours a week does not equal more productivity? Ray Zinn explains why in this new Tough Things First podcast.
Rob Artigo: I’m Rob Artigo, your guest host for this edition of the Tough Things First Podcast. I’m a writer and investigator in California. Here with me is Ray Zinn, the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley history. Hello, Ray.
Ray Zinn: Hey Rob, it’s great to be with you today.
Rob Artigo: Well, in the 37 years that you were CEO of Micrel Semiconductor, you were known for being a hard worker but not known as a workaholic. Give us an idea of the difference between, in your mind, what it is to be a hard worker versus being a workaholic?
Ray Zinn: Okay, so working hard, which is a hard worker they kind of go together. Working hard and hardworking are the same. They just switched the adjectives around. A workaholic is just like an alcoholic. It’s something that takes over, that you can’t do without. In other words, you can’t survive without working. There’s a big difference between working hard, or hardworking, and not being able to do something else other than work, like an alcoholic.
Quiet Quitting: How to reverse it in the age of remote work.Read more
Quiet quitting isn’t just a buzzword, it’s happening. In this Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn discussing this costly staffing dilemma and offers a simple solution. (Click here for the video podcast)
Rob Artigo: Welcome to the Tough Things First podcast, your indispensable source for business, leadership, and life advice with the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley. I’m your guest host Rob Artigo, and he’s Ray Zinn. Hello Ray.
Ray Zinn: Hello there Rob. So good to be with you this morning.
Rob Artigo: It’s good to be with you and good to be back. This is a special edition of the Tough Things First podcast. So if you’re just listening, you can go to the website, toughthingsfirst.com and you can find the podcast and then you can click on the link that’ll take you to Ray’s YouTube channel and you can watch the video there if that’s what you prefer to do. Make sure you rate this podcast wherever you find your favorite podcasts and keep us going strong. So Ray, I was reading Business Insider on the internet and I saw a headline recently that touted quiet quitting is the natural sequel to the great resignation as workers still rethink their jobs three years into the pandemic. Now, when I read that I was thinking, I’m not sure it’s a sequel. I think it’s part and parcel to the same process. Am I wrong?
Ray Zinn: No, you’re correct. And what’s interesting is that the pandemic, which came on in 2020 actually precipitated this concept of the great resignation slash quiet quitting.
Proof of ConceptRead more
It is one of the toughest tasks for the successful entrepreneur. That’s why your proof of concept should get done first! In this Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn discusses “Proof of Concept” as structured experimentation. Ray makes it easier to understand than it sounds.
Rob Artigo: Rob Artigo here once again, your host for this edition of The Tough Things First podcast. I’m an entrepreneur in California. Great to be back here again, Ray, for another great podcast.
Ray Zinn: Well, good to be with you again, Rob. I’m grateful that you’re able to do these with me. See, Rob used to be a radio announcer, and so he’s been able to go in and really hone his skills in this area.
Rob Artigo: Well, and I’m glad I can put them to some use, helping you out here on Tough Things First. I’m a big fan of what you do and I always get a lot from your knowledge and experience. Let’s just jump right into it, Ray. Let’s talk about proof of concept as it relates to structured experimentation. Finding out what fails and what works, but using those results to learn and grow and optimize to make a product that actually works and is a profitable product.
Ray Zinn: In other words, you’ve proven it, it’s viable. I know on Shark Tank, they often ask you, “Well, what’s your revenues?” That’s almost the first question out of their mouth is, “Well, what kind of revenues do you have? What’s been the experience so far?”
The Clock is Ticking: Does your pitch have a clear mission and strategy?Read more
Mission and strategy are not afterthoughts. Just seconds for your first impression. Minutes to sell the idea. Don’t blow it! In this Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn explores several key elements your elevator pitch must include or it’s most likely dead on arrival.
Rob Artigo: I’m Rob Artigo, your guest host for this edition of the Tough Things First podcast with Ray Zinn, the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley. Hello again, Ray.
Ray Zinn: Hi, Rob. How’s it going today for you?
Rob Artigo: It’s going great.
Ray Zinn: Great.
Rob Artigo: There are a surprising number of people, Ray, who have gone into business, literally invested their own money, drawn from savings, borrowed money, sometimes mortgages on their house, a second mortgage on a house, to launch a business, and they haven’t spent much time at all thinking about defining their company’s mission and concept. So let’s talk about how to define a startup company’s mission and concept before we ever go out and try to get others excited about it. Would you say a mission and concept, they go hand in hand?
Ray Zinn: Okay, so the mission defines the purpose. That’s what the mission is, it’s the purpose of your company. The strategy is how you’re going to execute on that mission.
Ray Zinn: “An excuse is nothing more than a reason wrapped in a bag of poop.”Read more
Ray Zinn, the longer serving CEO in Silicon Valley, was well known for fostering a culture of “do whatever it takes, no excuses” at Micrel Semiconductor. In this Tough Things First podcast, Ray talks about why he views an excuse as nothing more than a reason wrapped in a bag of poop.
Rob Artigo: I’m Rob Artigo here once again, your host for this edition of The Tough Things First Podcast. I’m a writer and investigator in California. Here with me is Ray Zinn, the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley history. Hello, Ray.
Ray Zinn: Hello, Rob. It’s so good to be with you again.
Rob Artigo: Well, in your 37 years as CEO of Micrel Semiconductor, you have heard just about everything. Certainly, you’ve heard your share of excuses. I imagine over time working for you, you would hear from individuals fewer and fewer excuses based on your philosophy here. But you once wrote that an excuse is a reason wrapped in a bag of poop.
Ray Zinn: I wrote that musing after one of my kids had offered an excuse on why something couldn’t be done.
The Cryptocurrency GambleRead more
Not too long ago we talked about chasing unicorns in Silicon Valley and the downfall of Elizabeth Holmes. Now the collapse of cryptocurrency exchange FTX. In this Tough Things First Podcast, Ray Zinn discusses how investing should be more than just a casual wager. (Watch the video version here…)
Rob Artigo: Welcome to the Tough Things First Podcast, your indispensable source for business, leadership, and life advice with the longest-serving CEO in Silicon Valley. I’m Rob Artigo, your guest host, and he’s Ray Zinn. Hello, Ray.
Ray Zinn: Hey, Rob. So good to see you.
Rob Artigo: Good to see you too, Ray. This is a special edition of the Tough Things First Podcast. It’s on video. So if you’re listening now and you want to check it out on video, you can go to toughthingsfirst.com, find this podcast, and then right next to it will be a link to Ray’s video channel and on YouTube. You can check that out. And you can also see the previous versions of the Tough Things First Podcast on the YouTube channel.
So Ray, not too long ago we talked about chasing unicorns in Silicon Valley and the downfall of Elizabeth Holmes. She was recently slapped with more than 11 years in prison for fraud after she deceived investors about the efficacy of her company’s blood-testing technology. Most people in the business world have heard this. It’s a cautionary tale in many ways. Now, we hear about the recent collapse of cryptocurrency exchange FTX, with an estimated 1 billion to $2 billion of missing funds out there. I’ve heard recently that it could be as much as $8 billion that was affected by this. Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder of FTX, faces what could end up being a worse penalty than Holmes faced.
So Ray, you’ve always been skeptical of the cryptocurrencies and the exchanges as they operate kind of like a pyramid scheme. Is that fair to say?
Ray Zinn: Yes. Actually, Rob, what’s interesting is that anything that sounds to be too good to be true, it probably is.
Is Your Startup Doomed? It doesn’t Have to Be.Read more
Is your startup doomed, or headed in the right direction? What it comes down to is will people trust that you know what you’re talking about. In this Tough Things First Podcast, Ray Zinn breaks down the difference between a fleeting idea and a genuine money maker.
Rob Artigo: Rob Artigo here. Once again, your guest host for this edition of the Tough Things First podcast. I’m an entrepreneur in California. It’s great to be back once again. Ray.
Ray Zinn: I’m glad to have you here, Rob, honestly.
Rob Artigo: Well, because of your ZinnStarter program, very important successful program. You get to hear a lot of people sharing with you startup ideas and in some cases they’re just an idea, a notion. And sometimes they’re more advanced. Now they’ve got a couple people working on a product or even making some kinds of sales. So let’s discuss your level of interest when somebody approaches you with an idea versus something that’s tangible and operating. Let’s define first the difference between an idea versus a company that’s actually operating.
Ray Zinn: Okay, first, let’s talk about what ZinnStarter is. ZinnStarter is a program that I initiated about seven years ago with universities and I help fund students who come up with good ideas and help them develop that idea while they’re still in school. So, a company is not necessarily a company that has a product, could be a service, it could be just wanting to have your own company. And so the company itself, if you focus on having a company as opposed to an idea, then it’s going to be more long lasting. Because ideas come and go. You’ll say, oh I have a great idea and then it may not last more than a few months or days. Whereas I have a good company that could last out into centuries. A company is something that’s enduring, it’s like a family, it’s tangible, it has a people, it has assets, it has capability, it’s developing revenue. Whereas an idea is nothing more than a thought. And while you want to have a mission and a goal when you start your company, just having a great idea doesn’t make you a company.
