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Tough Things First: Words of Wisdom with Ray Zinn

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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  • Startup Nervous Energy

    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…)

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  • Revenue Rebound

    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…)

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  • How Hornbill switched to 100% work from home

    Going 100% Work-From-Home

    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…)

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  • Cheap Money

    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…)

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  • Business Disaster Planning

    Disaster Planning for Business

    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…)

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  • Sales and Expansion

    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…)

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  • Choosing Board of Directors members

    Board Members

    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…)

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  • Consultants - when time is money

    Consultants

    Consultants can be helpful experts, but sometimes they show up to fill a need for which there’s purpose.

    In this Tough Things First Podcast, Ray Zinn discusses when consultants make sense and how to decide when the time is right.


    Rob Artigo: 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. Big back is always a pleasure Ray, how you doing?

    Ray Zinn: We’re doing just fine. Thanks, Rob. Good to have you back on the program.

    Rob Artigo: I’m sure this is a subject you can identify with and probably you’ve heard plenty of stories and experienced it yourself is, the tech industry… And I think I relate this to Hollywood, as there’s always this bubble around… I don’t even know if it’s a bubble, but sort of this fog, this cloud around the tech industry, because there’s money there and in Hollywood, the same thing. There’s always people on the periphery trying to separate ambitious people from their money. And I mean that in ways like, they’ll say, “Hey, you come to me, I will build out your business plan. Or I will help you create this or I’ll design something for you. Or I’ll do an advertising campaign for you all. I’ll show you how to do this on the internet, or use Yelp to get some business.”

    And it turns out really all they’re doing is, doing something for you, you could have Googled or watched a YouTube video and figured it out for yourself and only takes five seconds. Right? And you end up paying them thousands of dollars and the return is nothing. So let’s get to the point here is that, there are people in Silicon Valley, there are people in industries where there’s money that are just waiting to take maybe a naive younger person or a new entrepreneur and extract some money from their wallets. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t legitimate consultants out there or people that can really help you. So that’s what I want to talk about here. Would you agree with my intro there? That I’m correct in saying that there are people out there waiting to take money away from people, for projects they don’t necessarily need to be paying for?

    Ray Zinn: Well, I’m sure there are some. I don’t know that they’re prolific. They’re-

    Rob Artigo: Vultures, not like vultures?

    Ray Zinn: Well, you know how they vote. So I think there are people who are opportunistic. My dad used to say that a consultant is somebody who doesn’t have a job. So I got to be careful about when we refer to about a consultant. A medical doctor is a consultant, if you want to look at it that way. A teacher, a professional, either a high school or college or whatever teacher, they’re consultants. And so, the term consultant… A good father or a good mother is a consultant. And my parents were good consultants for me. It depends upon where you need help. I believe in going to the doctor to get physical checkups and to have them consult with me on what I need to do, whether to lose weight or whether to change my eating habits or sleep habits, or whether exercise. A physical trainer, a person who works with you in an exercise program, they’re a consultant.

    There are consultants and then there are people who are just trying to separate you, as you said, from your money. I don’t think there are that many, at least in my experience that are not good. Another one is a CPA firm, they’re consultants. Tax preparers are consultants. There may be a few consultants that are not really worthwhile, for carrying their weight, worth their pay as you would. A consultant is anybody that you would go to, to get help that you can’t handle yourself. So, if you can handle yourself, there’s no need of a consultant. I know people that do their own barbering, and sometimes it looks like it. Or I know people who go to the restaurant because they don’t like to cook. It just depends upon what your needs are.

    Rob Artigo: Yeah. I think for the purposes of this podcast, I’m thinking… And I appreciate the fact that you wanted to separate the difference between, what I’m referring to as one of these people that are trying to separate ambitious persons from their money versus a consultant that is valuable. So there are plenty of valuable consultants out there. And I guess what I’m getting at is, what we want to be able to do as entrepreneurs in our businesses, I’ll give you one example. I came from a radio background, 20 years in radio, and a couple of times they would bring in… The company that I was working for, the radio station I was working for, decided to bring in a consultant. And the consultant spent a week looking at how operations worked in the newsroom and with the FM radio stations and the AM stations.

    And looked at how we approached imaging and different things, and then came up with ideas for how to brand the company better and how to make it more consistent and a more concise messaging. And I never found anything of any value, at least as an employee on, ranking file type in the newsroom where I felt like they were giving us anything that we didn’t already know needed to be done. But the company ended up paying for it anyway. And I suppose they got some value out of it, but when I’m a leader of a business and I sit down and go, “Hey, we need to bring somebody in.” How do I know that it’s something that I do need to get somebody from the outside to come in and take a look and help us out? And then how do I know if that person is going to be the right person, that’s going to give us quality for our investment?

    Ray Zinn: Well, it’s like, let’s say you have a heart problem and your physician is suggesting that you have a quadruple bypass or something. You might want to get a second opinion. And so a second opinion is necessary whenever there’s something really serious with the company that would require a second opinion. So I look at a consultant as somebody who’s going to offer a second opinion. You may have a health issue and you’ll get online and you’ll look up some resources to help you understand your medical problem. But then you’ll go to the doctor and say, “Here’s what I read online. What do you think?” So generally, a consultant is brought in many times because something really serious is wrong. And maybe it’s the board of directors is demanding that you get a second opinion.

    Maybe they’re not happy with the way the current management is solving the problem or dealing with the problem. They want a second opinion. So they’ll hire a consultant to come in and look at the situation. Maybe it’s also, maybe the leadership of the company brings out a second opinion just to bolster what they’re doing is correct. That they’re on the right path because, it’s called drinking your own Kool-Aid if you don’t get somebody from the outside to come in and do a deep dive into what you’re doing. Consultants again, all depends upon how serious the situation is and whether or not you need a second opinion. So I refer to a consultant as somebody who really is there to offer a second opinion, or to be able to do something that you cannot do, because you lack that skillset yourself. For example, like a tax preparer or a CPA or something like that.

    Rob Artigo: Right. And you have to have somebody doing your payroll. I don’t care how small your business is, you should have somebody doing your payroll because that can become a problem with the IRS really quick. And you just need those… You need experts helping you out if you really want to be a success and streamline things. Here we are as business leaders that we have to make a decision as to who to hire, so we look at who’s out there and maybe we ask for recommendations, it’s like hiring an employee, you have to do your due diligence. Did you have experiences with Micrel, where you had to bring somebody in to take a look at what was going on so that you could get that… Like you said, that other perspective, an outside dispassionate perspective?

    Ray Zinn: Well, only to the extent we talked about like a CPA or a… Oh gosh, let’s say, a board member might come in and help us take a look at a particular operation that they got that knowledge and skillset. But we didn’t use a lot of consultants in a situation where you’re just looking for somebody to come in and give a second opinion of what you’re already doing. I’d say that 99.9% of the time, the consultants that we use, we did not have the resources or the ability to really look at that particular problem. And so we hired somebody with that expertise. I can’t think of hardly a time that we brought in a paid consultant to look at something that we could do ourselves, but we wanted a third opinion or a second opinion.

    Rob Artigo: Okay. I can’t help but think of Marcus Lemonis said, the profit on CNBC that he goes around and invest in companies. And he literally is that outside guy who comes in… Well, he usually brings in money and investment and then becomes a stakeholder in the company. But he is the ultimate consultant when it comes to many of these businesses, because he’s got an expertise in the way big picture runs that these other people don’t. And when you are running a business, I think that perhaps if you find that you’re running a foul or your business is not doing well, you find that you aren’t really handling the business operations well, that if you find somebody who can help you with those situations, who could say, “This is what you’re doing wrong, and this is what you need to do.”

    That’s the kind of consultant that could help small businesses that are just getting started that have found that they are struggling for the first couple of years, bring somebody in and go, “All right, here’s what you need to do to fix your major problems.” That’s different than going to a company like Micrel, that is running well, that is profitable, 99% of the time, it’s just one year where it wasn’t. You didn’t need that because you were running the company right.

    Many of the entrepreneurs who are perhaps listening to the podcast are listening to it and going, “All right. Well, I’ve got a smallish business. I’m struggling a little bit, and I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong.” This is where you get into a situation where I opened talking about, somebody’s paying for something they don’t need versus something they do need. And you mentioned the do need part. What would you say to those entrepreneurs who find themselves struggling and want to potentially reach out to somebody who could come in and look at the way they were operating everything and say, “This is the way you need to do. This is what you need to fix. You need an accountant. If you don’t have an accountant, you need to have one?”

    Ray Zinn: I’ve just recently heard of a franchise that provides training for customers. You can join this group of outside members that will be part of a board of directors group, as you would… An informal board of directors where, you pay X number of dollars a month and you meet once a month and you have experts there or even each other, where you could help consult with each other and help solve problems. And so there’s a number of those kinds of franchises available. So I would recommend that if you’re a small company that you look at possibly joining one of these franchise groups that does have these informal meetings, where you bring your problems to them, and then they talk about it as a group and they offer suggestions. It’s pretty interesting. I thought it was a pretty neat way of helping small companies who don’t have the resources to hire good complex boards, that they can at least talk among themselves as a kind of a talk group and they take time to help solve each other’s problems.

    Rob Artigo: Around here, if you’re looking for office space, you can get a desk and an area to meet every once in a while. And those kinds of benefits for a small company where you’re not having to take on a lease, long-term obligations or having to hire a bunch of people. You can join one of these groups and you can get some good information. So technology can really help us out if we stay within our means while we build it into a profitable company, which is obviously the goal. Thank you, Ray. Really appreciate it. You can join the conversation at toughthingsfirst.com. Your questions and comments are always welcome there. Follow Ray Zinn on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. And of course you can get the texts, Ray books, Tough Things First, and The Zen of Zinn. Thank you again, Ray.

    Ray Zinn: Thanks, Rob. Appreciate it.

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  • Competing Shareholder Priorities

    Stakeholders and Priorities

    The stakeholders in business aren’t just in boardrooms or corner offices, they are in every room in your business and well beyond the walls. Who are these people, should any one stakeholder come first? Ray Zinn answer that complicated question in this latest edition of the Tough Things First podcast.


    Rob Artigo: I’m Rob Artigo. I’m your guest host for this edition of the Tough Things First Podcast. Hi Ray. It’s good to be back with you.

    Ray Zinn: Hey, it’s so good to have you, Rob. It’s always fun to be with you and having these interesting topics.

    Rob Artigo: Well, I caught a part of a Forbes article the other day that posed the question, “Who comes first, your team members, your customers, or your stakeholders?” So let’s define each one of them briefly if we can here for this podcast and try to answer the question “Which comes first?”

    So team members obviously are employees, but would you expand the term team members to include people who are not employees, like contractors and other people?

    Ray Zinn: They could be, certainly. A team member could be a vendor, a supplier. And so you got to look at it… In fact, a customer could be a team member, or even a shareholder, or a member of the board. So a team is really what it takes to accomplish a task. That’s whether it be basketball, football, baseball, or whatever kind of team you’re setting up, they are a group of people that work together to accomplish a common task.

    Rob Artigo: This might be a thing where we have team members and customers and stakeholders in general, sort of overlapping in some situations. Now let’s talk about customers real quick, define that. Are there different levels of customers? And are those customers always the ones directly buying from you, or does that include people who are indirect buyers like the customers of customers?

    Ray Zinn: Well, it could be the customer of customers, depending upon how many tiers you have in your distribution chain, or whether you’re a service company, like if you’re a hairdresser or you have a beauty salon or a restaurant. It depends upon what kind of business you’re running, would define who your customers are. The customers or whoever is in that chain… For example, I refer to some of my employees as customers. And so, I know that one of my marketing people who has to work with the product groups, they refer to them as their customers. A customer is anybody who’s receiving your service. That’s basically what a customer is. (more…)

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  • Signs of individual and organizational burnout

    Burnout

    Hungry and inspired. It’s a good way to start an ambitious task, but whether you’re launching a start-up or trying to impress the boss, stretching yourself beyond your physical and mental means could have diminishing returns.

    In his episode of the Tough Thing First podcast, Ray Zinn explores the signs of burnout.


    Rob Artigo: Welcome to this edition of the Tough Things First podcast. I’m your guest host, Rob Artigo. I’m a writer and entrepreneur in California. Hi, Ray.

    Ray Zinn: Hello, Rob. It’s so good to have you back on with me.

    Rob Artigo: It’s good to be here, too, and we love these podcasts, and it’s always good to spend a few minutes with you, just chatting through some of these important issues involving entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship in our company. So one of the famous quotes that we include at the intro of this show … The listeners just heard it, and you remember this: “If you think you have to work 80 hours a week to be a success, you’re dead wrong.” You recall that quote?

    Ray Zinn: Yeah, yes, yes.

    Rob Artigo: In Silicon valley and the tech industry culture as a whole, it seems like that challenges the statement. Sort of the general idea that you get on the job and you go, go, go, go, go, and you’ve got to work harder than everybody else. You’ve got to work all the time. You got to show that you’re doing all this hard work and you’re just working 24 hours a day, more than 80 hours a week, or whatever the case may be.

    But unfortunately, oftentimes, that works fine at the beginning, but then eventually, you run into burnout. You have employees, or even yourself. You hit a wall, and you end up collapsing, and you end up being less effective, not more effective, by behaving that way. So let’s talk a little bit about that. First, recognizing the employee who is headed for burnout, and then what we, as entrepreneurs, need to do to recognize if we’re doing it ourselves and headed towards a burnout.

    So first, what are some of the experiences you’ve had with employees in these circumstances? And what are some of the signs that they’re going in a direction that is counterproductive?