Rob Artigo: Is it usually when somebody walks up to you and says, Ray, what do you think of this idea here or platform of doing something, some kind of service mechanism. We have a lot of things like Lyft and different kinds of companies that figured out, here’s my niche and this is the area we’re going to go into. But if somebody walks up to you and says, here’s a concept and what they’re hoping to do in some cases is to snatch your interest, maybe figure out how to get some funding going so they can develop their product. They’re right in that phase. Can you tell right away that all they are is in the infancy?
Ray Zinn:Sure. When you talk about an idea and we learn this while watching Shark Tank, they say, well where is your revenue? What is your revenue? And if they say, Well I just came up with the idea and so there’s no revenue yet, that’s different than them saying, well I’ve been working on this for 10 years and there’s no revenue yet, but I… That’s an idea that’s going nowhere. So I can tell by how long they have been looking at this idea and what they have done to develop it as to whether or not I want to get involved. So what I look for is, in fact, I just taught a class on this last week, is the idea unique? How is it differentiated? What did they do to differentiate that product other than just having an idea?
In fact, I had a student, I said, “Well why do you want to start the company?”
“Well, because there’s a parking problem at San Jose State.” And I said, “Oh well, so a lot of people say that.” I mean if you ask half this class, they’re going to say that there’s a parking problem at San Jose State. So just the fact you’ve identified a problem doesn’t make it an… You have to have a unique concept. What are you going to do to resolve that parking problem? Then that makes it different, that’s when rubber meets the road. And so just saying, I’ve noted that there’s a great need for this doesn’t mean you have a unique idea.
Rob Artigo: You’ve identified a problem but you don’t have an idea actually. You pretty much have nothing if you don’t have a solution. And do you think that people give a little bit of short shrift on the question of, is somebody else already in that space?
Ray Zinn: I think they do. I think because of the fact they see the problem hasn’t been solved, they immediately think they can get in there and make a difference. The fact that’s not been solved doesn’t necessarily mean you have a great idea. You have to say, okay, why is my concept going to work where the other ones, the other 20 or 30 didn’t work? And so, you need to focus on what you’re going to bring to the table as opposed to the fact that yeah, there’s a real need for this particular solution.
Rob Artigo: I see a lot of commercials for fresh foods that are packaged up so that all you have to do is really just kind of cook the package together. It’s almost like a high quality TV dinner or something because they’re giving you a fresh meal in a day or three meals a day or something like that. You order these meals this way. And now I’ve seen multiple companies that are doing that. I imagine there are people out there that go, oh, this is a great idea, I want to do that. I guess if you want to open up a convenient store in your community where there’s already a bunch of convenient stores, that’s up to you. And maybe you’ll do it better than anybody else, but at the same time you’re not going to get a huge amount of innovation interest if you walk up and say, I’m going to deliver fresh meals to people’s houses. Isn’t that already being done?
So it happens a lot in this industry where you hear people… I say this industry meaning technology where you hear people with their ideas and you think, okay, I think I’ve heard that before.
Ray Zinn: What’s your added value, your unique added value? That’s the same thing as I was teaching this class last week and had this person bring up their idea was to solve the parking problem in San Jose State. And I said, “Well I’ve already helped fund five companies that were doing the same thing. Why don’t you look at what they’re doing and find out how well they’re succeeding? If you’re all are solving the same problem, it seemed like to me there’s too much duplication.” Same thing with this fresh food thing. By the way, we do solicit or subscribe to a fresh meal three times a week. It’s a lot of work. They’ll provide you all the ingredients, which is fine. It’s real gourmet stuff, but it’s a lot of work.
Rob Artigo: You still got to cook it.
Ray Zinn: Oh man. It’s a lot of work. It takes twice as long to cook that kind of a meal as it does just to throw something together like a can of soup or something.
Rob Artigo: Which is why it’s so much better for you and healthy in all respects. But the parking example is a great one because I think, and even the food service deal is if you’re going to go out and let’s say you’ve got four or five companies that are already in the space doing something like the meal delivery thing. And you walk up and you say, ?Well the problem was people weren’t getting good fresh food at home.” Okay, well I’m going to bring it to them or I’m going to bring them where they can park. And you go, well these other companies are already doing it and you still have a problem. I think the place to be for that guy in his mind or woman is to say, “What are these people doing wrong?” The problem may not be the parking in general because that hasn’t changed. But the other problem is these people are providing services that aren’t working. So what am I supposed to do that’s going to fix that problem?
Ray Zinn: Well, there’s a pre-prepared meals you can get the pre-prepared. And then there’s the ones which are the gourmet meals. They provide you all the ingredients. There’s a difference. If you want something that’s just going to help you after you get home from work and you’re tired and you just don’t want to spend an hour preparing a gourmet meal, then those are the ones that work. So you have to pick and choose as to what you’re going to do. And the same thing with parking problem. They got to come up with a solution that’s going to work, not just come up with another idea that doesn’t work.
Rob Artigo: I think it helps to think through these things before you mention it to somebody like yourself who might be able to provide good advice. They might even direct them towards how they can take whatever they’re doing to the next level. But if you haven’t investigated the competition, you haven’t figured out if it’s there already and you have an idea that’s really just duplicating something else that’s already there and they’re already way ahead you, I don’t think you’re going to find a lot of interest in ZinnStarter or anything else.
Ray Zinn: So let me talk about the various components of a business plan. Number one, you have to define the mission, in other words why are you doing this? What’s the concept of your business? The second thing is to be able to describe your product very quickly in less than two or three minutes. Describe the product or service and how it’s unique. What is unique about that particular product or service to solve that mission. The third thing is your team. You have to have an identified team. If you’re going to be a team of one, you’re probably not going to succeed because two heads are better than one. So you want to make sure you have a team. And then the fourth then is you got to develop a financial statement. How much money you’re going to need to get you to profitability. And if you can’t define how long it’s going to take you to get profitable, you probably shouldn’t go into business.
So raise enough money to take you to profitability. And that’s the key to any good business plan, is to raise enough money up front to get you to profitability. Because you don’t want to be running out of money in two or three years and then have to be out on the road again looking for more money. It just doesn’t work. Then you have to also look at what your ROI is. In other words, is the money that I’m going to raise, is that going to have a decent return? And if it doesn’t have a seven or 8% return, then it’s going to fall in deaf ears. So those are the components of a business plan, mission, defining a product and how unique it is. Your team, your competition that you’re going to face, your financial requirements, you’re going to have to go to profitability. And then what’s your return on investment?
Rob Artigo: It sounds like you better have those things in your pocket and ready to go when you’re discussing this stuff so that people know that you know what you’re talking about. I think that’s what we learned here in this podcast. So for our listeners, please rate this podcast on your favorite platform and as always, you can reach out to Ray with your questions at toughthingsfirst.com. There are links there for social media, he has blogs and virtually anything you need there. And you can go back and listen to all the podcasts going back to the very first one. And also you can pick up raised books. Of course there’s the Tough Things First and also the Zen of Zinn series includes book one and two and soon book three. So keep an eye out for that. Thank you again, Ray.
Ray Zinn: Thanks Rob. Good to be with you.
Micromanagement for SuccessRead more
Micromanagement. Does it get a bad rap? As head of Micrel Semiconductor for 37 years, Ray Zinn took a taboo management style and turned it on its head. The results were nothing short of amazing. In this Tough Things First Podcast, Ray breaks down the reasons that putting a positive spin on micromanagement can transform workplace culture.
Rob Artigo: I’m Rob Artigo, your guest host for this edition of The Tough Things First podcast with Ray Zinn, the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley. Hello again, Ray.
Ray Zinn: Hi Rob. How you doing today?
Rob Artigo: I’m well. And so don’t micromanage me too much on this podcast, but please, let’s talk about micromanagement. I’ve talked to people who worked for you at Micrel over those many 37 years, and some of them were in senior management, and I’ve been told that your own philosophy regarding micromanagement was to encourage your managers to do a little bit of it and make it a positive thing. Tell me about when you have such a negative connotation for micromanagement across the business world and you take a different tact as usual.
Ray Zinn: Well, micromanaging has gotten a bad reputation, a bad story and narrative.
The Right Company Hires the Right PersonRead more
In thirty-seven years as CEO of Micrel Semiconductor, Ray Zinn has done his share of hiring at all levels. In this Tough Things First podcast, Ray talks objectives when interviewing candidates and how to get hiring managers to sing the same tune.
Rob Artigo: I’m Rob Artigo here once again, your guest host for this edition of the Tough Things first podcast. I’m a writer and investigator in California. Here with me as Ray Zinn, the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley history. In being invited back Ray, you know it’s always a pleasure. So, I’m glad to be here.
Ray Zinn: Well, thank you, Rob. It’s always good to be with you.
Rob Artigo: In 37 years as CEO of Micrel Semiconductor you’ve done your share of hiring. So let’s talk a little bit about your objectives when you’re interviewing candidates, and then we can talk a little bit about what you tell your hiring managers about their efforts to hire somebody and how to fulfill your objectives through what they’re doing. So let’s start with your objectives in interviewing candidates. When you sit down, and it can be at any level, like I said you’ve so much experience doing this, but what do you go into it focused on? Obviously, you want to get the best candidate, and I guess that’s a foregone conclusion, but there has to be other objectives.
Tax Payers to Help U.S. Chip Makers with $52B. Is it Doomed to Repeat History?Read more
The US Government is set to spend billions on American semiconductor manufacturing. Is it an aggressive, much needed, offensive against aggressive, international dominance or destined for disaster? Few industry leaders know where this is headed like Ray Zinn. In this Tough Things First podcast, Ray explains where the industry stands and what it really needs. A do not miss podcast for the industry and government leaders. (Watch the full video podcast HERE)
Rob Artigo: Welcome to The Tough Things First Podcast, your indispensable source for business leadership and life advice, with the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley. I’m your guest host, Rob Artigo, and he’s Ray Zinn. Hello, Ray.
Ray Zinn: Hello there, Rob. So good to be with you this morning.
Rob Artigo: And, it’s great to be back as always. So, this is obviously a special edition of The Tough Things First Podcast. If you’re listening right now, and not watching it and you’d like to, you can go to toughthingsfirst.com, find this podcast there. You might even be listening to it there, but there’s a link. You can click the link. It’ll take you to Ray’s YouTube channel and you can watch, as well as listen, and let us know what you think.
Well, Ray, the White House says, “The Chips and Science Act of 2022 will be a historic investment that will poise US workers, communities, and businesses to win the race for the 21st century.” $52 billion for the Chips and Science Act that the Biden administration says, “Will boost American semiconductor research, development and production, ensuring US leadership in technology that forms the foundation of everything,” as we’ve discussed many times on this program.
Ray Zinn: Yeah.
Rob Artigo: So, is that what’s going to happen?
Ray Zinn: Well, let’s do a little background first. Let’s kind of drop back and take a look at the industry from a 40,000 foot perspective.
Business Survival in Downturns and RecessionRead more
There is little debate that the economy has hit the skids. Is your business ready? In this Tough Things First podcast, also available in video, Ray Zinn explores being prepared and what to do in the thick of financial woes that will keep you ahead of the game. (Watch This Podcast on YouTube)
Rob Artigo: I’m Rob Artigo, writer and entrepreneur in California, your guest host for this edition of the Tough Things First podcast, special video edition. Hello, Ray.
Ray Zinn: Hello there, Robert. How are you?
Rob Artigo: I’m doing well, sir. Thanks for bringing me back once again.
Ray Zinn: Oh, listen, my pleasure. It’s great to do it this way.
Rob Artigo: Well, for our casual audio listeners out there, a very popular podcast, the Tough Things First podcast. If you’re interested in seeing the video option for this podcast, go ahead and check out toughthingsfirst.com. You click on the podcasts, find this post, and there will be a link there for this video. Now if you’re watching the video and you want to listen to more podcasts, just head on over to the same place, toughthingsfirst.com and click on video posts.
There are many dozens, and I don’t know, we might be into 300 podcasts by now. Who knows? Well, Ray, let’s get into the topic. In a recent podcast, you described how downturns were inevitable and they tend to come around about every three to five years. In 2008, the so-called Great Recession, it was significant and lasting, so let’s start by just asking you is what we’re facing now potentially worse than what we experienced during the Great Recession?
Why Businesses FailRead more
Success in the mind comes before anything gets started in business, but how much consideration is given to the chances of failure and is there a way to improve those chances? Ray Zinn discusses why businesses fail in this new Tough Things First podcast.
Rob Artigo: Rob Artigo here. Once again, your guest host for this edition of the Tough Things First podcast. I’m an entrepreneur in California. It’s great to be with you again, Ray, for another great podcast.
Ray Zinn: Well, I look forward to this one especially, Rob.
Surviving CalamityRead more
A calamity can be home grown, natural, or an attack like 9/11. Effective business leaders know how to overcome adversity and restore robust optimism. In this Tough Things First Podcast, Ray Zinn explores how to reignite a business after unexpected and protracted calamity like Covid 19. Beyond the financial.
Rob Artigo: I’m Rob Artigo, your guest host for this edition of the Tough Things First podcast, where I get a chance to talk to Ray Zinn, as noted, the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley. And that’s for good reason. Hi Ray.
Ray Zinn: Hello, Rob. Welcome back to the number one podcast for business.
Rob Artigo: And we’ll talk about that later on because I think it’s important that we get people to go to their podcast platforms and rate the podcast, so it stays number one.
I recall on a past podcast, this great series of podcasts here, you talked about how downturns were inevitable, and you should always expect them with your business. You did things like make sure you always had a certain amount of operating capital to weather any storm that might arise. But what happens if that storm is financial, but also political, personal, painful, spiritual, and prolonged, all at once, like it was with COVID. Have you seen anything like this before, Ray?
Ray Zinn: Oh, yes. We’ve had what they call the perfect storm before. Every one’s unique and different. We had that big downturn in 2001, after the Y2K, as they called it, debacle.
Who Moved the Cheese?Read more
The ability to pivot is not only an option in business, but also a necessity. In this Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn is joined by Robert Barker to discuss the important concept of embracing change to stay profitable.
Ray Zinn: Hello, everyone. Welcome to another very special podcast of Tough Things First, I am so delighted. My name is Ray Zinn. I’m the author of Tough Things First and also the head of these podcasts, Tough Things First. And with me today, I have a very special guest. His name is Robert Barker. Robert worked for me for many, many years. He was my CFO and is also my vice president of HR and legal. And we had a great time working together for many, many years at Micrel Semiconductor. And I’m glad to have Robert with me on the program today. So welcome, Robert.
Robert Barker: Thank you very much, Ray. I’m happy to be here.
Ray Zinn: We had a meeting every Friday at one o’clock. Every single Friday that we invited all the main players in our staff, operations, HR, accounting, design. We had all these different groups that met, about 20 or 30 of us there.
Inflation Nation. How We Got Here. When it Will End.Read more
From lumber prices to gas prices, all the way down to toilet paper, everything is more expensive. A New York Fed survey in early July 2022 showed near-term inflation expectations at record highs. The outlook was a whopping 6.8 percent. In this Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn explores the causes of inflation and explains where we’re headed. (New: Video Option here)
Rob Artigo: Welcome to a Tough Things First podcast, a new one and a special one because we’re on video today. We’re going to try to do it more often. It’s a top rated Silicon Valley podcast. I’m Rob Artigo, a writer in California and he’s Ray Zinn. Hello, Ray.
Ray Zinn: Hey, how you doing there, Rob? It’s so good to be with you with a video.
Rob Artigo: Yeah. And seeing you while we’re talking is unusual, because we’re usually in sometimes different states. So I should let the listeners know that this is a video podcast as well as being online as just an audio podcast. So if you’re listening online and you want to watch it on video, go to the Ray Zinn’s YouTube channel, check it out there. And if you’re watching on video and you want to follow it later on the website, toughthingsfirst.com. It’s your option, and we hope you enjoy us being on camera as well.
So, I think we should just jump right into this.
The Evolution of Semiconductor R and DRead more
It’s the technology that transformed nearly every aspect of our lives and holds the promise of a totally unpredictable future. But it started out humbly enough with cloudy skies, murky waters, and no clear path ahead. In this Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn talks to industry insider Robert Quinn about the paths forged and discoveries won.
Ray Zinn: Welcome to another fantastic Tough Things First podcast, we’re here talking to Robert Quinn about the fantastic semiconductor industry. Probably the most important industry in the world. At least the technologies is probably one of the most important in the world. And wars are going to be fought over that. I see going forward, I’ve invited Robert Quinn. Who’s a good friend of mine. I’ve known the industry for a number of years to join me. We’re going to talk about how R and D has changed in the industry over the last 50 years. So Robert welcome.
Robert Quinn: How you doing, Ray? It’s great to talk to you.
Ray Zinn: Well, I’m glad to have you here. So let’s jump right in. Let’s talk about how R and D has changed.
Whatever it Takes. No Excuses.Read more
Ray Zinn is joined by his former CFO at Micrel, Robert Barker, to discuss the culture of success fueled by the attitude of doing “whatever it takes. No excuses.”
Ray Zinn: Welcome to another Tough Things First podcast. We are so delighted today to meet with you. And I have a very special guest with me today. His name is Robert Barker. He was my CFO for many, many, many years while I was at Micrel. And so, welcome, Robert. Good to have you with us.
Robert Barker: Thanks a lot, Ray, glad to be here.
Ray Zinn: Subject that you chose today, which I think is interesting, happens to be one of the cultures of Micrel. We had four cultures, honesty, integrity, dignity of every individual means respect for everyone, and then the fourth was doing whatever it takes, no excuses. So, that’s the one we’re going to talk about today.
Robert Barker: I’m going to start by just saying that when we had a plan, I knew, because of the culture, that I needed to do whatever it took to make that plan, to make those numbers for the quarter. And we did that consistently. And we did it because I could go to anybody in the company, I tell them this is what we need to do, this is what the plan is, and here are all your problems and this is how we go about fixing the problems. Or I would tell them what the problems were, they would tell me how to fix the problems. But I think everybody worked together, and we all knew from a top down, this was our revenue plan, and this was our profit plan for the both the quarter and for the year. And we were successful, because I think everybody in the company did whatever it took to fix the issues. Because everybody has a plan, but it’s the problems that come up in the middle, and we knew we had the authority to do whatever it takes.