    Ray Zinn: Well, let’s first define the word burnout. So what, in your mind, is burnout, Rob?

    Rob Artigo: I think it’s when physically, emotionally, and mentally, you hit a wall. Kind of like the marathon situation, where runners, marathoners, are trained to hit that wall and then continue past it. But workers … And if you have a work cycle where you are working constantly, 24 hours a day, it seems like, and you’re not getting enough sleep, you’re not getting exercise, you’re not eating right, you’re not taking in the proper amount of fluids. All because you’re focused on essentially, obsessively, on a particular task or something, in order to prove your value, to prove your worth, or otherwise, just trying to be productive, to show that you’re better than everybody else. I don’t know. A goal.

    But then you end up hitting that wall, and you can’t get past the wall, and you end up failing. That’s what I think of burnout.

    Ray Zinn: Okay, well, let’s look at what can cause burnout. Burnout can be caused by many things other than employment. Burnout can be caused … It’s an emotional problem that can be caused by a problem in the family, health. It could be environmental. There’s a number of things that can relate to burnout. For example, if your company’s not doing well. So burnout is more of an attribute of a bad situation, whether it’s home or whether it’s health or whether it’s any other type of external problem, other than just your personal work environment. (more…)

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  • Exporting Silicon Valley Culture

    Exporting Silicon Valley Culture

    There are good aspects to Silicon Valley culture.

    Ray Zinn, the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley knows what they are and tells how to bring them into your community.


    Guy Smith: Hello again, and welcome to another and a very exciting episode of the Tough Things First Podcast. I’m your guest host today, Guy Smith. As always, we’re sucking all of the wisdom and knowledge out of the brain of Silicon Valley’s longest serving CEO, Mr. Ray Zinn. And today, we’re going to be talking about something that’s near and dear to my heart, which is how do we create Silicon Valley in your region. Your little neck of America should be like Silicon Valley, at least in all the positive aspects. It should have an entrepreneurship culture, it should have all the facilities needed so that anyone who wants to be a businessperson can be a businessperson. And so, we’re going to talk to who I think is a global champion of the entrepreneurship mindset, and see how we can do that to export it to the rest of America.

    So hello, Ray. Great to be with you, as always.

    Ray Zinn: Yeah, Guy. Yeah, this is an interesting podcast that you want to do, which is how do we create Silicon Valley in other regions, so let’s dive right into it.

    Guy Smith: Well, one of the things I know is that you’ve got a passion for this. You have this side project known as Zinn Starter, you’re giving money to a number of colleges around the country to help seed finance student teams who have a neat business idea and need to get past that initial little leg up. Why don’t you talk about Zinn Starter, for just a second? Then, we’ll dive into Silicon Valley culture and exporting parts of it.

    Ray Zinn: Zinn Starter came about because entrepreneurship is such a hot topic in universities. I don’t know of a single university or college around the country that doesn’t have some form of an entrepreneur program. So, we decided to get involved. We had, of course, Tough Things First, it was our main book that talks about how to run a company. So we thought we’d take that book as an entrée, and then encourage university students to come up with ideas. Not that they to be Earth shattering, ground breaking idea, but that they’d learn how to start a company and how to run it. So, we created a fund called Zinn Starter, which the students compete for at their university. If they’re selected, if their project is selected, then we help fund it to get it started.

    It’s just they need mentors, people who are willing to work with them to help them through the process of learning entrepreneurship before they actually get out in the real world and have to actually run a real company. Again, it’s a university training program to help the students get the practice of actually starting and running a company.

    Guy Smith: And, I’m enamored with the program because I’ve seen bits and pieces of it in operation, I’ve seen how the students react. I’ve seen how the schools react. And, there are people who may, in the past, not have had a lot of faith in themselves or their idea, but the moment that they get a little bit of mentoring, a little bit of money and a little bit of encouragement, boy it’s like a kid on Christmas. They light up, and they believe in themselves, and they really start punching about their weight and going onto the business world and making a go of it. I’m really happy with the Zinn Starter program.

    But, let’s talk about Silicon Valley. I like to think of myself as a veteran because I was out there for 22 years, but you were out there pretty much from the start. You were out there in the days of Fairchild, and the Fairchildren, and I think it was the eight traitors, or the Traitorous Eight, I forget what it was. But, the people who went out and formed their own businesses after working for the market leaders at the time. So, what are the positive aspects about Silicon Valley? And, what should a region do if they want to build a Silicon Valley like culture? What is the first steps that they need to do in order to make that happen where they are?

    Ray Zinn: Well, that’s a good point, Guy. What do they need to do? That is they have to have an atmosphere of can do. In other words, that’s the thing about Silicon Valley, if anybody has researched or looked into it all, know that Silicon Valley is a very can do attitude. They think nothing’s impossible, that the concepts that you come up with are limitless. And, that all you need to do is just apply some ingenuity and some elbow grease, and you can make it happen. It’s a very, very can do attitude that permeates Silicon Valley. And it also encouraged these financial organizations to come in and help fund these companies, because they felt the excitement, too.

    The thing that I’ve noticed, having been in Silicon Valley for over 60 years, most significant is just how much excitement and can do-ism that exists in Silicon Valley. And, that goes back to the Zinn Starter program. Once you see these kids excited, you give them a little money and you get them a little mentoring, and they get excited and then, pretty much, the other students get excited and they want to do it. And, they want to get involved. So success breeds success, and just tends to build on itself.

    Guy Smith: And, I agree with that because I’ve seen what’s happened at San Jose State University, with the Zinn Starter program. The first year that Zinn Starter was in effect, you had a few student teams who were definitely lit up, but they passed the torch. There’s a revolving cycle of leadership with inside of the Zinn Starter program there, so that excitement that they generate gets passed on, and passed on, and passed on. Each new generation out there tends to be lit up like a candle the moment that they step into the program and they see, “Oh yeah, other students did it. I can do it, too.”

    Now, in terms of other regions trying to start that can do mentality, where do you think the seed of that passion can come from? My perspective is that local business leaders probably need to be more involved in spreading the entrepreneurial spirit. But, there are a lot of things that can influence the next generation. Who do you think should be taking leadership roles in any given region, to turn it into a Silicon Valley?

    Ray Zinn: Well, I think the local educational facilities, whether it be a high school, or junior colleges. I think having an entrepreneur program in your particular region is crucial. And then, having business people who are willing to do like we do at Zinn Starter, willing to cough up a little bit of funding and help those schools in their entrepreneur program, is key to getting this excitement going. It’s just like Disneyland, what makes Disneyland Disneyland is its excitement. It’s that thrill. So, you need to create that thrill in your local areas.

    I know that in West Virginia, at West Virginia University, which we’re also involved with Zinn Starter, that’s what they’re doing. They’re going all out to really promote entrepreneurism in West Virginia, because West Virginia is not known for it’s high tech. It’s more of a mining, gas and oil type environment. They want to change that, they want to develop a more entrepreneurial, more electronics and other medical type device environment for their state.

    A way of really promoting Silicon Valley mentality is to get local educational facilities, like I said earlier, high school, junior colleges to start talking about putting entrepreneur programs in your high school and junior college areas. And then, of course, it spreads out to the universities themselves. It’s amazing how much excitement that I’ve seen, as I went around the country visiting these universities, we’re in about six or seven of them with Zinn Starter, how much this has really excited these kids. Listening to them talk about their various projects, they may not be the most exciting type programs that you would want, but you promote it. You encourage them. Let them know that you’re there to support them.

    I think that’s what made Silicon Valley Silicon Valley, is that it just fed on itself. They could see, “Look what we did at this company, I could do it at another company.” And, it just bred. That’s the key to getting your region having its own excitement, is that you create that excitement through your schools and through other community activities.

    Guy Smith: How do you see the local business community fitting in there? You’ve mentioned a lot about schools taking a leadership role and getting the excitement going. But, we’ve got local businesses, we’ve got local government as well. How do they fit in? And, who really should be carrying the mantle, taking the lead?

    Ray Zinn: Anyone. I mean, it should be limited just to the government. Just someone whose excited about getting entrepreneurism going in their local community can take a lead on it. You can get a hold of us, we can talk about Zinn Starter in your community. You can just encourage local businesses to cough up a few dollars, just to kick it off and get it going. You don’t even have to wait for these kids to go through university or through college, you could do it with people in the trade environment, to just encourage people to start their businesses and to build a successful community.

    Guy Smith: Well, let’s talk about Silicon Valley culture, and exporting parts of that to other regions. You already mentioned the can do attitude is one of the pillars underneath Silicon Valley and what makes it successful. Let’s toss, I don’t know, let’s say two more cultural pillars that have helped Silicon Valley be as successful as it is. Give me two more that any region should add to the list of cultural elements, in order to turn themselves into a miniature Silicon Valley.

    Ray Zinn: Well, of course can do, have that I can do it, that’s the culture that is most prevalent that I’ve seen.

    As an example, in Silicon Valley the way it got its name is because the material that is used to make a semiconductor is silicon. And at one time, in the very early days of Silicon Valley back in the ’60s, almost 80 or 90 percent of the semiconductor companies were right in Silicon Valley, and so they had a monopoly. The other way, of course, is to find something that’s unique to your particular local area, that you have some unique talent, educational talent, or some other area that you’re really good at. Whether you’re a paper mill making paper products, or whether you’re petroleum or whatever, find something that you have a monopoly on, or at least an edge on, and build upon it. It doesn’t have to be just an electronic. It can be in chemistry, it can be in automobiles, or automotive type products.

    Just find something that is going, that has some excitement to it, and build on that. Obviously, stay away from buggy whip type projects, but garner the talent that your community has, whatever that might be, and build upon it. Monopolize on that resource or talent that’s available in your community.

    Guy Smith: All great advice. But, I’m going to circle back a little bit to the can do, because I want to brag about your book Tough Things First. To the audience members who have not read this book, first, why haven’t you? It is arguably one of the best management tomes that’s ever been written. And, it’s called Tough Things First for a reason, because that’s part of the can do attitude, being able to look at a problem, tackle the tough things, get that out of the way because then that sets the foundation and the momentum for your company to go forward. So as you’re listening to this podcast, travel over to Amazon, find the book Tough Things First by Ray Zinn, by a copy of it right now. Because I guarantee you, you’re going to be infinitely more likely to be successful in business once you’ve read this book.

    And, if you have other reading needs, grab a copy of Ray Zinn’s Zen of Zinn. That’s Z-E-N of Z-I-N-N. It’s more of a philosophical book, but ties together all the elements about business, people, employees, culture, your local community, your belief systems. And, it helped me make sense of the humanistic aspects of management and leadership. Definitely, a solid read for the softer side of leading people and managing a company.

    Ray Zinn: It’s called the Tips and Tricks of Becoming a Successful Person. That’s what Zen of Zinn, is the tips and tricks to become more successful as an individual.

    Guy Smith: And you know, we call could use a little polish. People like me maybe need a little bit more, but that’s okay. This book definitely will shave a few rough edges off of the way that you perceive your place in the world, and your ability to lead and encourage other people.

    So thanks again, Ray. Enlightening as always. Let’s move out, and turn all of America, every corner of it, into the Silicon Valley we can do it attitude.

    Ray Zinn: Thanks, Guy.

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  • Silicon Valley History - Part 12

    Silicon Valley History – Part XII

    Ray Zinn, the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley, discusses the history of silicon as only he can, having watched it from Shockley to Facebook.

    In Part XII, Ray, Goldman Sachs analyst Peter Marchetti, and Silicon Valley vet Guy Smith, close this series by exploring the current state of Silicon Valley and where semiconductor and all high tech may be heading.

    Peter Marchetti has spent the past 20 years as an advisor to some of the most significant families and foundations in the country. He joined the Goldman Sachs team  in 2000 after receiving his MBA from the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley.


    Ray Zinn: Well, hello, everyone. Welcome back to another in our series of Silicon Valley History, we’re delighted to be with you today. My name is Ray Zinn. I’m the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley. And with me, I have Peter Marchetti who is a financial advisor and a friend of mine, as well as that Guy Smith, who is my director of marketing for Tough Things First. Welcome back, you two.

    Guy Smith: Always great to be here.

    Peter Marchetti: Likewise, Ray.

    Ray Zinn: Thanks again for being with us and doing this, I think very exciting series on Silicon Valley. So where we left off, you had a question, Pete, why don’t you go ahead.

    Peter Marchetti: This has been in my mind since our last podcast, Ray. But you had mentioned that when you were a young guy, your father had kind of a prototype of a cell phone way back with a knife with an antenna. And you’d said that he didn’t really generally want you to use it that much, but you did here and there. And it was mainly to impress the ladies. And I guess what I’ve been wondering about is, is that actually how you were able to impress DeLona. [crosstalk 00:02:03].

    Ray Zinn: No, I didn’t need to have that to impress her. What I meant was it was very expensive to use. And back in the fifties, it was a very expensive way to communicate. And my father, I don’t know why he bought it. I mean, again, I didn’t see him use it that much. Maybe because it was so expensive. But it was huge. I mean, the transmitter and the whole electronic equipment was a size of a small suitcase and it fit in the back of your car. And then you had this gigantic antenna, like nine feet long. You’d look like a highway patrolman back in those days. And of course, I had a hand set up front there in the console and it was interesting. I did use it a few times.

    It just had a way of connecting up with the telephone company. And then you would switch it. It would switch over to, in fact a woman would come on and let you know that you were mobile and you would give her the number that you wanted to call. And she’d call that number. And then you would have your discussion and you would hang up. So it was kind of archaic by today’s terms, but it did work. And we thought it was exciting because it was electronics. And you could communicate anywhere all over the world with this mobile device.

    Peter Marchetti: Even though it was impressive back then, you were able to use other things that were more impressive to make the positive impression on DeLona. Not that you’re in any short supply of things that are impressive, Ray. Just wanted to figure out where the cell phone ranked in relation to those other things. That sounds like it was further down the list, which I’m glad to hear.

    Ray Zinn: Well, yeah. I mean, I got married in 1961. So I didn’t even have one of those fancy phones in those days. We had CB radios that we used.

    Peter Marchetti: I guess you wouldn’t have been married for 60 years if it was all based on that cell phone, especially with how it ended up getting obsolete, probably pretty quickly.

    Ray Zinn: Exactly, exactly. Well, anyway. (more…)

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  • Silicon Valley History - Part 11

    Silicon Valley History – Part XI

    Ray Zinn, the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley, discusses the history of silicon as only he can, having watched it from Shockley to Facebook.

    In Part XI, Ray, Goldman Sachs analyst Peter Marchetti, and Silicon Valley vet Guy Smith, cover the how integration of gadgets, internet and wireless put Silicon valley on a new path.

    Peter Marchetti has spent the past 20 years as an advisor to some of the most significant families and foundations in the country. He joined the Goldman Sachs team  in 2000 after receiving his MBA from the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley.


    Ray Zinn: Hello, everyone. Welcome back to another in our series of podcasts regarding the history of Silicon Valley. This has been an exciting set of podcasts that we’ve done, because I’ve been able to sit here and reminisce all about the history of the industry, or the Valley, starting all the way back to 1957.

    So, here we are. We’re in the two thousands, in the 21st century. And with me today, I have Peter Marchetti, who’s a financial advisor and a good friend of mine, as well as Guy Smith, who’s my director of marketing at Tough Things First. So, hello to both of you.

    Guy Smith: Hidey, ho.

    Peter Marchetti: Hey, Ray, good morning.

    Ray Zinn: Well guys, here we are. We’re really into the 21st century. I think last time we talked about kind of where was the industry headed or where is Silicon Valley headed and just give kind of an idea of the landscape.

    We’d just exited the 20th century. We had the Y2K issue. We had the .com implosion where all these companies that were heavily funded finally had run out of money and closed up shop and weren’t able to pivot very well. Where’s the next 20 or 30 years going to take the industry?

    Peter Marchetti: Well, I think one thing we talked about in the last call, Ray, you started getting into the cell phone market and how that was pushing things forward in a lot of other technologies. And come around the middle of the two thousands, we had the introduction of the iPhone, which took the cell phone market in a completely different direction, with the smartphone introduction to everyday life. (more…)

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  • History of Silicon valley - Episode 10

    Silicon Valley History – Part X

    Ray Zinn, the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley, discusses the history of silicon as only he can, having watched it from Shockley to Facebook.

    In Part X, Ray, Goldman Sachs analyst Peter Marchetti, and Silicon Valley vet Guy Smith, cover the the rapid changes that the Internet put upon Silicon Valley, telecommunications, consumer gadgets, and thus the semiconductor industry.

    Peter Marchetti has spent the past 20 years as an advisor to some of the most significant families and foundations in the country. He joined the Goldman Sachs team  in 2000 after receiving his MBA from the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley.


    Ray Zinn: Well, hello, everyone. Welcome to another in our series of the history of Silicon Valley with me today, I have Guy Smith. Who is my private client banker and also Peter Marchetti, who is my director of marketing for Tough Things First and kind of where we left off last that we’re the build the buildup to the Y2K. There’s a big fear and big concern of what the Y2K was going to do. Cause they thought, honestly, the whole internet was going to shut down that we’re not going to be able to place orders that everything was going to go to heck in a handbasket. And there was a lot of big fears about that because of the .com thing was really just on fire and it was really just rocking and rolling and so people were worrying about deliveries.

    It’s kind of interesting compared to today with the pandemic, the COVID pandemic, that we got same fears. There’s a little shortage of inventory. The automotive guys are screaming and concerned because now they’re plans are being affected by the semiconductor part deliveries and they’re asking the government to step in and see what they could do to help improve the supply and we have a similar story going on, kind of history repeating itself with this Y2K thing. There was a big fear that someone … the whole internet was going to collapse … there was going to be a trigger and we call it the Y2K debacle, which didn’t happen. I remember having to check in at midnight on Y2K when the clock switched because they wanted to make sure we were all still connected and it was kind of weird everybody trying to make sure we’re all linked up together. But anyway,

    Guy Smith: Well, what the funny side [inaudible 00:02:49] about the whole Y2K thing is that there were billions of lines of ancient COBOL code on mainframe computers around the world, and some gray beard COBOL programming friends of mine they had a daily watch list of how much money you could make as a consultant if you had that particular skills and we saw guys who were struggling to make a living before Y2K, who were suddenly in the mid six digits because they were so in demand in so few in number.

    Ray Zinn: This was more of a conspiracy than a reality. But that only exacerbated this buildup of inventory. Because all of our customers were saying, well you got to make sure you have this much, and this much that you had to have this product available and so that really spurred this whole problem that ended up being the .com implosion.

    Peter Marchetti: Ray on that front with all the buildup that was happening. Could you tell us a little bit about what were the industries or in products that were kind of driving that demand? (more…)

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  • History of Silicon Valley - Episode 9

    Silicon Valley History – Part IX

    Ray Zinn, the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley, discusses the history of silicon as only he can, having watched it from Shockley to Facebook.

    In Part IX, Ray, Goldman Sachs analyst Peter Marchetti, and Silicon Valley vet Guy Smith, cover the continuing shifts as the Internet begins commercialization and the cellphone industry explodes.

    Peter Marchetti has spent the past 20 years as an advisor to some of the most significant families and foundations in the country. He joined the Goldman Sachs team  in 2000 after receiving his MBA from the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley.


    Ray Zinn: Hello, everyone. Welcome again to another, in the series of our podcasts regarding the history of Silicon Valley. This is a fun series for me. I’m enjoying doing it. It’s causing me to have a lot of senior moments trying to remember back all the things that I need to cover in this podcast. So I’m glad you’re bearing with us as we slog our way through this.

    Anyway, with me today, I have Peter Marchetti, Who’s a personal wealth advisor for a bank. And grateful to have Peter Marchetti here with us and also Guy Smith, who is my director of marketing for Tough Things First. So hello everyone, and welcome Peter and Guy back to our podcast.

    Guy Smith: Great to be here.

    Peter Marchetti: Morning Ray.

    Ray Zinn: Okay. So let’s talk about, as we now move into the ’90s, what the landscape was looking like. Silicon Valley has really taken off. I mean, it was getting a lot of momentum, a lot of companies going public, a lot of semiconductor companies that are really rocking and rolling. Again, I want to emphasize that almost all of the semiconductor companies had their own wafer fabrication facilities. So the off shoring of wafer fabrication really hadn’t taken off much in the early ’90s.

    So the big driver now for semi conductors, as we now start into the ’90s were cell phones. And so Motorola of course, was the big cheese doing it. You had Ericsson, Nokia, but Motorola was the big guy. They were the big gun in doing a cell phone. But a lot of other companies were trying to get into cell phones too. Blackberry or something research, was-

    Peter Marchetti: Research in motion. RIM.

    Ray Zinn: Research In Motion. All right, they were getting into it with the Blackberry and a little different approach. Qualcomm was jumping in the freight. They developed a protocol called CDMA code defined something access, code defined-

    Guy Smith: Code Division Multiple Access

    Ray Zinn: Okay. Code Division Multiple Access. And that was something that Motorola was fighting because Motorola was TDMA, Time Division Multiplexing. Qualcomm was having a hard time, I mean, they were slugging it out. So they managed to get their foothold into (more…)

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  • Silicon Valley History - Part 8

    Silicon Valley History – Part VIII

    Ray Zinn, the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley, discusses the history of silicon as only he can, having watched it from Shockley to Facebook.

    In Part VIII, Ray, Goldman Sachs analyst Peter Marchetti, and Silicon Valley vet Guy Smith cover the continuing shifts from hardware to software, from IT to personal tech that Silicon Valley created.

    Peter Marchetti has spent the past 20 years as an advisor to some of the most significant families and foundations in the country. He joined the Goldman Sachs team  in 2000 after receiving his MBA from the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley.


    Ray Zinn: Hello everyone. Welcome to another in our series regarding the history of Silicon Valley. We’re delighted to have you back. We’re now approaching what we say was the early ’90s in Silicon Valley, and what it was like. So with me today is Peter Marchetti, who’s a friend of mine. He’s a private wealth banker. And then Guy Smith, who is my director of marketing for Tough Things First. So welcome, you too.

    Guy Smith: Great to be back.

    Peter Marchetti: Likewise, Ray.

    Ray Zinn: Well listen, let’s get going here. Talking about some of the things that you guys are interested in regarding the history of Silicon Valley, as we now approached the ’90s.

    Peter Marchetti: Ray, I actually had a question coming out of the last podcast. We were going through this period of tremendous growth through the ’80s and into the ’90s. I’m wondering basically who were the folks that were in your mind pushing forward the leadership or pushing forward the change and really leading the whole industry into this massive period of growth. Who were the personalities and the people that were really making Silicon Valley what it was during that period?

    Ray Zinn: Fairchild was kind of falling off the rails. They were not doing that well other than their being acquired by National Semiconductor and then later spun back out again. So National was doing okay and they were growing quite rapidly. And they did acquire at that point Fairchild Semiconductor. The ones that I really admired or thought were my peers, Jack Gates at Maxim Integrated Circuits, Bob Swanson at Linear Technology. They were my two closest rivals, as they say, but I admired both of them. They were both heading in a slightly different direction. Maxim started out basically leaving Intersil. Jack Gifford left Intersil, took a team of guys with him, analog type guys. And he was going to approach doing analog circuits using sea moss. And then Bob Swanson left National and took a real good team of guys with him, and they were going to do it with more traditional bipolar technology.

    And it was interesting, just both of them are quite (more…)

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  • Silicon Valley History - Part 7

    Silicon Valley History – Part VII

    Ray Zinn, the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley, discusses the history of silicon as only he can, having watched it from Shockley to Facebook.

    In Part VII, Ray and Goldman Sachs analyst Peter Marchetti cover the adoption of PCs and the Silicon Valley shift to computers and software.

    Peter Marchetti has spent the past 20 years as an advisor to some of the most significant families and foundations in the country. He joined the Goldman Sachs team  in 2000 after receiving his MBA from the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley.


    Ray Zinn: Hello, everyone. Welcome to another in a series of podcasts on the history of Silicon Valley. I’m your host Ray Zinn, author of Tough Things First and also Silicon Valley’s longest serving CEO. With me today, I have my friend Peter Marchetti. Peter is a investment advisor and banker and he’s just has a lot of interest in the history of Silicon Valley. He’s the one that prompted me to do this series. Welcome, Pete.

    Peter Marchetti: Hey Ray, thanks again for having me as usual. Of course, looking forward to learning a little bit more.

    Ray Zinn: [inaudible 00:01:26] go ahead. You had some questions you wanted to ask me or some ideas about what really prompted Silicon Valley to really grow so rapidly.

    Peter Marchetti: Yeah. A couple of podcasts ago, you talked about the transformation of the valley from one where the businesses were generating a lot of the revenue from the government for military or for NASA. And then there were a shift and consumer electronics started to come up and it created the need for more companies and more chips. And now we got to the late seventies, early eighties, and another revolution started coming out in terms of products and that was the computer, the personal computer. I’d love to hear what your memories are about that time period and basically what companies were starting up and how everything was changing again in Silicon Valley during that time.

    Ray Zinn: There was a real explosion in interest in a consumer area other than in military. Again, the military had kind of slowed down a little bit on its demand. They weren’t an infinite consumer of electronics. So in order for the industry to grow, it had to look for other ways to grow its revenues. And there were so many companies now that were growing in the consumer space.

    What I thought we’d talk about today is really what was happening in computing, because that’s kind of what drove the history of Silicon Valley, is really the computing industry and the big guru in computing was IBM. IBM, of course, made mainly big mainframe computers for the banking and the large companies needing computing power. But there was a group of guys down in Boca Raton, Florida that worked for IBM, that had this idea about making a personal computer. That was back in the late seventies, ’79, ’80 timeframe. Of course, IBM corporate, their main business was software and big computers, and they weren’t interested at all in doing these personal computers.

    And as I mentioned in our previous podcast, Micrel, my company that I started in 1978, we were doing testing services. We got involved with IBM Boca Raton in the late seventies, early eighties, and them trying to build a personal computer without really the support of main corporate IBM. They were taking parts out of the mainframe computer and trying to use them in the PC. Of course they needed to have them retested because they were parts that were pulled out of PC boards. So our company, Micrel, was involved with them and doing the testing and validation of these parts.

    And so it was interesting that the personal computer really (more…)

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  • Silicon Valley History - Part 6

    Silicon Valley History – Part VI

    Ray Zinn, the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley, discusses the history of silicon as only he can, having watched it from Shockley to Facebook.

    In Part VI, Ray and Goldman Sachs analyst Peter Marchetti cover Ray’s invention of the wafer stepper and the next surge in semi tech.

    Peter Marchetti has spent the past 20 years as an advisor to some of the most significant families and foundations in the country. He joined the Goldman Sachs team  in 2000 after receiving his MBA from the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley.