Tubes to Wafers: The Evolution of Semiconductors.Read more
Few industry leaders have the breadth of knowledge Ray Zinn has achieved in semiconductors. Over his lifetime, the evolution of the technology has literally changed the world and employed countless millions upon millions. In this edition of his very popular Tough Things First podcast, Ray is joined by industry insider Robert Quinn to discuss the remarkable and revolutionary engineering history of the semiconductor.
Ray Zinn: Hello, everyone. Welcome to another Tough Things First podcast. I’m so delighted to be here today with a longtime friend from the industry, Robert Quinn. So how are you doing today Robert?
Robert Quinn: Doing great, Ray. How you doing?
Ray Zinn: We’re doing great. So it’s good to have you with us as we talk about how the industry has changed over the last 50 years. Robert, why don’t you tell us where you are, what’s going on with you and your career in the industry and then we’ll launch right into talking about how the industry has changed over the last 50 years.
Robert Quinn: Well, Ray, as you know, I’m somewhat of a LinkedIn semiconductor industry content provider for everybody.
Supply Chain Have You Down?Read more
The term “supply chain” can be defined simply, but its complexities bring advantages and vulnerabilities the world over. In this edition of the Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn explains why interruptions have such massive ramifications whether a subtle change or a gigantic disruption.
Rob Artigo: You’re listening to the Tough Things First podcast. I’m your guest host, Rob Artigo. Here once again with this great opportunity to sit here and talk with Ray Zinn, with an unmatched level of experience in building business and managing successful profitable organizations in Silicon Valley. It’s great to be back, Ray.
Ray Zinn: Thanks, Rob. It’s always good to have you on because you’re so cheerful.
Rob Artigo: Well, this is a simple concept. I think this podcast is about a big complicated topic, but this is a simple concept. A supply chain is a focus on the core activities within an organization required to convert raw materials or component parts to a finished product or service. Now, another way of looking at that in a bigger picture, right? Is the supply chain is the activities required by the organization to deliver the goods or services to the consumer. And if something goes awry there, it can quickly go off the rails and end up costing the consumer a lot more. So it’s not so simple. Is it Ray?
Ray Zinn: No. I mean, the supply chain is more than just manufacturing the product, is how do you get that product to the consumer.
If it’s Too Good to Be True…Read more
Silicon Valley has had more than its share of global market game changers, but also a larger than average share of gigantic failures. Sometimes if you invest in a unicorn, you get the horn. In this Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn discusses Elizabeth Holmes and the funding of fantasy.
Rob Artigo: Welcome, everyone, back to the Tough Things First Podcast, a top destination for entrepreneurial leadership in Silicon Valley and across the globe. I’m Rob Artigo, I’m an entrepreneur in California, here once again with Ray Zinn. Hi Ray.
Ray Zinn: Hey, Rob. It’s so good to be with you again.
Rob Artigo: I’m flattered by the opportunities every time. I’m sure you have heard of Elizabeth Holmes. She is not an unknown name in Silicon Valley, of course. She dropped out of college at age 19. She launched Theranos, I think that’s how you pronounce that.
Ray Zinn: Theranos, Theranos.
Rob Artigo: Theranos, okay, Theranos. She touted Theranos as a breakthrough health technology company. She promoted the company’s technology. She said her technology performed blood tests rapidly and required only a very small amount of blood and could be performed rapidly thanks to this small automated device, which she’s commonly pictured holding just between her index finger and her thumb. That was 20 years ago when she dropped out of school to start this. Today, the company is no more. Holmes went from being the world’s youngest female billionaire now to down on her luck, ex billionaire, convicted of fraud.
The Great Resignation. Is America’s workforce slump here to stay?Read more
One headline read: “…the Great Resignation may be followed by the Great Regret.” But how long will that take?
In this edition of the Tough Things First podcast with legendary Silicon Valley CEO Ray Zinn, Ray is joined by his long-time friend and former Micron CFO Robert Barker, to mull over the state of the Great Resignation and its fallout.
Ray Zinn: Welcome to another wonderful and fantastic Tough Things First podcast. This is Ray Zinn. I’m the CEO of Micrel and also Tough Things First, and I’m so delighted to be able to have this podcast once again with my good friend and employee, Robert Barker. Robert was my CFO Vice-President of Business Development and Human Resources for many years. And so I’m just delighted to have Robert back on my program today. Hello, Robert.
Robert Barker: Hi, Ray. Happy to be here.
Ray Zinn: So, let’s talk about this supposed big subject of the Great Resignation. Have you ever heard of that?
Robert Barker: I have heard of that.
Ray Zinn: What’s your thinking about the Great Resignation?
Robert Barker: Well, I think that it’s a bunch of people that once they decided they didn’t have to drive into work and back and they could work at home, and once they had a different environment, and also that they decided, well, maybe I don’t need to work as much. And I think that the stock market was up and they thought, “Gee, maybe I don’t need to work as much.”
Essential Leadership Part 10Read more
Actions before words. How leaders benefit from avoiding the same mistakes. When does a leader’s appearance matter?
In this final episode of Ray Zinn’s Tough Things First podcast series on Essential Leadership, Ray looks back at some of the major lessons so entrepreneurs can look forward to a new energized focused on success in business and life.
Rob Artigo: Welcome to the final episode of the inspiring special series called Essential Leadership with Ray Zinn here on the Tough Things First Podcast. I’m your guest host, Rob Artigo, I’m a writer and entrepreneur in California. Good to be back, Ray.
Ray Zinn: Hey Rob, man I hate this’ll be the last one, but we’ll come up with some others, but this has been an exceptional series, Essential Leadership. I also call it Exceptional Leadership, both of them have E’s and so essential, exceptional. Those are things that define what we’ve been talking about during this series of ten podcasts.
Rob Artigo: If you understand the essential qualities of leadership and you put them in place, you will be demonstrating what it’s like to be an excellent leader. Don’t you think?
Ray Zinn: Well, exceptional leader, for sure.
Rob Artigo: Exceptional leader, sure.
Ray Zinn: Yeah, this is a reason why we did this series, is to give people a chance to hear what we believe are the essential attributes of good leadership.
Rob Artigo: Well, I thought maybe it’d be a good idea to close out just by reviewing some, not all, of what we talked about in the ten episodes, or the nine previous episodes. But to talk about some of those that stand out to me as being worth reviewing, I think they’re all worth listening to, learning about, but we only have so much time.
Essential Leadership Part 9: “Leaders, they are of integrity.”Read more
Leaders can inspire a culture of integrity in any organization, but what is more effective, words or actions?
As we continue this special series of podcasts, Ray Zinn provides his thoughts on the difference between projecting an attitude of integrity in words and proving integrity through actions. Which priority is essential for the truly successful leader.
Rob Artigo: Welcome to Episode Nine in Ray Zinn’s Tough Things First podcast series on essential leadership. I am your guest host, Rob Artigo. I’m a writer and entrepreneur in California. Hello, Ray.
Ray Zinn: Hey, Rob. You’re sounding good today, buddy.
Rob Artigo: Thanks. I just feel like we’re getting close to the end, and I’m not looking forward to really closing this out. I just am enjoying the conversations about leadership here in this series.
Ray Zinn: Well, thank you.
Rob Artigo: We have eight terrific episodes behind us, now onto number nine, and this is leaders. You’ve said leaders of integrity inspire confidence and admiration through their actions, not just their words. Also you’ve said many leaders claim that integrity is important to them, but good leaders put their actions where their name is bad. What do you mean by that?
Ray Zinn: You are who you portray yourself to be, and so when we talk about ethics or integrity, it comes from the heart. It’s doing what’s right when no one’s watching, so it has to be kind of a basic part of who you are as a person, and your language, the kind of words you use, whether you use vulgar language or whether you use clean language, how you communicate, when you communicate, that all goes into who you are as an individual.
Essential Leadership Part 8Read more
Successful leaders establish trust with their clients, customers, and employees. It doesn’t stop there.
Part 8 of our special series on Essential Leadership, Ray Zinn discusses why trust is a priority, the signs a leader has failed to build trust, and how to reverse that failure.
Rob Artigo: Welcome to a special edition of the Tough Things First podcast, as we continue Ray Zinn’s series on Essential Leadership. This episode is episode eight on building trust. I’m your guest host, Rob Artigo. I’m a writer and business owner in California. Hi, Ray.
Ray Zinn: Hello, Rob. How you doing today?
Rob Artigo: I’m doing very well. Thank you for asking. So Ray, what does it mean to build trust with the people who work for you?
Ray Zinn: Well, at the heart of a relationship, I don’t care if it’s husband or wife, if it’s friends, if it’s your employee, trust is at the heart of a relationship. And so when we think of trust, we think of something that has a higher level. It’s devotion. It’s kindness. It’s in terms of being trustworthy and honest and ethical and all those things wrapped up into what is trust.
Essential Leadership: Part 7Read more
These words sound the same, but a leader needs to know the difference.
In Episode 7 of our special series on Essential Leadership, Ray Zinn discusses the entrepreneurial skill of valuing the difference between “ministering” and “administering.”
Rob Artigo: Welcome to a special edition of the Tough Things First podcast with Ray’s series, Essential Leadership. This is episode seven. I’m your guest host, Rob Artigo, writer and entrepreneur in California. Hi Ray.