    Ray Zinn: Hello everyone. This is Ray Zinn. I’m the author of Tough Things First and also Silicon Valley’s longest serving CEO and another advantage I have of course is I’ve had probably one of the most experienced lifestyles of any of the people in Silicon Valley, having started with semiconductors in Silicon Valley in 1963. So, we’re here talking about our history of Silicon Valley and this next series we’ll cover on a time period in the ’70’s again, because that was the real revolution that took place. It was in that ’70’s time period. And with me today, I have my good friend and buddy Pete Marchetti. Pete, welcome back.

    Peter Marchetti: Thanks again for having me Ray, looking forward to moving in to discussions that talk a little bit about your own career and personal time in the Valley.

    Ray Zinn: Well, thanks, Pete. Yeah, I’m excited about this series. I think this is a good series that we can have. It’s again, I don’t have perfect memory of everything. I had probably one of the longest serving tenures in semiconductors. And so, what we’ll be talking about today is just kind of a little bit more of my memory and history of semiconductors. Again, it’s not perfect. It’s just my recollection of things as according to me and my memory.

    Peter Marchetti: Shame on you for not being perfect Ray, but I think we’ll give you a pass.

    Ray Zinn: Oh, okay. Well, thanks Pete. Well, again, as you get older, you begin to forget about things. So, if I say things wrong or if things aren’t perfect, please correct me and we welcome any questions you have that’ll help jog my memory. So, as you listen to these podcasts, feel free to email us at toughthingsfirst.com or LinkedIn and we’ll respond. So, you can find us on Twitter and Facebook, LinkedIn, or on my website, Tough Things First. So, if you do have questions and I’m sure you will, feel free to ask and we’ll see what we can do to answer them. So today, what I thought we’d talk about is a little bit of my experience. So, back in the early ’70’s, I joined a company called Nortel Electronics. As again, is a semiconductor company, we were right next to door to National Semiconductor.

    And as I mentioned in our previous earlier podcasts that we had developed the Winship calculator. So then, I left and ultimately joined an equipment company called Electromask. And we made photomask equipment for the semiconductor industry. A photomask equipment is a tool that is used to image the circuitry onto the Silicon wafer. And so, while I was there at Electromask, which was located down in Woodland Hills, California, I came up with the idea, after working with Texas Instruments in Dallas, I came up with this idea of using photo lithographic technology to image the circuitry on the wafer directly without going through an intermediate step, which was referred to as a mask, M-A-S-K.

    So previously, we’re using masks to image the circuitry onto the wafer. And of course it was limiting because (more…)

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  • Silicon Valley History - Part V

    Silicon Valley History – Part V

    Ray Zinn, the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley, discusses the history of silicon as only he can, having watched it from Shockley to Facebook.

    In Part III, Ray and Goldman Sachs analyst Peter Marchetti cover the cultural influx and how that helped grow Silicon Valley.

    Peter Marchetti has spent the past 20 years as an advisor to some of the most significant families and foundations in the country. He joined the Goldman Sachs team  in 2000 after receiving his MBA from the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley.


    Ray Zinn: Hello, everyone. Welcome to another in a series of podcasts regarding the history of Silicon Valley. This is Ray Zinn and I’m the author of Tough Things First and also, one of the founding boys of Silicon Valley. I started in semi-conductors back in 1963, which was just seven years or six years after the industry actually started. So I had to be with you today to have this and the next series of podcasts on the history of the Valley.

    And with me is my good friend and buddy, Pete Marchetti. Pete is an investment advisor and counselor, a banker, as you would. And he’s very interested in semi-conductors and in Silicon Valley and its history. So welcome, Pete.

    Peter Marchetti: Thanks for having me again, Ray. Looking forward to learning a little bit more about the Valley and the things that have happened over the last 60 years.

    Ray Zinn: Yeah. So you had some questions when we ended the last podcast on Silicon Valley. So why don’t you start out with some of your questions you have.

    Peter Marchetti: Yeah. Well, on the last podcast, we kind of ended it with you talking about this massive influx of people from all over the world moving to the Valley to fill up all the positions that were needed from all the companies that were starting up in the semi space in particular. And it got me thinking about anytime you have that type of mass migration into an area, that it’s going to change the area quite a bit. And when you have people from all over the world, bringing different cultures and different foods and different ways of operating, that can be pretty interesting.

    I was just really curious on what were some of the things that you kind of witnessed being here, in terms of that evolution that was caused from all these people from all over the place coming here?

    Ray Zinn: Okay. Well, I can do that, Pete. So again, timeframe wise, we’re talking about the kind of their early days, late 60s, early 70s in Silicon Valley. Again, it was very dynamic. Lots of venture capital started up. A lot of very big venture capital firms, we call them VCs. Sand Hill Road, and Page Mill Road and Palo Alto and Menlo Park really began to take off. Very large amounts of money were pouring into the Valley. Huge amounts of money. I mean, everybody wanted to get on the semi-conductor bandwagon, the Silicon Valley as you would, golden goose. And so, tons of money was pouring in from all over the place. I mean, from Europe and Asia, you had a huge amount of influx of money. And so with that available, a lot of guys wanted to start these companies and you had startups happening almost daily.

    And so the cultural change, of course, with people coming from Asia and from Europe and from Canada and Mexico and all these different other countries, you had all this influx of India, the type of foods, just the whole ambiance was multinational. I mean, that’s one of the things that I think spurred the growth of Silicon Valley, was how (more…)

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  • Silicon Valley History - Part 4

    Silicon Valley History – Part IV

    Ray Zinn, the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley, discusses the history of silicon as only he can, having watched it from Shockley to Facebook.

    In Part III, Ray and Goldman Sachs analyst Peter Marchetti cover the further transition into computing along with the change and growth in silicon markets.

    Peter Marchetti has spent the past 20 years as an advisor to some of the most significant families and foundations in the country. He joined the Goldman Sachs team  in 2000 after receiving his MBA from the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley.


    Ray Zinn: Hello, everyone. This is Ray Zinn. I’m the author of Tough Things First and the host for this podcast series that we’re going to do on the history of Silicon Valley. And I’m just delighted to have my pal and good friend, Peter Marchetti as my guest today. Hello Peter, how you doing?

    Peter Marchetti: I’m doing great, Ray. Thanks again for having me. Looking forward to another podcast.

    Ray Zinn: Yeah, so Pete’s an enthusiast of Silicon Valley and its history and what’s happening in the valley and the changes that are taking place. Pete’s an investment counselor, advisor, a banker. And so he’s very interested in how Silicon Valley happened and where is it going? So I’m glad to have Pete with me today. He’s a MBA graduate from UC Berkeley. No offense on that one, Peter. Hi, hi. So…

    Peter Marchetti: None taken.

    Ray Zinn: … anyway again, welcome Pete. Thank you for joining us. So today what we’re going to cover is that period basically from the time that Bob Noyce and company left Fairchild to form Intel because a whole bunch of things just surrounds that time period. We’re going to try to cover up to 1980. So that’s the thinking for today.

    So with that in mind, Pete, to where we left off is Bob Noyce and Gordon Moore and company leaving Fairchild and going to Intel. The purpose of that, of course, is they were trying to form more of a computer-related company. And so Fairchild had a lot of discretes such as diodes and transistors and things like that. And so Intel was not going to go there. They were going to focus more on very complex microcircuits, as you would.

    And at about the same timeframe, a number of other folks began to enter the picture and a great surge and in semiconductor manufacturing or at least in startups began to happen at about this same time period. Many of the ones that left the Shockley and start off in different directions, forming companies like Raytheon Semiconductor, IMACO, Teledyne Semiconductor, Advanced Microcircuits, AMIX, and then Advanced Microdevices and National Semiconductor. So a whole bunch of companies started forming in about this same timeframe.

    So what happened was, Fairchild was kind of the darling kind of the golden boy of the sixties. And most of the products (more…)

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  • History of Silicon Valley - Part III

    Silicon Valley History – Part III

    Ray Zinn, the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley, discusses the history of silicon as only he can, having watched it from Shockley to Facebook.

    In Part III, Ray and Goldman Sachs analyst Peter Marchetti cover the shifts from chips, to computers, to software.

    Peter Marchetti has spent the past 20 years as an advisor to some of the most significant families and foundations in the country. He joined the Goldman Sachs team  in 2000 after receiving his MBA from the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley.


    Ray Zinn: Hello everyone. And welcome to another very exciting series of podcasts about the history of Silicon Valley. Everybody in the world knows about Silicon Valley, probably one of the most recognizable names in the world is Silicon Valley. In fact, I don’t tell anybody that I’m from the Bay Area. I just tell them I’m Silicon Valley because they know exactly where that is. So anyway, welcome to another of our… This is a third in our series of podcasts regarding the history of Silicon Valley. For those of you are interested in how it started and what it’s led up to and… Because we’re going to cover it all the way from the beginning, which is in 1957, to 2020. We’re going to talk about the history of the Valley for those 60 years, a little over 60 years. So again, thanks for joining us. We’re happy to have you back. And my good friend, Pete Marchetti, who is a financial advisor in the Bay Area is the host of our series. And thanks. Welcome Pete.

    Peter Marchetti: Thanks again for having me Ray. Again, looking forward to another exciting podcast and continuing to learn about Silicon Valley.

    Ray Zinn: Well, let’s get going. Let’s dive right into it.

    Peter Marchetti: The last podcast ended with you talking about Fairchild and the environment there, how it got started, the culture, and you were beginning to talk about some of the incredible employees of Fairchild, not just the founders, but other people that were there. And, we were beginning to branch into why Fairchild was so important in really developing the semiconductor industry and making Silicon Valley what it is today. So maybe a good place to start would be to continue to talk about some of the personalities that were there, what they were like, and then maybe we can branch into some of the things that they ended up doing once they left Fairchild.

    Ray Zinn: Sure. Okay. So we’re kind of up to about 1964 in the series. I mean, I’d been with Fairchild for one year and so in that one year, I can’t even tell you how much happened. I mean, it was unbelievable. The dynamics of the industry are changing so rapidly. We were struggling, and had been struggling, for the past three years in developing the first integrated circuit. So as I mentioned earlier, integrated circuit is combining multiple transistors on a single chip, meaning a single piece of silicon. So we had a group called DIC, Digital Integrated Circuits. That was the name of the department at Fairchild, and that was run by a fellow named Jack Gates. Jack is kind of a rough and tumble guy. I mean, I tell you not only is he big, he’s got a deep voice, but he’s also a violinist.

    And so it was really funny to see this big guy with his big fingers and playing this violin.. He was an exceptional violinist. But he was a head of the DIC group at Fairchild. In 1964, we had developed the first integrated circuit, a flip-flop, and that was excitement. I mean, that was so exciting I can remember that Jack was standing on his desk, playing his violin, doing a kind of an Irish toe dance, celebrating as we got the first integrated circuit to work. And that was an extremely important day. I am so grateful that I am part of that history, that I could be there on the very day that first integrated circuit was turned on. I can remember that day as clear as I’m sitting here talking to you is to hear Jack doing that Irish toe dance on his desk. I thought he was going to break that desk because he was so big, as we were all singing and dancing around and just cheering when we flipped on the tester and that flip-flop worked. I mean, I’ve never seen so much excitement in my entire life. (more…)

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  • History of Silicon Valley - Part II

    Silicon Valley History – Part II

    Ray Zinn, the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley, discusses the history of silicon as only he can, having watched it from Shockley to Facebook.

    In Part II, Ray and Goldman Sachs analyst Peter Marchetti cover the changes after silicon defined the tech-centric nature of the valley.

    Peter Marchetti has spent the past 20 years as an advisor to some of the most significant families and foundations in the country. He joined the Goldman Sachs team  in 2000 after receiving his MBA from the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley.


    Ray Zinn: Hello, everyone and welcome to the Second History of Silicon Valley this is Ray Zinn, a founder and author of Tough Things First and we’re so delighted to have you join us again. As I mentioned on our previous podcast, we’re going to be discussing the history of Silicon Valley. So those of you who are interested in Silicon Valley you’re going to enjoy these podcasts. Thanks for joining us and this is our second in our series of the podcast. If you missed our first one, you can go to our website, toughthingsfirst.com and pick it up and we would suggest you start from the beginning. So if you’re a newcomer to this series, please go back and then listen to them all in sequence otherwise it’ll be a little confusing. I have my good friend financial advisor, Pete Marchetti, who is joining us today as our moderator for Tough Things First, Silicon Valley history series. And so welcome again, Pete so happy to have you.

    Peter Marchetti: Thanks again for having me, Ray, I’m looking forward to continuing our series of talks.

    Ray Zinn: Where we left off was I started in 1963, I had left the United Technology and joined this new fledgling six year old company called Fairchild Camera and Instrument in Mountain View, California.

    Peter Marchetti: Yeah. Thanks Ray. Well, last podcast ended with you talking about how you became aware of Fairchild from your father-in-law and he kind of sold you on the idea of working at the company and you go there and I guess, it would be great to hear a little bit about what Fairchild represented back then, because I think and nowadays we all talk about other semiconductor companies, but not as much about Fairchild. It had a kind of out-sized importance in terms of the development of Silicon Valley and what it meant for the evolution of the area in the industry. And so could you talk a little bit about like where Fairchild was at that time and how important it was and maybe a little bit about how it began?

    Ray Zinn: Dr. Shockley left Bell Labs and he had a group of scientists, people that he brought with him to the Bay Area and primarily in the Palo Alto area. And again, just to rehash, Dr. Shockley is from Bell Labs in I think Pennsylvania where they were again, developing very high tech processors. And so there was a group of men, they were called the traitorous eight split away from Shockley and formed Fairchild. And Pete’s going to have to help me remember all these people’s names because he has that list in front of him. But there was Dr. Robert Noyce who ultimately, who was the CEO and President of Fairchild.

    So what just to kind of a quick rehash on that, Fairchild Camera and Instrument was a company back in Maine, I think, or somewhere around there and they made cameras and other kinds of instrumentation. And so that name, Fairchild Camera and Instrument actually was nothing related to semiconductors was more related to cameras and instrumentation more like Hewlett-Packard kind of a company. But anyway, they helped start or fund Fairchild Camera and Instrument is what it was called back in the late ’50s, early ’60s. And I joined them in 1963 where they had only been in business for six years. And so there’s Dr. Noyce, Robert Noyce, Gordon Moore, Jay Last, Jean Hoerni, Julius Blank, Andy Grove and who else did I miss?

    Peter Marchetti: We have Victor Grinich, Sheldon Roberts.

    Ray Zinn: Okay. And then- (more…)

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  • History of Silicon Valley - Part I

    Silicon Valley History – Part I

    Ray Zinn, the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley, discusses the history of silicon as only he can, having watched it from Shockley to Facebook.

    In Part I, Ray and Goldman Sachs analyst Peter Marchetti cover the early days of Silicon Valley and how that led to mass innovation.

    Peter Marchetti has spent the past 20 years as an advisor to some of the most significant families and foundations in the country. He joined the Goldman Sachs team  in 2000 after receiving his MBA from the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley.


    Ray Zinn: Hello, everyone. Welcome to another fantastic Tough Things First podcast. We’re so delighted to have you with us again today. This is going to be a very, very special series of podcasts that we’re going to do, which is all about the history of Silicon Valley. You’re going to get to hear from start to finish, if you’re interested anyway, about Silicon Valley, you’re going to get a chance to hear about that. It’s great to have a very special guest today, someone who is a good friend of mine who has expressed a lot of interest in the history of Silicon Valley.

    It’s because of him that I’ve decided to do this series of a broadcast. Now we’re not sure how many is doing a high out, but my guess is somewhere between five and six will be about the history of Silicon Valley. It’s going to take a bit of time to cover all this. We apologize in advance. If it seems a little bit chopped up as we go through it, because in 60 years, that’s a lot of history. With me today, I have my good friend, Pete Marchetti, who is a financial advisor. Welcome, Pete, to the podcast.

    Peter Marchetti: Morning, Ray. Thanks for having me. I’m excited.

    Ray Zinn: Well, I’m excited too. Let’s just dive into it. I’m going to give a little bit of a preliminary about this so that people will understand. Silicon Valley really didn’t become the name Silicon Valley until 1969, but it actually started much earlier than that, the whole thing about Silicon Valley, the area, anyway. We call it the Bay Area right now. Just a little bit of a background there. The people that were actually the founders of Silicon Valley as you would, what they call the Traitorous Eight, actually began back at Bell Labs in I think Pennsylvania.

    Bell Labs actually started from Alexander Graham Bell who actually invented the telephone. The name Bell Labs comes from his name, Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, which is, again, probably our first electronics that we’ve ever had. Anyway, and so that’s a bit of a start of that that I want to cover, is that the Bell Labs people were the ones that actually got this thing undergoing in Dr. Shockley who left Bell Labs and then took with him the Traitorous Eight and came to the Bay Area, basically, in the area of Palo Alto, Mountain View area. With that, Pete, you’re going to be the guest speaker today. You start firing away with your questions, because you have lots of interesting questions.

    Peter Marchetti: Yeah. Well, I appreciate that, Ray. As I said, I’m excited to be here today. We’ve had a lot of conversations over the years about, through your experiences, what Silicon Valley is and how it’s evolved to where it is today. I got to say, I think there’s very few people out there that have not just the experience of having worked in the namesake industry for as long as you did and running companies and being involved in the industry, but then also have the amazing ability to recollect names and anecdotes and just situations.

    Through our conversations, I know I’ve learned a lot. I got to say, today, I’m really interested as just another kind of a listener of the podcast, if you will, to hear more of your stories. One of the things that I guess when I think about our discussions that I’ve never really hear you talk about is, you grew up in the Imperial Valley really far Southern California. I think it was a little bit more of a rural area where you grew up. Then you went to school in Utah. Again, not really a metropolitan area, I think, around BYU.

    Then you decided to come to Silicon Valley or what was not then yet Silicon Valley. You decided to move to the Bay Area to work in transistors. I guess I am wondering, what led to that? What was the allure at the time for somebody like you, a young engineer who had been from other parts of the country to move here at that time? What drew you? (more…)

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  • Trey Taylor's A CEO Does Only Three Things

    Trey Taylor and the CEO’s Three Things

    Ray Zinn, the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley, sits with Trey Taylor, author of “A CEO Only Does Three Things” for a chat about the priorities facing every business leader.


    Ray Zinn: Hello everyone, this is Ray Zinn. I’m the author of Tough Things First. Welcome to another Tough Things First podcast. We really appreciate you joining us and listening to these podcasts. My guest today is Trey Taylor. He is the author of a new book, brand new book, called, A CEO Does Only Three Things. I’m so happy to have you on Trey. Why don’t you give us a little bit of background on your book, and why you wrote the book, and then we’ll take it from there.

    Trey Taylor: Yeah, Ray, great. Thanks for having me and good to be with you. I get asked this question a couple of times a week now with the book being on Amazon and doing a lot of media in support of the book. The answer is pretty simple. I heard a speaker one day say that the only moral imperative we have is to be the person we needed when we were younger. I thought, gosh, that’s just a good way to live your life. I really noodled on that for a long time. One of the answers I came up with was that I needed a book on how to be a CEO when I was a young CEO. I set that out as a journey a couple of years ago and wrote the book and present it as a gift to those CEOs who are starting out now. But then as the book has come into its own, I’ve heard from CEOs who’ve had the position for a long time, that there’s wisdom in it for them as well, that concept of finding your focus in the C-suite again. So, it’s had a really good reception in the market, and for that, I’m grateful.

    Ray Zinn: It’s interesting, a CEO does lots of things. Your book really focuses on the three things that they really have to do, as opposed to the three things that they do do. It’s interesting that you concentrated on the three things they must do, as opposed to the many things that they do on a daily basis. I’ve been a CEO for 37 years and run my company through many, many downturns and difficult times. I can certainly empathize with your point that there may be lots of things they do, but only three things that they must do. Let’s review those, if you would. Trey I’ll let you start off by talking, what’s the first thing that they must do?

    Trey Taylor: Yeah, absolutely. It’s just like you and I were talking previously, every CEO says, oh gosh, I wish I had three things to do and only three things to do. Of course, we understand that, we understand that the task list is always there, the to do list is always there. You have things that you need to assist in, things that you need to touch, that sort of thing. But the three things that we think a CEO should really only do are the three things that the CEO only can do. No one else in the organization can own those things. So, those three things are culture, people and numbers. When we talk about those, we talk about those in terms of the CEO setting the agenda and giving the model for what a successful implementation unique to those three verticals looks like. If we took the first one, it would be culture.

    Ray Zinn: Okay, let’s talk a little bit about how important culture is. (more…)

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  • Gloabl technology, nationalism, commerce and security

    Tech Nationalism

    Tech Nationalism is driving China’s near-term goals. Can the U.S. compete and what do startups need to know about this tech tug-o-war?

    Ray Zinn is back with another informative episode of the Tough Things First podcast.

    (more…)

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  • Onshore or offshore supply chain decisions

    Supply Chains – The Onshore Option

    Are jobs and manufacturing poised to return to the United States? What will it take?

    In this Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn discusses the dynamics of offshoring and hurdles to balancing out the benefits other countries offer.


    Rob Artigo: Rob Artigo here once again, your guest host for this edition of ‘The Tough Things First’ podcast. I’m a writer, an investigator in California being invited back, always a pleasure, Ray.

    Ray Zinn: Well, thanks, Rob. It’s always good to have you on the program with me because you always had these interesting subjects and topics you want to discuss.

    Rob Artigo: Thanks, Ray. So I went to Best Buy and Fry’s Electronics in just one day during the pandemic to find a radio and what I found was a lot of empty shelf space and it was actually disconcerting and bothered me because the products that I wanted were not there first of all. But a lot of products that were normally there aren’t there. And I suspect that it couldn’t only be a matter of people over shopping right now, but it was also something that went to the interruption of the supply chain. So even before the pandemic, the president was suggesting the US would pay companies in the supply chain to bring the supply chain back to the continental US. So I’m wondering in your mind, is this a feasible and noble idea for the US to want to bring the supply chain back to our continent?

    Ray Zinn: Well, it’s like the stimulus package that 2 trillion or… Whatever, I can’t remember the exact number, but this is a couple of trillion dollars worth of stimulus. And so it’s not unusual for a country, whether it be the US or any other country, to offer a stimulus, to help out in a particular situation. The current stimulus, which of course, was to help families through this shutdown and through the economic recession that we had introduced by the coronavirus.

    How does stuff get outsourced? In other words is let’s talk about how does products and technology get outsourced to begin with? It’s very simple. Countries like Ireland and China and Korea and Taiwan, Singapore, India, they all offer stimulus and incentives. They’ll say, okay, if you’ll bring your company or a part of your company to our country, we’ll buy you a building, you’ll pay no taxes. And that’s one of the problems that we’ve had by the way, is that we’ve not taxed companies, US companies that have gone out outsourcing outside. So we’ve not, apparently, not thought that was a bad deal, but like anything else that pendulum swings too far. And as a consequence our country suffers, employment suffers because now we’re outsourcing these jobs in this technology. (more…)

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  • How startups can make smart product choices

    How to Set SMART Startup Goals at The Idea Stage

    Not all start-up ideas are created equally. In fact, most are doomed to failure.

    Are there ways to determine if an idea is worth pursuing before you hit a wall? Ray Zinn, in this Tough Things First podcast, says yes, but it means self-critique and asking the toughest questions in the idea stage.


    Rob Artigo: I’m Rob Artigo, your guest host for this edition of Tough Things First. Hi, Ray. It’s good to be back with you.

    Ray Zinn: Well, thanks, Rob. I’m glad you were able to join me today.

    Rob Artigo: I was reading today about the failure of ambitious bike share programs across China. You’ve probably heard about this, the bike sharing apps out there. We’ve got them in this country too, but in China it was supposed to be a boom because China has been known for bikes for many years. And apparently, the companies across China that had been doing these bike shares are failing.

    The story that I was reading says, “Unused bikes are piling up in bicycle graveyards. Cues of angry users are demanding their deposits back.” And it says that, “It’s obvious just how doomed the idea was from the start. The rise and fall of the China bike craze played out like a sped up version of every tech bubble, an unprofitable idea sustained by fantasy, false predictions and the power of bigger firms.”

    I don’t want to talk about bikes and I don’t really want to talk about China in this case, but I want to talk about that last part though, “The craze played out like a sped up version of every tech bubble with an unprofitable idea sustained by fantasy, false predictions and the power of bigger firms.” I want to talk about ideas, but first let me get this from you. The shortlist of pitfalls. This one here that I just mentioned should be on anyone’s shortlist of concerns at the idea phase of any startup. Am I right?

    Ray Zinn: Right. You start out by saying in the article, it talked about the doomed idea. It should be dumb idea. What dooms us or dumbs us down is the fact that we are so caught up, we’re so enthusiastic about what we’re doing that we don’t sit back and think about the pros and cons.

    When you’re starting up a company or you come up with an idea, you got to go through what we call the pros and the cons, pros being the reason why you want to do it, the cons, reasons you he shouldn’t do it. And I think that’s what’s missing is that the cons tend to be overlooked. And the cons should be equal in number as the pros.

    In fact, what I liked to see when I was running my company, Micrel Semiconductor, was when people brought in their proposal, which is like an idea, I looked to see how many cons they have. And if they have more cons than they do pros, that excites me. Then I thought, “Oh man, they’re really looking into this.” So I’m actually looking for more reasons why not to do it than to do it, because I know that we’re trying to drink our own Kool-Aid. And as a consequence of that, we tend to overlook the reasons why not to do it. So cons of course, are the reasons not to do a particular idea. (more…)

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  • How to not be your employees friend and still have a good working relationship

    Friendly, Not Friends

    Entrepreneurs can either learn this quickly or slowly, but eventually they’ll learn or fail.

    Relationships with employees are about being friendly, not being friends.

    In this episode of the Tough Things First Podcast, Ray Zinn offers insights and examples to one of the most common workplace management problems.


    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: Rob, hey. It’s good to be back on the program with you.

    Rob Artigo: Sure. Got a good topic for you, but I sometimes watch Food Network and a show called Restaurant: Impossible because being a business guy, I just like to watch how people fix problems with their businesses. And this chef, Robert Irvine, goes around the country and he breathes new life into these restaurants. He redecorates, but also shows them what’s wrong with what they’re doing with their businesses.

    As an entrepreneur, particularly a new one, there are lots of management lessons to be had in shows like this. And I saw an episode recently where the owner operator of the restaurant was… She was an extremely nice lady. So probably somewhere around middle-aged. But again, a very gracious, nice lady and meant very well. Some of her employees were her own offspring. So she had a son who was a chef and she had some daughters who were working in the restaurant waitressing and managing the front of the house, as they call it. And one of her major faults, perhaps the major fault and why her business was failing was she handled the employees with kid gloves, like a mom or somebody who’s trying to be the friend of the employee. She even said, “I want to be their friend.”

    And so as a result, they walked all over her and she did most of the work herself. I mean, she would do cleaning that a regular employee should be doing, but she would stay late and have to do the cleaning because those people that were supposed to be doing it, didn’t do it and then she didn’t hold them accountable. So what she learned was we want to be friendly with our employees, but not be their friend. I imagine that you, with all of your experience managing people at all levels of business, had to learn that early on in order to get things done, that there was a relationship that you had to establish with people that had boundaries.