Ray Zinn: Hey Rob, good to be with you again.
Rob Artigo: Now, you’ve said, “Ministering and administering are two words that sound similar, but are very different”, define the difference.
Ray Zinn: Administering is more like supervising, managing, taking care of the business as you would. Whereas ministering is like a minister does he’s… Or the difference between say a department at administering is more like what accounting does and ministering is more like what human resources does. So, ministering is more the touchy, feely, putting your arm around somebody and providing us in the right way.
Rob Artigo: Of course.
Ray Zinn: And where you’re showing love, concern, empathy, sympathy and so forth. Where administering none of that’s there, it’s all about dealing with the numbers, not the person. So, administering is the numbers, administering is a person.
Essential Leadership: Part 6Read more
You can learn on the job after failing, but if you want to beat the odds?
Part 6 of our special series on Essential Leadership, Ray Zinn discusses the long odds of entrepreneurial success, and the for pillars that can building a strong foundations for beating the odds.
Rob Artigo: Welcome to everyone listening to this podcast. It’s great to have Ray with me again to chat a little bit about Essential Leadership. Ray, you’ve written that trying to start a company is like playing Russian roulette with five of six chambers loaded. I don’t like the odds there. And so statistics, you’ve said show that nine out of 10 startups fail within the first three years. Why is that?
Ray Zinn: Well, because they lack the training and the understanding of what it takes to run a company. So it’s kind of like somebody who wants to go into medicine or into surgery and hasn’t studied how to do it or practice even how to be a good surgeon.
Rob Artigo: Yeah, you can’t just say that, I slept at a Holiday Inn last night and that was enough. And I think that some people get into businesses and basically that’s all they’ve done. Your philosophy though, of course, is that, to beat those odds, which are so bad, that you really need to start with your education and take four college classes. You say everyone needs to take Basic Accounting, Financial and Managerial Accounting, Business Law and Basic Economics. Why do you think those are the four?
Ray Zinn: Well, because that’s the essentials of understanding how to run a company. There’s a thing called the income statement and a balance sheet that every company has to understand. And so Basic Accounting and Financial Managerial Accounting, those are two separate classes, help teach you how to learn and how to interpret an income statement and a balance sheet. An income statement of course is the statement that talks about your earnings, what your revenues were, what your expenses are and what income you received from that particular effort. So, that’s the income statement then that flows into the balance sheet. Balance sheet talks about your assets and liabilities and your net worth and they flow together. And so in understanding how they work, how they flow together, how to do a cash flow statement is all part of Basic Accounting and Financial Managerial Accounting.
Essential Leadership: Part 5Read more
How we carry ourselves and dress at work affects our ability to lead. But professional bearing doesn’t end there.
In this special edition of the Tough Things First podcast, Essential Leadership Episode Five, Ray discusses how we look and carry ourselves in the workplace and why it matters.
Rob Artigo: Welcome to episode number five in Ray Zinn’s Tough Things First podcast series on essential leadership. I’m your guest host once again, Rob Artigo. I’m with you throughout this entire series. I’m happy to be here. I’m a writer and I’m also an investigator in California. Hi Ray!
Ray Zinn: Hey Rob. So good being with you again.
Rob Artigo: Well, we’ve had four great episodes, they’re now behind us. Although the listeners can go back and listen to them if they haven’t caught them yet, go back and listen to them and it’s not like you have to catch up, but, but please do go back and listen because there’s a lot of good information there and, yeah, you’re going to need it as you move along in the next five podcasts after this one.
So now number five, the professional bearing, the subject of professional bearing on an effective leader. So Ray, you know what I’m talking about when I say professional bearing, right?
Ray Zinn: Absolutely. It’s the way you present yourself.
Essential Leadership: Part 4Read more
Founders and visionary CEOs can have passion, both real and imaginary.
In Episode Four in this Tough Things First podcasts series on Essential Leadership, Ray Zinn discusses how to foster real passion without looking like a phony.
Rob Artigo: Welcome to a special edition of the Tough Things First podcast. As we continue, Ray Zinn’s new series on essential leadership. This is episode four, Inspiring Passion. I’m your guest host, Rob Artigo and I’m inspired to be here. I’m passionate about doing this podcast, of course, so I wouldn’t be here, right, Rick?
Ray Zinn: Exactly. When we’re all that, we’re all listening.
Rob Artigo: Well, you know this better than most of us out here in the world, as you were not satisfied with what your career was like and took the risk in the late s to pivot and start Micrel, which you ran for nearly four decades to some great success, I might add. So, you had passion, correct?
Ray Zinn: Absolutely. You know, if you don’t have passion, you might as well just roll over and bury yourself.
Rob Artigo: Can you see that when somebody comes up in front of you that they’ve got an idea but they don’t have a sparkle in their eye that says by passion?
Ray Zinn: Sure. You can tell that even when you go to buy a vehicle or go into a particular store. You can tell if that sales attendant has passion because they just exude enthusiasm.
Rob Artigo: So, tell our listeners right now, just about how important it is to recognize that people can see that in you.
Ray Zinn: That’s if you don’t believe in yourself, you’re not going to believe in the product. And so, you want to make sure that you can support that product or that service that you’re being involved. So, passion means that it’s unwavering and goes to what we talked about in an earlier podcast about Try, Try Again. The person with passion just doesn’t give up. They say, “Stick with it.” You got to stick with the task until the task sticks with you. And so that’s the key for being passionate.
Essential Leadership: Part 3Read more
Effective leaders are effective decision makers.
In this special edition of the Tough Things First Podcast, Essential Leadership Episode Three, Ray looks at what it means to exercise sound judgement and what the alternative looks like.
Rob Artigo: Welcome to a special edition of the Tough Things First podcast with Ray’s new series Essential Leadership. This is episode three on sound judgment as a leader. I’m your guest host, Rob Artigo writer and investigator in California. Hi Ray.
Ray Zinn: Hey Rob. This is always wonderful to be able to do these podcasts with you.
Rob Artigo: This is a great topic. I’m very excited about being able to do this and continue this. I mean, this is episode three, got a few more to go on this. Hopefully we’re going to do about 10, maybe more depending on how thrilled we get about continuing this, but I hope people are getting a lot out of it. I know I am. I do think it of value to the listeners, particularly those who haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about their own leadership skills and where they can go from there.
Yes. You can develop skills. Yes. You can learn them and you can implement them if you just practice them basic daily habits that are good and positive. Let’s talk about what does it mean to exercise sound and judgment? In your evaluation as a leader, what is sound judgment?
Ray Zinn: It’s wisdom. It’s being wise. You can make a judgment on anything, but sound judgment requires knowledge and experience. There’s no substitute for either of those. Knowledge without experience, is just learning, having experience without knowledge means it’s just trial and error. You want both, you want to have both, knowledge and experience if you’re going to exercise sound judgment.
Essential Leadership: Part 2Read more
Leaders of all shapes and sizes can fall victim to one of the great challenges managers face, the danger of trying too hard only to find they’re doing the same thing over and over again.
In this special edition of the Tough Things First Podcast, Essential Leadership Episode two, Ray looks at being realistic and knowing when to change tactics.
Rob Artigo: Welcome to a special edition of the Tough Things First Podcast with Ray’s new series on essential leadership. I’m your guest host, Rob Artigo. I’m a writer and investigator in California. I’m happy to be back, Ray.
Ray Zinn: Hey Rob, it’s always good to do these podcasts with you. You’re so energetic and positive.
Rob Artigo: Well, this is a great subject to pick your brain about. Leadership is, as we discussed in the first episode, it’s a very broad topic. And it’s rich for grabbing those little details out of the realm of leadership, and exploring them a little bit so that we can grow and be better leaders. And if we’re just okay leaders, we can be better leaders. Even if we’re great leaders, we can still learn something, because we should be humble enough at least to understand that we don’t know everything. So let’s launch into episode number two of the Tough Things First series on essential leadership. I was reading-
Ray Zinn: Let’s do it.
Rob Artigo: Yes. I was reading your latest book, which is Zen of Zinn 2, which follows Zen of Zinn. And you have all these basically little passages that you can read each day, or a couple times a day if you choose, and get little bits of wisdom about leadership, about life. And I find it very staying across the board. I mean, there’s this thing about daily affirmations. You get to sit there in the morning and read something. But it does give you something to get a frame of mind and focus on something. Particularly if you take something out of a particular reading and go, “You know what? I’m going to try to implement this in my life today.” Zen of Zinn 2. So if you have these thoughts and inspirations. Today’s topic, I think we’ll just say, what it takes to handle setbacks and failures, and yet still succeed.
So great leaders, I know like you, tend to be tenacious. So remind us, in Zen of Zinn 2 you have an expression, or you actually quote the expression. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. But you have a caveat to that. What’s that caveat?
Ray Zinn: Well, he who repeats the past fails in the future is another saying that I have. So it’s if you keep doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result, that’s insanity. So don’t keep repeating the same mistake and expecting a different result. You’re going to get the same result over and over and over. So that’s a concept of try, try again, but don’t repeat the same mistake.
Rob Artigo: Do you see that a lot in the business world? (more…)
Essential Leadership: Part 1Read more
From doing the right things in the right way, to considering how you dress and represent yourself and your company, the characteristics of essential leadership stand the test of time.
In this special series of podcasts, Ray Zinn provides the finer points for leadership and leadership qualities and how to develop them.
Rob Artigo: Welcome to a special edition of the Tough Things First Podcast as we launch a new series, Essential Leadership. I’m your guest host, Rob Artigo, writer and entrepreneur in California. Hello again, Ray.
Ray Zinn: Hi, Rob. So good to be with you again.
Rob Artigo: Well, I really enjoyed listening to your series on Silicon Valley history. It was a hit apparently, because you were asked to do another series. So this time we’re going to focus on leadership. I guess you must be very excited to spend at least maybe, I’m thinking 10 podcasts dedicated to something I know is near and dear to your heart, but also to your success.
Ray Zinn: Absolutely. This is going to be a great series, Rob.
Rob Artigo: So I’d thought we’d start with this broader question of leadership so that we can give kind of an overview. We’ll start with a broader question. And then we’ll end with sort of the final episode, we’ll look back at what we talked about and give another broader overview of leadership. But I thought we would start with talking about an overview of leadership and then we’ll break it down into smaller topics, individual subjects that really matter to making a decent leader better or a good leader great and that sort of thing. We’ll just really focus on that sort of thing. So let’s launch into Episode One. What do you say?
Ray Zinn: That’s good. This is good, better, best, okay? This is what we’re going to be doing. (more…)
Small Business, Small ConglomerateRead more
Diversifying, pivoting, or just opening a lot of businesses to see what works, there’s a line between being a conglomerate and an unfocused business manager.
In this edition of the Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn defines the differences and how to stay on track.
Rob Artigo: Welcome to this edition of the Tough Things First podcast. I’m your guest host, Rob Artigo. Hi, Ray.
Ray Zinn: Hey, Rob. So good to be with you again today.
Rob Artigo: And it’s good to be back. So you probably heard the saying, and I think this is more about a pasta analogy but, “I’m throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks.” And I figure there are people out there who start small businesses and before it really gets any traction, they’re off to start another business, because they’re not doing enough with that business. And they end up diverting their attention to another business and maybe even a third business. And they’ve got three businesses going at one time. And I think of also the old saying, “Jack of all trades, master of none,” where you end up doing several different things and not really focusing on one. In your mind, and in your experience, is that ill-advised.
Ray Zinn: Well, it depends. For example, if you’re a holding company, you might have many, many business which are totally different. I had a podcast with a fellow just the other day. He’s a holding company. His family, they have about, I don’t know, 300 or so employees. But they have an insurance company, a real estate company, a restaurant and a couple of others. I can’t remember those off the top of my head but… And so, there they are running all these different companies with totally different skill sets required. But yet, they have them, and they refer to themselves as a holding company.
And so, people who are not holding companies but who go from this little project, that little project and as you said, the jack of all trades, master of none. It depends upon what kind of success they’re having with their company. If they’re jumping from one thing to another, it’s usually because they’re not being successful in the operations they started. (more…)
Insurance and OptionsRead more
Insurance is one of the highest cost for business, and alternatives are needed.
Ray Zinn, Silicon Valley’s longest serving CEO, is joined by John Butler, and expert in business insurance and some of the interesting alternatives available today.
Ray Zinn: Well hello everyone, welcome to another wonderful podcast of Tough Things First, we are so delighted to have with us as our guest today John Butler, who is an expert in healthcare insurance, and he’s going to tell us how healthcare, currently insurance sucks. So John, let’s talk about your background, just give our audience a little idea who you are and just what you’re all about.
John Butler: Yeah, thanks Ray. I grew up in Bloomington, Minnesota here, I’m 63 years old. I tell people a little short story about how I started in my working career, I had a job selling pop and popcorn at Met Stadium, which is the old Twins and Vikings stadium, and they eventually tore that thing down to pull in this horrible thing called Mall of America. It was quite a fight way back when, people thought it wasn’t going to be a good thing. But anyway, that’s what I started in my career as 15, 16 years old, just working part-time over at the stadium.
Just went to high school, college, when I came back from college, just the working guy for about seven, eight years, and I got into the financial industry and insurance industry. And fast forward to 1996, I bought my first block of business in the employee benefits area, which included healthcare, or health insurance, of course. And about seven years ago I started researching specifically the healthcare market for businesses, because that’s the big elephant in the room, and found out that there is a lot of things going on across America that are incredible things, and I couldn’t take credit for it, I just happened to discover these people all across the country that are doing things in a different way, thinking outside the box and using the power of technology to bring forward health insurance and health healthcare solutions for businesses large and small.
Ray Zinn: I ran Micrel for 37 years, and I know that my healthcare insurance costs were about half of my benefit costs for my employees, so it was always a big cost, but I never really understood that they were taking advantage of us, and that this is really a problem that most companies, at least that are the size pf our company, which was we had 750 to 1000 employees working for us at any given time, and so this has been a big issue, health insurance, and I know that they’re trying to find ways of improving that and lowering the cost, but why don’t you tell us, what should we be knowing, as a company with 500 or more employees, about the health insurance industry?
John Butler: Well, the first thing is there’s solutions that exist that are really easy to understand. There’s something called coalition plans that are taking a company from 500 to 1000 employees and put them in a group of collective employers around the country that makes the population 10 to 20,000, instead of just 500 to 1000. And everybody understands the law of large numbers, the larger the numbers are, the more you can manage the risk. So employers can join these coalition plans, but not everybody is eligible to join. You don’t want to get into a coalition plan with a dirty pool where everybody’s managing their claims willy nilly.
The real cost drivers within health insurance and healthcare is basically four things, primary care, pharmacy, outpatient surgery, and hospitalizations, and the superheroes around the country are actually controlling those cost drivers, Ray. So the average cost for a business around the country right now, according to SHRM, is $15,000 per employee per year, and growing. And so these consultants and healthcare vendors around the country are bringing that cost down already, and have under 10,000 per employee per year, rather than 15,000. So you can do the math, and whatever size company you are, if you’re going to save about three to 5,000 per employee per year, and give them better healthcare, that’s something that’s worth looking into.
Ray Zinn: You wrote a book recently called How Health Insurance Sucks. (more…)
Corporate OpticsRead more
Machines are made-up of cogs. But if you spend all you time looking a cogs, you have no idea if the machine as a whole is running right.
Ray Zinn educates us on how business leaders should focus.
Guy Smith: Hello everybody, and welcome to another episode of the, Tough Things First Podcast. My name is Guy Smith, I’m your host for today. And as always, we are seeking, exploring, digging out the wisdom and experience of Silicon Valley’s longest serving CEO, Mr. Ray Zinn. We’ll just start off by saying hello, Ray. Good to talk to you again.
Ray Zinn: Wow, Guy. Good to hear your voice again. Good to be with you today.
Guy Smith: Always a joy to be with you. One thing which… And the topic today is of keen interest to me, and that’s how a leader, a CEO in particular, needs to view their organization. In the high-tech industry, where both you and I come from, a lot of CEOs come from the technical ranks. They’re used to looking at details, and in that respect they may tend to be looking at the machinery at the cog level, instead of at the overall machine level. I want you to talk for a minute about how in Oregon, how a leader views the organization and how they can simultaneously be worried about the overall machine, as well as paying attention to the necessary cogs.
Ray Zinn: Well, it’s a matter of understanding, as we say, the white stuff and the chicken manure. So, you just have to be able to not get down in the minutia, but be able to step back and look at your company as a machine, as opposed to looking at it as a bunch of gears and bends, and wires and so forth. So, is your machine functioning? In other words, what’s coming in is improved as it goes out. In other words, are you actually getting out really what you’re wanting? And that’s the key, is what kind of machine is it that your company is? Are you a washing machine? Are you a refrigerator, or what is it you’re trying to do? So, that’s the machine that you’re referring to. (more…)
Woke CapitalismRead more
Every CEO needs to heed their stakeholders. But can any CEO possibly have a company represent the values of every stakeholder.
Ray Zinn, Silicon Valley’s longest serving CEO, draws lines between being woke and being overreaching.
Guy Smith: Hello, and welcome again to another episode of The Tough Things First podcast. I’m your host today, Guy Smith, and I’m really excited about this topic. It’s one that’s been rummaging around in my head for the last few weeks, and I think it’s one that’s both touchy, but important for anyone who’s in a leadership role in a company, especially for the Chief Executive Officers. So as always, we’re going to be extracting the wisdom of Silicon Valley’s longest serving CEO, Mr. Ray Zinn, and getting his perspective on what I call woke capitalism, this belief that business leaders need to either adapt, conform to, or take a stand on everything political in the world. So, hello, Ray. Good to talk to you again as always.
Ray Zinn: Well, hello, Guy. Yes, I know this is not one of those podcasts that I don’t think I’m going to enjoy, but I’m sure you are because it’s like, when did you stop beating your wife podcast. So, let’s go ahead.
Guy Smith: I appreciate you taking a tough subject like this. It’s one that you feel like you’re dancing on landmines. You’re almost timid to take one direction or another, but let’s unwind. One of my thoughts about woke capitalism or conscious capitalism, whatever you want to call it, is that this is nothing new, that business leaders doing the right thing has been around as long as capitalism has been. I have done a little bit of reading about George Westinghouse. Back in the days when people were still working seven days a week, he was the first guy to collapse a work week down to five and a half days, which back then was unheard of. But boy, he just was considered a God in his community. His workers thought he was generous and beneficent. They made Westinghouse a household name. So give me your perspective on the relationship of business and society and community in terms of just being aware of a company’s role in all of that.