    Ray Zinn: Well, it’s the same thing with parents. How do you be a child’s friend without looking like their sibling? And that’s what happened in this case that you referred to with this owner, female owner, who was being too friendly [inaudible 00:03:06] not willing to push her people. And so therefore they pushed her. And so how does a parent become a friend of the child without being, or become friendly with the child without being their friend? And that sense of the word of co-equal. That’s the challenge that all business owners have is to be friendly, but not be their friend as you would. And so there’s a difference between being too cozy with someone and then yet being friendly. When I was running my company, I’d make a habit of going around saying hi and visiting with people, but not becoming too close. (more…)

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  • Three Tough Things to do to make your business last the ages

    Creating Enduring Businesses – The Top Three Tough Things To DO

    To create an enduring business means creating one that will last. That is different than creating a startup and selling it off.

    Ray Zinn, Silicon Valley’s longest serving CEO, and one who ran his semiconductor business for 37 years, tells you the top three things you need to do to make your business enduring.


    Guy Smith: Hello everybody, and welcome to another special edition of the Tough Things First podcast. This is something we’re doing differently this year, several times a year we’re going to have a special episode where we talk about the top three tough things that you as a business leader need to do for a specific topic. And today we’re going to talk about the tough things first that you need to do to build an enduring business. Now, what do we mean by enduring business? I’m going to cheat here because I took this from Ray Zinn’s book, Tough Things First. And an enduring business is one that is not designed to be a bottle rocket, it’s designed to be a hoist, it’s designed to be steady day in, day out, profitable for this generation, for the next generation, for the generation after that. And that’s what Silicon Valley often avoids doing, is building enduring businesses. So we’re going to talk with Ray Zinn and we’re going to get those top three things to build the enduring business. And on that note, hello Ray, how are you?

    Ray Zinn: Doing fine Guy, thanks for this opportunity to meet with you us again, to talk about the top three tough things first that we need to do.

    Guy Smith: Well, and I think it’s important for your audience to keep in mind that Ray is literally the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley. I mean, he is a legend out there, the way that he started his company, the level of employee commitment to his company as demonstrated by the low turnover rate, and the number of people who left the company and then came running back because they discovered it really was a great place to work. All of this fits into today’s topic about the enduring business and Ray’s advice is to how to do that. So let’s jump right into that, Ray. Tell me what the number one aspect of building an enduring business is. What’s the first thing every business leader needs to focus on?

    Ray Zinn: Well, I’d like just to go back a minute where you’re talking about what is enduring. Enduring is the opposite of endearing. Enduring, as you pointed out, is like a hoist. It’s sustainable, it doesn’t fizzle out. Endearing is like the 4th of July fireworks, that looks great for about 20 minutes, everything’s all wonderful and you’re all excited, and then it fizzles out. So the endearing companies fizzle out, the enduring companies don’t look glamorous in the sense of word. They can take and sustain great loads for long periods of time. And so to do that, the first thing you got to do is make sure that when you start your business, if you’re a startup, or even if you’re in a company or a business that has been underway for a while, is to make sure you have enough cash to sustain yourself. That you’re not just here today, gone tomorrow, sustain yourself means that you are profitable.

    And then that means having enough cash to take you to profitability. And so if you’re say on net 30 days (more…)

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  • Leadership strategies for managing work stress

    Strategies for Managing Work Stress

    No matter what phase a company is in, or the level of employee or management, work stress goes with the territory.

    In this Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn draws on decades of experience to talk about identifying stress and dealing with it before it throws you off your game.

     


     

    Rob Artigo: Welcome back to another edition of the Tough Things First podcast. I’m your guest host, Rob Artigo. I am a writer and entrepreneur in California. Hi, Ray.

    Ray Zinn: Hello there, Rob. So good to be with you this morning.

    Rob Artigo: Sure. I hope you’re not too stressed.

    Ray Zinn: Well, in these days with all the things that are going on, this pandemic and economic issues and political issues, you just can’t help but be stressed.

    Rob Artigo: Yeah, I guess it’s kind of natural. So, that’s where we lead into here. And stress at work, it seems, is about as ubiquitous as stress in life. In particular, like you said, in a situation like this. And I think it comes down to a matter of degree. And most times in our lives, we don’t have as much turmoil as we have now, but it sort of depends on how we respond to it. And so let’s talk about the workplace stress aspect of it and inside and outside of the situation that we’re facing now, but something that we would most likely face going forward is our stress in our workplace. So is workplace stress inevitable?

    Ray Zinn: Yes. We talk about stress as though it’s some kind of a medical issue, but stress actually comes from fear and fear is the predecessors to stress. So we’re fearing something and that’s what causes us to be stressed. And so if we can recognize these fears, it’s kind of like climbing a mountain that’s got some really difficult slopes to it. And so as you approach the precipice or whatever it is you’ve got to navigate around, there’s stress. And so if you’ve done it before, in other words, you’ve made that climb many, many times before, then the stress is down because the fear is down. You’re just less fearful.

    A friend of mine was doing a serious climb up in the Grand Tetons and he had never done it before. He didn’t eat, he didn’t sleep, he just tossed and turned. He says, “Why am I doing this? Why am I tearing my mind up and my body up just so I can say, ‘I climbed the Grand Tetons.'” We all face at some point a Grand Teton type journey, where if we’ve never done it before, if this is something new and different, there is that potential to not sleep well, to not eat well.

    The first thing you have to do is recognize whether or not you are engaged in a stressful situation. You can tell that by, are you agitated? Are you eating well or correctly? Are you sleeping well? And so I think that the first thing to do is just really sit back and just kind of analyze what’s causing my stress. And then if you can kind of understand it, then you can probably reduce the fear factor. You’re not going to get totally rid of it, but you will understand why am I fearful? What is causing this anxiety? (more…)

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  • Michael Canic and Ray Zinn discuss Ruthless Consistancy

    Ruthless Consistency

    Ray Zinn sits with Michael Canic to discuss Michael’s new book, Rutheless Consistancy and how discipline fits into the business consistency framework.


    Ray Zinn: Hello, everyone, and welcome to another very exciting Tough Things First podcast. My name is Ray Zinn. I’m the host for today’s podcast. I’m an author. I’m the one that wrote Tough Things First, as well as the Zen of Zinn, I’m a adjunct professor, a lecturer, Silicon Valley’s longest serving CEO of a public traded company. And I’m very excited to have with me today Michael Canic, who will be our guest speaker. Welcome. Happy to have you today, Michael.

    Michael Canic: Great. Great to be here, Ray. Thanks.

    Ray Zinn: Yeah. And Michael has just written a very, very exciting new book called Ruthless Consistency. Wow. What a title. And Michael is a coach. He’s been a teacher, and now an author, and also a trainer. I’m just so excited to have you on the program today.

    So let’s talk about your new book, Michael, this Ruthless Consistency, as you refer to it. So in your book, you talk about developing the right focus, creating the right environment and also building the right team. So why all three of those?

    Michael Canic: Well, what I found in my experience as a consultant and in the corporate world, also as a football coach, as you said, Ray, is that when you look at why organizations fail or succeed, what I found was that every case of failure I looked at and studying why organizations fail, either they hadn’t developed a clear focus, clear and sustained focus, or they didn’t create the right environment for their people to be successful in executing it, or they didn’t have the right team. And every initiative always comes down to those three things. Do we have the right focus, right environment, and right team? When you have all three of those aligned, those are the organizations that can win.

    Ray Zinn: Yeah, perfect. I’m a big advocate of consistency. I think of consistency as being something that if you want to talk about being dogged and so forth… Ruthless, though, sounds a little bit ruthless. So how’d you pick the name ruthless as opposed to dogged or persistent?

    Michael Canic: Well, just to say consistency, everybody goes, “Yeah, yeah. Be consistent.” But what I wanted to convey with ruthless was this unwavering commitment, this absolute unwavering commitment where everything you say, everything you do, all your decisions, all your actions are absolutely aligned with what your goal is, your intention. So the notion of ruthless really is just that unwavering commitment to being consistent with what your intended outcomes are. (more…)

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  • Managing a distributed, at-home workforce

    Worker Decentralization

    World circumstances put more people in a work-from-home situation and companies forced to manage it than ever before.

    In this Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn explores the trend and its drawbacks.


    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 being invited back. Always a pleasure, Ray.

    Ray Zinn: Rob, it’s all good to have because you have all these great questions you want to discuss.

    Rob Artigo: Well, I think this one’s going to be an interesting topic because with all the pandemic and everything, people’s lives have changed a lot. Many people are working from home. I can’t think of a more glaring example of work from home possibilities than what we’ve witnessed during the pandemic. I read an article by a top UBS executive who laid out some moves by the Swiss bank to tackle the future of work, and they’re rethinking their real estate, its footprint out there. They’re also using lessons from the pandemic to accelerate change in all kinds of different ways.

    I know that can be a can of worms in many ways because it can go off in so many different directions, but let’s look specifically at businesses, large and small, startups that can be five or six people to companies like Google or Facebook. I know some people working for Facebook who’ve been working from home for months and months on end and not going into their gigantic campus that they have there in the Silicon Valley. So let’s look at that, extreme staffing levels maybe to just a skeleton crew and so many people working from home. Is reducing brick and mortar footprints for big companies or even small companies, worker decentralization, that’s in not having them at a central workplace but having them work from home, is that the wave of the future?

    Ray Zinn: Well, it certainly will be. This is kind of getting off the subject a little bit, but I haven’t been able to get in to see a barber since March. So my wife has been cutting my hair, and she’s learned to cut it and she’s doing a good job. So in my case, I won’t be going back to the barber again. I’ll just had my wife cut my hair. So it’s that similar situation, people having to eat at home now are getting out of the habit of going out to eat. I have a son-in-law, my daughter and her husband, go out to eat four times a week, but they haven’t been able to save pandemic. They’re out of the habit of going out to eat, so they’re just learning to eat at home. (more…)

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  • Greedy CEOs want it all, and can destroy a company

    Greedy CEOs

    Some CEOs are greedy, for their wallets, for market share, for fame.

    Silicon Valley’s longest serving CEO has seen them come and go, and now tells you how to watch out for them


    Guy Smith: Hello, faithful listeners in the Tough Things First podcast arena. This is Guy Smith. I’m your host today. And as always, we’re having a chat with the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley, Mr. Ray Zinn. And we’re going to talk about something which I find intriguing, we’re going talk about greedy CEOs and the damage they do to their companies.

    We see quite a bit of this in Silicon Valley, CEOs who have jettison ethics and a few other things in order to get those top line revenues up, and to make themselves or their companies look very good in the public eye, only to have them eventually look very bad in the public eye. So we’ll jump into that right away. And hello, Mr. Ray Zinn. How are you today?

    Ray Zinn: Doing fine, Guy. Thanks again for being with me on this program.

    Guy Smith: Well, these chats I have with you are the best business education I have ever gotten in my life. And that’s saying a bit, because I have a degree in management sciences. And so, drinking from your fire hose is quite a satisfying thing for me.

    So, let’s talk about these greedy CEOs. I’m not going to drop names, but anyone who’s been working in Silicon Valley can probably think about half a dozen of these gritty CEO types right off the top of their head. They have this maniacal pursuit for top line growth at all cost. And I think it’s that all costs, which is defining this. So why do CEOs do this? I mean, you ran a company for 37 years. You were profitable all but one year, and that one year was the outlier year at the dot-com implosion.

    You never had to chase that top line growth. You were always more worried about the bottom line growth. So why do other CEOs go running mashugana off into the field chasing this top line growth? (more…)

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  • How to identify and cure a toxic corporate culture

    Toxic Corporate Culture

    How do toxic corporate cultures arise, and how do you cure them? The Silicon Valley leader with the lowest employee turnover rate tells you.


    Guy Smith: Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Tough Things First podcast, where we pick the brain of Silicon Valley’s longest serving CEO, Mr. Ray Zinn. I think today’s going to be an interesting topic, at least for me, because we’re going to talk about toxic corporate cultures. I have been in my share of those in my past. My name is Guy Smith. I’m your host today and with us again as always Mr. Ray Zinn. How are you, sir?

    Ray Zinn: Well, we’re doing fine. It’s a beautiful day outside. Yesterday it was kind of funny had a Tom turkey gobbling around my yard, which was a first for me that was kind of interesting to see him wandering around. My wife said, “Oh, early Thanksgiving.”

    Guy Smith: Well, when I finally left Silicon Valley and went out to North Carolina, I’ve got turkeys and black bears and all sorts of things roaming around in my front yard, it’s a veritable zoo out there. Let’s talk about the zoo of toxic corporate cultures because boy, those places can seem like a dog eat dog world. What I’m really curious about, more than anything else is what causes a toxic culture to develop? I mean, what are the seeds and how did those seeds grow to the point where an organization is just all about backbiting and all the negative things that make organizations not work well?

    Ray Zinn: I’d say in one word, it’s apathy, apathy toward having a corporate culture. Like a stream, it’s going to seek the path of least resistance. When you talk about apathy toward a corporate culture, just letting whatever culture is dominant prevail, and that’s a sad thing. It’s become more of a live and let live kind of mentality or work and let work as you would.

    Guy Smith: That’s an interesting contrast, sir, because I’ve studied a little criminology in my past. I know that in certain inner city subcultures, there is a complete apathy towards the community towards your fellow man. I think you’re onto something here. Once that apathy settles in, then it becomes the norm and no one cares enough to try to improve the situation.

    Ray Zinn: Well it’s apathy toward obeying the law. Anytime you have apathy toward anything, apathy toward quality apathy toward service, apathy toward allegiance, apathy toward loyalty, apathy toward country, apathy toward anything it’s going to become toxic.

    Guy Smith: Well, and that may explain a little bit about our current political conundrum. Where does this apathy normally start from? I mean, does it start from the bottom or does it start from the top or can it start anywhere? (more…)

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  • How entrepreneurs keep going, and going, and going

    Being Best When You Aren’t Feeling It

    It can sometimes be painfully obvious we’re not physically or mentally up to a task, but what happens when we turn the situation into an opportunity to challenge ourselves?

    Ray Zinn tells us in this Tough Things First Podcast that we can learn surprising things about ourselves with the attitude that “the show must go on.”


    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 you doing?

    Ray Zinn: Oh, it’s always enjoyable to do these with you, Rob. Doing great.

    Rob Artigo: And I appreciate it too. And I know you have some appreciation for the theater and I know you’ve probably heard the saying, the show must go on. And of course, that’s a reference to a stage acting reference. Basically, the show depends on ticket sales. The audience must get the show that they came for. If the star or the key players can’t perform because of illness or something else, the show loses money and it fails. So then becomes the saying, the show must go on. So we know that life can be that way. And business is often that way. The show must go on. And I’m not saying you work when you got the flu and 102 degree temperature or something like that. You stay home and take care of your health, that’s good.

    And hopefully you have a plan for having people pick up the Slack when you’re not around, but I’m talking about, when you are at work, when you are available to do the job, how do you perform at your best when you aren’t feeling your best? I mean, when you feel wrecked and tired and you still have to put up the the performance in the work, the standards that you live by. They say, “I feel like a million bucks.” Let’s say you feel like 52.95 and you have to perform like a million bucks. How do we do that in the work environment?

    Ray Zinn: Well, it goes to the saying also, when the going gets tough, the tough get going. And so I know you’re not referring only to the people with 102 degree temperature that are still performing their particular show because there are people who do that. I mean, you hear about this all the time that somebody who had pneumonia or somebody who had some terrific illness or cancer. Look at Rush Limbaugh. I mean, he’s continued to do his daily podcast. (more…)

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  • The top three things to do when pitching to VCs

    Pitching Your Company – The Top Three Tough Things

    Silicon Valley’s longest serving CEO talks about the three tough things to do when pitching your company.

    If you don’t do these, don’t bother the investors.


    Guy Smith: Hello everybody and welcome to another episode of the Tough Things First podcast. And this is one of our specials. We’re doing this periodically. We are talking with Ray Zinn, the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley. And we’re getting from him the top three tough things that a business leader needs to consider for a particular business episode that they’re facing. And what we’re going to do today is going to be so choice for the people in Silicon Valley, all the founders, all the co-founders, all the startup aficionados. It’s the tough top three things to consider when you’re pitching your company. And I was in Silicon Valley for over 22 years, I’ve been on both sides of the table pitching and hearing pitches and I’ve got to tell you, after all this time, a lot of people in Silicon Valley still don’t get it right. I have personally turned down, probably I’m going to say about 75 different presentations simply because the people weren’t even prepared to give a presentation, which of course gave me no faith that they could run a company.

    So first let’s welcome on Ray Zinn. Hello Ray, how art thou?

    Ray Zinn: We art very good, Guy, thank you. It’s a beautiful day here and I’m just glad to be with you.

    Guy Smith: Oh, I’m always glad to be with you. It’s educational in ways that I can not begin to explain. So let’s jump into this pitching your company, which is kind of like a national pastime in Silicon Valley and expanding nationally as we begin to see how entrepreneurial centers are kind of erupting in various places around the country. So what are the top three tough things that a founder needs to consider when they’re pitching their company?

    Ray Zinn: Well, the message should be very clear. In other words, if you can’t get your message across within the first minute or two, you’re probably going to lose your audience. And so that’s one of the first thing is to have that mission statement so clear and so precise that they immediately understand what it is that you’re doing and when and where you’re headed. (more…)

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  • Jennifer Chatman, Professor at U.C. Berkeley

    Corporate Culture, Part 3 – in conversation with Professor Jennifer Chatman

    Third and final part of a series where Silicon Valley’s longest serving CEO chats with Professor Jennifer Chatman, a Distinguished Professor of Management and the Associate Dean for Learning Strategies at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley.

    Professor Chatman is also the Director of the Berkeley Culture Initiative, a program with the goal of identifying the most promising opportunities and challenges facing leaders who harness organizational culture as a strategic resource.


    Guy Smith: Welcome to the third and final episode in this three part series of the Tough Things First podcast, where with the help of an expert and the experience of Silicon Valley’s longest serving CEO, we are exploring the topic of corporate culture, what it is, how you shape it, how it facilitates innovation, performance, and everything else that’s necessary for your company. Now, if you did not absorb the first two installments of this series, you might want to give them a listen first. We cover how leaders shape culture, how and why it affects innovation. And in Silicon Valley, innovation is everything. So today we’re going to wrap up the discussion and we’re going to talk about challenge and performance.

    Now for this series, we’re joined by Professor Jennifer Chatman, distinguished professor of management and the Associate Dean for learning strategies at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley. Professor Chatman is also the Director of the Berkeley Culture Initiative, a program with the distinct goal of identifying the most promising opportunities and challenges facing leaders who harness organizational culture as a strategic resource. So, welcome Professor Chatman, and thank you for joining with us for these three episodes.

    Professor Chatman: It’s great to be back again, Guy.

    Guy Smith: Wonderful. And as always, Ray Zinn, Silicon Valley’s longest serving CEO and a fellow who knows a heck of a lot himself about positive corporate cultures. Hello, Ray.

    Ray Zinn: Hi, Guy. Thank you for helping us put this series together. And again, express a deep appreciation to Dr. Chatman for her willingness to help us with this important series.

    Guy Smith: We’re going to start this one just a little bit different. Really, I’m going to pitch a question to Ray because I suspect you have faced more than a few culture change moments in the 37 years that you led Micrel’s semiconductor. So tell us a little bit of your perspective about leading an organization culture change. And then if you will, professor, discuss why changing culture can increase team and organizational performance. So Ray, what kind of organizational culture changes did you have to work your way through?

    Ray Zinn: Well, life is a learning process. I mean, when we stop learning, we actually die. So, I just learned in my previous job before starting Micrel, I learned by being an employee at these various other companies, what seemed to work and what didn’t work. I’m a student. I’ve always been a student my whole life. Even though I got a master’s degree in business, I still felt I had more to learn. And so I really studied all these different companies and what seems to work and what didn’t work. Even if I didn’t work for them, I would look at them. For example, Jack Welch at GE. I Looked at what he was doing, what worked for him.

    And so I really, really am a student of what works and what doesn’t work. And I try to take the best of these different companies and what worked for them and tried to incorporate them, or not tried, I did incorporate them at Micrel, the company that I founded and ran for 37 years. So was that book, Good, Better, Better, or Good, Better, Best, or whatever it is. And so I just wanted to make Micrel the best that there is in the world as far as a company. And that means I had to have the best or the very best culture. So, I learned because I worked at different companies for a number of years what worked and what I thought didn’t work. So that’s how I got started on Micrel. And then I just kept perfecting it and working until I got to the point where I thought that we could be a very efficient and productive company. In fact, Micrel was considered to be the biggest little company in the world.

    Guy Smith: So professor, talk to us a little bit about changing culture and how this relates to increasing team and organizational performance.

    Professor Chatman: Well, sure. So in the first two podcasts, we talked about the three criteria for developing an effective culture. The culture needs to be strategically relevant, strong, and adaptive over time. And so if you look at your organization and recognize there are some gaps between where you’d like to be in terms of those three criteria and where your organization actually is, well, that means you have a change project on your hands. And so we talk about there being four levers for changing a culture when you have gaps. And the four levers are pretty straightforward, and these are good places to start to look for ways of making your culture more effective, leveraging your culture for strategic success. So let me just talk through briefly what each of the four is. (more…)

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  • Jennifer Chatman, Professor at U.C. Berkeley

    Corporate Culture, Part 2 – in conversation with Professor Jennifer Chatman

    Part two of three in a series where Silicon Valley’s longest serving CEO chats with Professor Jennifer Chatman, a Distinguished Professor of Management and the Associate Dean for Learning Strategies at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley.

    Professor Chatman is also the Director of the Berkeley Culture Initiative, a program with the goal of identifying the most promising opportunities and challenges facing leaders who harness organizational culture as a strategic resource.


    Guy Smith: Welcome to the second in a three part series of the Tough Things First podcast, where we, with the help of an imported expert and the experience of Silicon Valley’s longest serving CEO, are going to explore the topic of corporate culture, what it is, how you shape it, how it facilitates innovation and performance, and quite a bit more. Now if you did not listen to the first installment of this three part series, you might want to give it a listen first. Not essential, but it does lay some ground work and helps us more deeply investigate what corporate culture is and why it is so vitally important.

    For this series, we’re joined by Professor Jennifer Chapman, distinguished professor of management and the Associate Dean for learning strategies at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley. Professor Chapman is also the director of the Berkeley Culture Initiative, a program with the distinct goal of identifying the most promising opportunities and the biggest challenges facing leaders who harness organizational culture as a strategic resource. So welcome Professor Chapman, and thank you once again for being with us.

    Professor Chatman: Thanks Guy. I’m glad to be back.

    Guy Smith: We’re glad to have you back too.

    Ray Zinn: I’m glad to have her back too, Guy.

    Guy Smith: And that was Ray Zinn, the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley and a man who’s no stranger to shaping corporate culture himself. Hello Ray, always good to be with you.

    Ray Zinn: So glad to be here Guy, with such a rockstar like Professor Chapman. So I really appreciate her coming back on and I’m very anxious to do this particular podcast.

    Guy Smith: Well let’s get on with it. Now in episode one, Ray and Professor Chapman discussed how leaders can create or craft a strategically aligned execution based culture. So today, they’re going to discuss the adaptability advantage and how business leaders can cultivate a culture of innovation. Now Ray’s company, Micrel, was highly innovative. Ray himself holds numerous patents, but first professor, let’s start with you. Draw Ray into a discussion about why culture impacts innovation and how a leader makes that particular combination happen? (more…)

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  • Jennifer Chatman, Professor at U.C. Berkeley

    Corporate Culture, Part 1 – in conversation with Professor Jennifer Chatman

    Part one for three in a series where Silicon Valley’s longest serving CEO chats with Professor Jennifer Chatman, a Distinguished Professor of Management and the Associate Dean for Learning Strategies at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley.

    Professor Chatman is also the Director of the Berkeley Culture Initiative, a program with the goal of identifying the most promising opportunities and challenges facing leaders who harness organizational culture as a strategic resource.


    Guy Smith: Hello again, and welcome to another episode of the Tough Things First podcast and this is the first of a very, very special three-part series of Tough Things First where with the help of a particular expert and the experience of Silicon Valley’s longest serving CEO, we’re going to explore the topic of corporate culture; what it is, how you shape it, how it facilitates innovation performance, and quite a bit more. For this three-part series, we’re joined by professor Jennifer Chapman, distinguished professor of management and the associate dean for learning strategies at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley in California. Professor Chapman is also the director of the Berkeley Culture Initiative, sorry about that, a program that has the distinct goal of identifying the most promising opportunities and the biggest challenges facing leaders who harness organizational culture as a strategic resource.

    Now, Professor Chapman’s CV goes on for quite literally 27 pages. Just her list of publications alone, take up five pages, so rather than recite more of that, let’s instead get started with today’s podcast. First off, welcome, Professor Chapman. Thank you so much for being here today.

    Professor Chatman: Thanks, Guy. Nice to be here.

    Guy Smith: Of course, on the other side, we have Silicon Valley’s longest serving CEO, a man who is no stranger to shaping positive corporate cultures himself, Mr. Ray Zinn. Hello again, Ray.

    Ray Zinn: Hello, Guy and hello, Jenny. So happy to be with both of you.

    Guy Smith: I think this is going to be an exceptional three-part series of podcast. I’m going to step back and let the big brains have a discussion about today’s topic, but to go ahead and get started, we’re going to put the question on the table, the question we’re exploring today. Professor, let’s start off with you. How can leaders create a strategically aligned, execution-based culture in their teams or perhaps in their entire organizations?

    Professor Chatman: Well, that’s a great question, Guy. Let me start by putting together an argument for why it’s so important to pay attention to culture and then we can talk about to do it. The basic idea here is that no matter what you do or don’t do as a leader, a culture will form. That’s not the question. The question is whether the culture that forms is one that helps you execute on your strategic objectives or worst case scenario, a culture that actually precludes you from achieving your strategic objectives. It’s really not a question of how to create a culture. It’s really a question of how to shape the culture that has developed in your organization and how to ensure that that culture is actually aligned with your strategic priorities. That’s the first piece. (more…)

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  • How to communicate your point without enraging other people

    Make Points, Not Enemies

    Unskilled communicators can create a breakdown in conversation at every turn, sometimes making enemies in the process.

    In this Tough Things First Podcast, Ray Zinn explains how to avoid pitfalls we often create for ourselves using the wealth of knowledge he learned over decades at the highest levels of the tech industry.


    Rob Artigo: Rob Artigo here once again, your guest host for this edition of The Tough Things First Podcast. I’m a writer and an investigator in California. Being invited back, always a pleasure, Ray, how you doing?

    Ray Zinn: I’m doing great, Rob. So good to be back with you again.