Ray Zinn: Micrel, the company that I ran for 37 years, our culture was honesty, integrity, and dignity of every individual. There was respect for everyone, regardless of race, color, creed, or position. And the last was doing whatever it takes, no excuses. In other words, don’t become a victim. In other words, you’ve got to take control of your project and get it done and not make the company pay for your mistakes as you would. Those are the four cultures that we had, honesty, integrity, dignity, and respect, and doing whatever it takes. So Guy, let me ask you a question. In the cancel culture narrative, should we cancel that? (more…)
Startup Nervous EnergyRead more
When entrepreneurs channel nervous energy constructively, they take the healthy awareness that their business could fail and we use that awareness to stay on their toes.
In this Tough Things First podcast episode, Ray Zinn – Silicon Valley’s longest serving CEO – chats with Dr. Chloe Carmichael, and expert on the psychology of emotional energy for teams and how it can best be channeled away from chaos into success.
Dr. Chloe Carmichael, Ph.D, is a licensed clinical psychologist, known as Dr. Chloe. She holds a master’s degree and Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Long Island University and graduated Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude, with a bachelor’s degree and departmental honors in psychology from Columbia University in New York. Her practice in New York City employs multiple therapists to serve high-functioning business executives, people in the arts, and everyday people seeking support with personal or professional goals.
Dr. Chloe is the author of the book Nervous Energy: Harness the Power of Your Anxiety, endorsed by Deepak Chopra! She is a member in good standing of the American Psychological Association, as well as the National Register of Health Psychologists, an elite organization for psychologists with gold-standard credentials. She is also a consultant at Baker McKenzie, the third largest law firm in the world. She is an Advisory Board member for Women’s Health Magazine (Hearst), and a featured expert for Psychology Today. Dr. Chloe enjoys relating with the media, as well as public speaking. She has been featured as an expert on VH1, Inside Edition, ABC Nightline and other television; and has been quoted in the New York Times, Forbes, Vanity Fair, Shape, Cosmopolitan, Rolling Stone, and other print media.
Ray Zinn: Hello, everyone. Welcome to another wonderful podcast of Tough Things First. I am Ray Zinn, the author of this great book that I did several years ago, also Silicon Valley’s longest serving CEO. I ran my company, Micrel Semiconductor, for 37 years, profitably by the way.
With me today I’m so excited to have Dr. Chloe Carmichael, who is that author of a fantastic book. I hope you all have a chance to read it. In fact, we’re going to talk about her book today in our podcast. It’s Nervous Energy and Harnessing Your… I think I’m saying this right, Harnessing Your Anxiety. If I didn’t say that right, Dr. Chloe, I hope you will correct me. But, anyway, welcome to our podcast.
Dr. Chloe: Thank you so much, Ray. Yes, the title of the book is Nervous Energy: Harness the Power of Your Anxiety.
Ray Zinn: Harness the Power… Oh, yeah, that’s it. Harness the Power of Your Anxiety. Before the podcast we were… Almost doing the podcast, talking about what that really means. So I’m going to let you explain that to our audience, about your nervous energy and how you harness the power of anxiety.
I was telling you I ran Micrel for 37 years and I was on red alert, I had anxiety or was anxious every single day for 37 years. You likened it to not having saliva in your mouth. Go ahead.
Dr. Chloe: The concept behind Nervous Energy: Harness the Power of Your Anxiety is that a lot of people just assume that anxiety is bad and that they want to get rid of it, whereas the truth is is that the healthy function of anxiety in psychology terms… The healthy function of anxiety is to stimulate preparation behaviors.
So if we were to say get rid of all the anxiety we wouldn’t even look both ways before we crossed the street. Ray, I think you’re living proof. You said that for 37 years that you woke up every day with anxiety. Now we don’t want to have anxiety running wild, so to speak, but we also don’t want to get rid of it. The trick is to harness it and make sure that we use that extra energy to actually push us towards our goal instead of getting stuck and chasing our tail. (more…)
Revenue ReboundRead more
How companies rebound from prolonged revenue depression is not just for a post-pandemic world.
As Silicon Valley’s longest serving CEO, Ray Zinn has led the way through major dips and explains strategies for exiting them.
Guy Smith: Hello again, and welcome to another episode of the Tough Things First Podcast, where we absorb the wisdom of Silicon Valley’s longest serving CEO, Mr. Ray Zinn. My name is Guy Smith. Happy to be host of this podcast once again, and especially for today’s topic. We have, as of the date of this recording, just started to come out of the pandemic. And for a lot of companies, they suffered through a severe revenue depression during the pandemic. I’m curious as to Ray’s experience and views as to how companies come out of prolonged revenue depression. What are the right steps in terms of rescaling their business, refilling the bank accounts, and all that stuff? First things first, hello, Ray. I hope you’re doing well today.
Ray Zinn: Well hello, Guy. I’m doing great. Glad to be back with you again.
Guy Smith: Always a joy to be with you. I learn more from you per unit time than everything else I do with my day, so it’s always fantastic. Anyway, you were in the semiconductor industry for all of your leadership tenure as a CEO. And we know that the semiconductor industry has these wild cycles, and occasionally revenues are depressed for a number of years, depending on which part of the semi industry you’re in. And plus, like any other business, you took a couple of hits along the way in terms of customers checking out and losing a fair share of your income. Let’s talk about how a company goes from being flush to being really tight on cash, and how do they rebuild themselves out of a revenue depression?
Ray Zinn: Well, that’s a good question. Actually, these cycles that we’re talking about last between a year and a half and two years, and that’s not unusual. The reason these cycles last for that length of time is that, I talk about it being Newton’s first law of economics, for one action you have in one direction. You have an equal and opposite action in the other direction. And so, the harder the economy is pushed down, the harder we work to get the economy back on its feet again. And so, if we’re not pushing real hard, it just drifts down and it takes longer to come back up. And so, we hardly even notice those, but those do happen. I mean, we have these weak cycles and they ebb and flow. They may last for two or three years, and they happened just prior to 2016. The thing was drifting down, down, down, down. It took a while for it to recover.
The harder the pressure is to go down, the harder we push to go back up. Same thing if you have a real bad headache. You’ll tend to take more aspirin, or Tylenol, or whatever to get rid of it. If it’s a slight headache, you’ll ignore it. If it’s a big headache, you may two or three just to get rid of it. This is all nature. This is just the way we react to pain, as you would. The more the pain, the more the pain killer we put into it. Same thing when you’re running a company. If you get knocked down really hard a couple of times… I lost a fourth of my revenue a couple of times, and, I mean, instantly. I mean, like within a day lost a fourth of my revenue. And so, that made us scramble really fast to get the thing reversed. (more…)
Going 100% Work-From-HomeRead more
The pandemic taught many companies that work-from-home was a viable option for many employees. Some companies went all the way.
In this Tough Things First podcast, Gerry Sweeney, CEO of Hornbill, a cloud-based provider of workflow management solutions, discusses with Ray Zinn, the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley, how his company cancelled their corporate HQ office lease after a year of COVID induced working from home.
Ray Zinn: Hello everyone, this is Ray Zinn. I’m the author and podcaster for toughthingsfirst.com. And I’m just delighted to have with me today, Gerry Sweeney, who is an entrepreneur and a CEO of a company. And so welcome Gerry.
Gerry Sweeney: Thank you Ray, Thanks. Great to be here.
Ray Zinn: So tell me a little bit about yourself.
Gerry Sweeney: Okay. As you say, I’m a founder and CEO, active CEO of a software company called Hornbill. We’re based here in the UK, but have customers all over the world. We’re a SaaS software company. I founded the company back in 1995 and I continued to operate and run that company today.
Ray Zinn: You must be across the pond from us?
Gerry Sweeney: I bet I am. Yeah, I’m just outside London.
Ray Zinn: Okay. So how big is your company?
Gerry Sweeney: In terms of people?
Ray Zinn: Yes.
Gerry Sweeney: About 70 people currently.
Ray Zinn: Okay, 70 people. And what kind of software do you offer?
Gerry Sweeney: Well, the software is service management software, business, workflow automation, and collaboration, communication software. So if you combine those three things it’s, work management for businesses, typically used primarily in mid to enterprise size companies. We start to have relevance and offer value when an organization is sort of 3 or 4,000 people and above.
Ray Zinn: So how can anyone find out about your company? Where can they go to find out about Hornbill?
Gerry Sweeney: Oh they can just go to hornbill.com. We’re there, we’ve been there since 1995, so.
Ray Zinn: Okay, so you do workflow. So that’s efficiency, production, efficiency, performance efficiency, so forth?
Gerry Sweeney: Exactly. Business efficiency, business optimization, digital transformation. That whole area, service management and so on.
Ray Zinn: And you know, this is a perfect segue into our discussion today. What we’re going to talk about is working from remotely as opposed to working at an office. So, that’s the subject of our podcast today. And tell us Gerry pandemic caused you to kind of shift gears a little bit pivot. So tell us about that.
Gerry Sweeney: Yeah, absolutely. I think it was pretty much a foregone conclusion. So it was simply one day back in the early part of 2020 and around March, I think it was March 18, actually. We decided based on what the UK government were telling us. To actually just send everyone home and work from home. So we did that. So that was on a, I think, a Tuesday or something like that. I can’t remember now, to be honest with you. It might be a different day, but let’s just say Tuesdays for want of a better day. And everyone went home that day and we have actually been remote working ever since. So, for us and that sounds very sort of chaotic, but actually in reality we’re a software company and our business is in the cloud. Our services are operating out numerous data centers around the world. So we remote manage everything anyway. There was of course challenges, logistical challenges, but actually the transition was pretty smooth. We were back up and running the next day. I would say our customers didn’t notice anything at all actually. (more…)
Cheap MoneyRead more
When should businesses borrow? That question is prime in their era of very cheap money.
Ray Zinn, Silicon Valley’s longest serving CEO, knows and tells you now.
Guy Smith: Hello again, and welcome to another episode of the Tough Things First Podcast. I’m your guest host for today, Guy Smith. And as always, we’re picking the brain, the wisdom, the experience of Silicon Valley’s longest serving CEO, Mr. Ray Zinn.
Today, we’re going to be talking about cheap money and borrowing. Every business has a temptation to borrow money. I think every human being in a capitalist society has a temptation to borrow money. We are, at least as of the date of this recording, still in a period of exceedingly low interest rate, cheap money. This brings forward the questions that I think our audience is interested in. When is debt the right thing to do? When do you know that the cheap rates are as good as they’re going to get? How should you balance your borrowing against your cashflow, et cetera, et cetera.
So with that, Ray, hello. Good to talk to you again.
Ray Zinn: Well thanks, Guy. Good to be with you this morning.
Guy Smith: Always a joy to be with you.
Now, we have cheap, cheap, cheap, cheap money. I get to say that because I just closed a refinancing of my house yesterday and I’m just still stunned at how little I’m paying for cash right now.
Ray Zinn: You mean for interest, the interest rate?
Guy Smith: Yeah.
Ray Zinn: Okay, cash. Right.
Guy Smith: When it comes to business, there’s always a temptation to borrow money. I think some companies borrow money because they’re not frugal internally, and they think they have to get excess capital from the outside.
Let’s first start off by talking about when do you think it’s right to borrow. What are the key elements that say borrowing is really the only thing that we should consider for this particular situation in our business?
Ray Zinn: Well as you pointed out, money’s really cheap now. I’ve never seen it any cheaper than it is right now. It is about as cheap as it’s going to get. Any of you who have your money in money market or in treasuries, you’re getting less than a percent back on your money. Obviously, if you’ve got cash, you’re not going to benefit from that by borrowing because if you put your cash to work, you’re not going to get much for it. You might as well use your cash, unless of course you don’t have the cash. And then, of course you don’t have much of an option other than to go out and borrow. (more…)
Disaster Planning for BusinessRead more
Ray Zinn, the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley has seen business disasters come and go, and dodged many of them.
In this episode of the Tough Things First podcast, Ray discusses how to plan for unplannable disasters, and even the common ones.
Guy Smith: Hello again, and welcome to another episode of the Tough Things First Podcast. I’m your host for today, Guy Smith, and as always, I’m really excited to have a chat with Ray Zinn about a topic which I think is on everyone’s mind. 2020 has been a heck of a year with the pandemic. Businesses have had to react to a disaster which is normally not on their books, normally not in their planning. Ray has been through many up and down cycles, many disasters in business, and we’re going to have a chat with Ray, the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley, about how somebody in business, how a business leader can plan for disasters in general, but also for these whopper disasters that come around maybe once in a lifetime. So hello, Ray. Great to be with you again.
Ray Zinn: Well, thanks, Guy. Yes, it’s great to have you on the podcast with us.
Guy Smith: Always enjoy doing it. It’s exciting, it’s intellectually stimulating, and I learn more about practical business working on this podcast than anything else I get to do during the week. So let’s dive right into it. 2020 has been a disaster. Pandemic has really racked a lot of businesses, from the small to the large, so why don’t you give us first your perspective about what is the difference between a normal disaster, a run of the mill business disaster, and something exceptional about an event like a pandemic, and why this changes the way the business leader might do their disaster planning?
Ray Zinn: Well, Guy, I like to think of, all disasters are disasters. I mean, there’s no good disaster. And you could say that depending upon the kind of business you run, one kind of a disaster could impact you more than another kind of a disaster. So for example, if your company was a clothing company and you could switch to making face masks and other protective clothing, this disaster is actually a boom or an advantage. A disaster for one person can be a boon for another. For example, when you get a cavity or you break a tooth, that may be a disaster for you but it was a great thing for your dentist. Or if your heart goes bad, that’s a disaster for you but it’s a great thing for the heart surgeon. (more…)
Sales and ExpansionRead more
Sales drives revenue. But selling has changed when the internet and technology made mass marketing available to everyone.
In this Tough Things First podcast episode, Ray Zinn is in conversation with Aleks Gollu, CEO of 11Sight, to discuss sales effectiveness in the 21st century.
Ray Zinn: Hello, everyone. Welcome to another fantastic Tough Things First podcast, it’s great to be here with you today. And I have a very special guest that I’d like to introduce and let you know a little more about him. This is a friend of mine, Aleks Gollu, I’m so delighted Alex to have you on the program with me today. So let’s hear a little bit about yourself please.
Aleks Gollu: Thanks Ray, and it’s definitely an honor to be here with you talking. My career has evolved as that of a serial entrepreneur. I did my undergrad at MIT, then I did a PhD at UC Berkeley. Those were all in electrical engineering, computer science. And back at the university, we were working on automated cars, automated highways, this is late ’90s. But one of the other PhD students, Farokh Eskafi and I, we were more entrepreneurially oriented than just academically. So we had it in our head that we wanted to do a startup, and this was like the dot-com era just about to begin.
So right after the PhD, [inaudible 00:01:49] and I did a startup, this is a time where Motorola StarTAC is the most advanced form, Netscape is new. So we told people, “Hey, come to our website, tell us what you’re interested in, and we’ll send you SMS messages with your stock prices, your sports results and so forth.”
So that company we sold to a competitor, then both Farokh and I, we saw RFID emerging. He being more technical, he built in a new RFID chip that did location tracking, and he ultimately sold that company to Maxim Integrated. And I used RFID readers off the shelf to build a yard management solution that made transportation aspect of supply chain more efficient. In today’s language, we were an IOT company in the Cloud. Back then, we were a SaaS based yard management company that combined RFID and user input to improve trailer life cycles in yards.
Now, after that, we both saw video as a communication means of the future. And that brought us, Farokh and me back doing a new company which is 11Sight. And what we do at the 11Sight is we bring businesses and customers closer together. We provide the fastest way to connect, the simplest way to engage. And the net result is increased revenues and improve customer satisfaction.
So that’s basically me in a nutshell from ’83 arriving in US, to sitting in north of Berkeley in El Cerrito today talking to you. (more…)
Board MembersRead more
Board Members come and go, but navigating a working relationship with board members good and bad is a constant.
In this Tough Things First Podcast, Ray Zinn, who has experienced everything when it comes to boards, provides some profitable insights.
Rob Artigo: Rob Artigo here, your guest host for another edition of the Tough Things First podcast with Ray Zinn. I’m a writer and entrepreneur in California being invited back. Always a pleasure, Ray. How are you?
Ray Zinn: Doing great, Rob, good to be with you again.
Rob Artigo: I think I have a good subject here, something that you are definitely familiar with, and that is a board of directors that you might have for your corporation, your company. In business, we have these board members that tend to come and go. I mean, they don’t stick around forever. If you’re fortunate enough to be like you, running Micrel and being around almost four decades… And so you have a board that, I’m assuming, was fluid. It changed over that time, because that’s just the nature of these boards. But sometimes you have people who leave, and you don’t really necessarily want them to leave, because you appreciate their input, advice, and their professionalism on the board. But then they go on and do something else, and they’ve got another board they join, or they just get tired, or they retire, because it’s just that time. They just leave the board.
Sometimes, you have other board members who are a thorn in your side. I’m assuming you’ve had that experience, where you’ve had board members who you kind of wish they weren’t around the board anymore, but yet they never go away. Give me some thoughts to start off here about your experience with boards, whether you’re sitting on a board or whether you’re dealing with it as a CEO of a company. Dealing with board members, because not all personalities are going to gel well together. And some people, they find out that they’re maybe not meant to be a board member in the first place.
Ray Zinn: Well, there are boards, and there are boards. I mean, a rose by any other name is still a rose. It depends upon how your board is formed. If you’re a private company and you have control of the company because of your shareholder capability or majority, you can get rid of a board member very easily. You just fire them, because you’re a majority shareholder. If however you’re a minority shareholder, whether you’re public or private, then you have to get the agreement of the majority shareholders to dispose of a board member. Now, in the case of a public company, there are elections that are done periodically, depending upon the bylaws of the company, and you get to put your slate of shareholders up for vote. And so if you have a shareholder that is not performing well, you can only do it at a specific time when that election takes place, but you can change your board of directors base. (more…)