    Rob Artigo: Well, it’s happened to most of us at one time or another. It can be at a board meeting. It could be in a design strategy session. It can be just a discussion in passing about where to put cubicles in an office building. That conversation turns into controversy simply because a point we’re trying to get across feels like, to the other person, at least, that it’s a personal attack and maybe you could even make an enemy out of that person. We know that communication is a two-way street, but how do we make a point with someone large or small in the course of the conversation without putting somebody on such a defense that we end up making an enemy out of that person and they shut us off and they don’t want to listen to what we have to say?

    Ray Zinn: That’s a challenge of making your point without making an enemy. It depends upon how we sharpen our point. If you sit there, making this as an example, you’re whittling on a stick and you keep sharpening that point and you keep pointing at somebody, they’re going to think they’re your enemy or they’re become your enemy. So, don’t keep sharpening your point. That’s one of the things that you need to do when you’re making your point so that you don’t create an enemy is don’t sharpen it. Don’t make it personal. Don’t make it emphatic. Don’t make it so that it comes across as being you’re harming them because then they will become your enemy. So the challenge is to how to make your point without sharpening it.  (more…)

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  • How to set goals for your business and your life

    Setting Business Goals

    If Tough Things First stands for one thing, it’s setting and achieving goals even when they are difficult.

    In this edition of the Tough Things First Podcast, Ray Zinn talks about setting priorities to meet those goals.


    Rob Artigo: I’m Rob Artigo, your guest host for this edition of the Tough Things First Podcast. Hi, Ray. It’s good to be back with you.

    Ray Zinn: Rob, it’s so good to hear your voice again. Thank you.

    Rob Artigo: And it seems like it’s been a long time, but time marches on and here we are doing another podcast and I’m grateful for that. Now, whether they plan to, or not, like me, most people set some kind of goals every single day. Now that could be something easy, like going to the store, just doing the dishes, maybe doing the dishes isn’t always that easy for everyone, but they’re goals nonetheless. And we got to think of things in terms of this podcast for entrepreneurs and business operators, entrepreneurs do the same kind of goal setting, those small tasks that they have to do every day, because they’re just things that everybody has to do. But they also have to keep the future in mind, their business, where they are, where they’re going, and what’s next.

    So, let’s talk about setting goals first, and then we’ll talk a little bit about some of the strategies for making sure that those goals come to fruition. So for you, it’s always been important to set goals when operating your business.

    Ray Zinn: Well, even running your life. I mean, it doesn’t have to be running a business. I mean, setting goals is really avoiding procrastination and that’s the title of my first book, Tough Things First. We tend to not want to set goals, for one thing, because it’s a lot of work and because we’re not really willing to do the tough things first. And so, when I wrote the book and we hadn’t yet come up with a title for it, I had my staff together and we were talking about what should we title this book? Vona my VP, she just said, Tough Things First. Do the tough things first.

    And so, the only reason we have a goal is to get us to look up, to aim higher, to reach out and to lengthen our stride to be more purposeful in what we’re doing. We don’t have to set goals for things that are almost secondary, like eat once or twice a day or three times a day, or whatever, or go and get the mail. I mean, setting goals is really trying to reach up. In other words, trying to get us to go above and beyond where we are, not just to repeat something we did the prior day to better ourselves. And so, that’s a whole concept of setting goals. (more…)

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  • Managing Conflicts - Leadership - Management - Tough Things First Podcast

    Managing Conflicts

    In business and in life there are conflicts. Some of those are internal but threaten the external when we lose control.

    In this Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn explores how entrepreneurs can find a path to being open minded with conflicting with our core principals.


    Rob Artigo: Welcome back to another edition of The Tough Things First podcast. I’m your guest host, Rob Artigo. I’m a writer and entrepreneur in California. Hi, Ray.

    Ray Zinn: Hi, Rob. So good to be with you again. It’s been a while.

    Rob Artigo: Good to be back, of course. Core principles define us and we don’t typically, like we’re doing a podcast here, we don’t just broadcast our core principles to everyone, but if they’re really true principles, at least in my eyes, they’ll manifest themselves in many ways that other people, that everyone will see. I mean, even if we’re not telling them what our core principles are, people will notice what they are even if they can’t define them right away.

    Ray Zinn: Exactly.

    Rob Artigo: But we’re also asked to be open-minded. Ray, in your experience, are there times when being open-minded is actually challenged by conflicts with our core principles?

    Ray Zinn: Well, certainly. If you have a principle that you hold dear to your heart, then someone wants to bring a counter to that or maybe argue with you about that, debate you on that subject, you can get your, as they say your dander up, your hackles up, and then of course as soon as you do that, you shut your ears off. You no longer are going to be listening because you’re in a defend mode. The key is how do you maintain these very solid core principles, and even when they know that you have these core principles, and yet they’re going to want to argue and put you in a defensive mode. There’s a saying that goes, the best defense is a good offense. What you want to do of course is to make sure you don’t get into a defensive mode, because as sure as you do, you’re going to shut your mind off. (more…)

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  • Tough Things First Podcast - How to make better business decisions

    Bad Decisions, Good Outcomes

    Entrepreneurs are bound to make bad decisions, but it’s how they handle them that is the difference between success and failure. Ray Zinn has seen it all and in this Tough Things First podcast he explains how successful business operators process bad decisions differently.


    Rob Artigo: I’m Rob Artigo, your guest host for this edition of the Tough Things First podcast. Hi Ray, it’s going to be back with you.

    Ray Zinn: Well, thanks Rob. I appreciate you joining us again today.

    Rob Artigo: I’ve got another question about decisions. We talk about decisions on the show frequently and I want to talk about bad decisions. Entrepreneurs make decisions all the time. They make decisions daily and they’re big, sometimes very easy decisions. And sometimes they’re small, very hard decisions. And some are just based on analysis and projections or educated guesses. So no matter how much though that goes into it, some decisions are not going to turn out the way you expect. How does a successful entrepreneur deal with bad decisions?

    Ray Zinn: Okay, well let’s first of all talk about a bad decision. They’re always going to be with us. We’re not perfect as human beings. We don’t have privy information. Decisions we make, if the statistics bear out correctly, they’re only good 50% of the time. It’s like flipping a coin.

    So what is different about a bad decision is that it’s a decision that’s not corrected. So, that’s the bad decision. And so, I want to make sure the listeners understand what a bad decision is. It’s an uncorrected decision is a bad decision. I make mistakes every day, and so you could say, well that was a bad decision, but then I correct it. And so, a bad decision is not bad if you correct it. As they say, no harm, no foul. So if you make a wrong decision and you immediately correct it or to the extent you can immediately correct it, then it’s not really a bad decision. Does that make sense? (more…)

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  • debt and growth

    Managing Debt and Corporate Growth

    When should a company take on debt to enable growth? Silicon Valley’s longest serving CEO has some answers.


    Guy Smith: Hello everyone out in podcast land, welcome again to another episode of the Tough Things First podcast. I’m your guest host today, Guy Smith. And as always, we’re having a little sit down chat with Silicon Valley’s longest serving CEO, Mr. Ray Zinn. How are you today, Ray?

    Ray Zinn: Trying to stay dry, Guy. How are you doing?

    Guy Smith: Well, it’s warming up nicely out here, and boy I am aching for spring, that’s for sure.

    What I want to talk about today, a subject dear to my heart, managing debt and managing growth. Founders in startups face an interesting inflection point during their growth cycle. It’s real tempting to go out and score some debt in order to try to rise up to the next level of growth, certain investments that need to be made around the company.

    When should a startup consider debt, when should they just flat out avoid it?

    Ray Zinn: Debt never sleeps, it’s going to be there 24/7. When you go after debt is a mater of what your growth needs are, if your trajectory exceeds what your cashflow is. Because often, you can grow through cashflow, if you’re profitable, and that’s the way I prefer to do it is to be profitable, and grow through profitability. But, if you’re growing faster than you can grow through cashflow, then debt is fine, presuming that you can fund the debt.

    In other words, debt is something that has to be paid every period, whatever that period that your lender sets or you agree to, so that’s the key. The key is make sure that whatever debt you take on, that you can make those regular payments on that debt. (more…)

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  • Surviving a Business Downturn

    Surviving a Downturn – Three Tough Things series

    What should a business leader, especially a startup CEO, do to survive a downturn.

    Ray Zinn, the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley, has survived many of them and shares his knowledge in this first in our “Three Tough Things You Need To Do” series.


    Guy Smith: Hello everyone and welcome to another episode of the Tough Things First podcast and this is a special event today. This is the first in a series of periodic podcasts that we’re going to do on the three tough things that you need to do in order to have a healthy business. We’re going to pick a different topic every time, but we’re going to pick on Ray Zinn’s wisdom on really the critical elements that an entrepreneur or a business leader needs to face, needs to stare down, needs to take control of in order to make sure that they will succeed in business. Before we go, jumping into the topic today, which is the three tough things that you need to do to help your business survive in a downturn, we’ll bring on Ray Zinn. Hello Ray, how are you today?

    Ray Zinn: Doing great, Guy. Thanks for doing this podcast with me.

    Guy Smith: Oh, I love doing these podcasts. I learned so much from you per unit time that it’s like drinking from a fire hose. I feel like I’m getting one of the best educations in my life whenever I do a podcast with you.

    Ray Zinn: Well, thank you.

    Guy Smith: So let’s dive in because right now when we’re recording this, it’s early 2020. There’s no recession probably going to happen this year, but maybe next year. That means there’s going to be an economic downturn and there’s probably a lot of entrepreneurs in your audience who are already kind of anticipating that, but they may not be sure about what to do in a big downturn. So why don’t we start off. Why don’t you give me the first thing that a business leader needs to do in order to be prepared? The one tough thing that maybe they don’t want to do but they got to do in order to make sure that they survive a downturn.

    Ray Zinn: Well, there’s two issues that we need to back up a bit here, Guy, because there’s two kinds of downturns. One, a downturn is a reduction in revenue and so it could happen as a startup. In other words, you could not have any revenue and that’s a downturn in that sense of the word, because all startups start at the bottom as they say, or you could be having an ongoing running business and then you hit some kind of snag and the business falls off and then how do you deal with that? So there’s two kinds of, as I say, two kinds of downturns and both are important. Yesterday, I met with a couple of guys who, or actually three guys, who were a nine-year old startup. So can you imagine how you call yourself a startup after nine years? But they’d already gone through $16 million and had no revenue.

    So they were talking to me about what I like to invest in their business and I said, “No.” They said, “Well, why not?” I said, “Are you kidding me?” You’ve been at this for nine years and you still are … no revenue. That is a serious issue, I think, for a startup is not to have some kind of recovery plan or at least a, “How do I stop the bleeding?” I learned that they had nine people in their company, if you want to call it a company, and they were all drawing $110,000 a year. (more…)

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  • Balance between business success and social activism

    Social Causes and Smart Business

    Stories and charitable causes are a dime a dozen in the modern start-up era. What is the right balance to market a business while being civic minded? In this edition of the Tough Things First Podcast, Ray Zinn discusses the purpose of social causes and image building in business.


    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 is always a pleasure, Ray. Thanks again.

    Ray Zinn: Hey Rob, it’s always good to have you on the program, so thanks again for joining us.

    Rob Artigo: You’re welcome. We hear a lot these days about uniting the startup with a story. I know that Marcus Lemonis is on CNBC’s The Profit, he comes to mind because I’ve heard him talk to people about when they’re laying out their displays or their concepts for their stores to have some kind of story that they’re trying to tell, and that can be the story of the single mom who invented a mop or something and a certain kind of special mopping device, or being able to get that story built into the concept of the company, and then also … A lot of entrepreneurs are coming out and saying, not only are we a good company and we’re aware of what’s going on in the world, but we’re also charitable and we’re good people. So every time you buy our product, we’ll donate some money to … I think one was for every pair of eyeglasses they sell, they’ll give a pair to a kid who needs them in a poor part of Africa or something. Or, for example, if you buy our water, you’ll contribute some of the proceeds to a system for cleaning up the plastics in the ocean or something.

    These are ideas, I think that a lot of young people are going into business going, “Well I have to show that I’m being charitable so I have to do that.” I’m not sure if it’s a matter of them sincerely feeling like they want to do the right thing, but feel like they have to do the right thing, but you understand what I’m saying here. Is this a good way, a good approach with the business is it is something that you need to do? Both the story and the charity?

    Ray Zinn: It’s all part of building your brand. The brand is something you recognize. It’s like Levi with that picture of two horse teams or mule teams pulling on each side of the pair of jeans showing how tough they are. Ford talks about Ford being Ford tough, and so you’re trying to build a brand. Hewlett Packard, their brand was built around doing it the HP way, quality, reliability and so forth. So every company in order to enhance their brand has to have some story. In other words, how do we tell … Because people remember stories. They don’t necessarily maybe remember a brand, but they remember a story, whether it be like air … Forgot now the – (more…)

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  • Choosing the right leadership style

    Dictator Leadership

    Sometimes you choose a management style and sometimes it chooses you. In this edition of the Tough Things First Podcast, Ray Zinn explains the difference in extremes and how to be the best manager you can be.


    Rob Artigo: 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. Being invited back is always a pleasure Ray.

    Ray Zinn: Well, always good to have you on the program, Rob. Thank you for joining us.

    Rob Artigo: Ray, I have a copy here of a column that you recently wrote and it’s Alpha Beta Blended Leadership. It’s a really good article. I suggest people go out there and track it down. Ray, you know, it’s about the difference between leadership styles.

    Rob Artigo: It made me think about in the military we used to say hey, this is not a democracy, this is a dictatorship. Just go do what I said, you know. We’re not taking a vote on this. Now there are two different styles there, and your article, it really says that they’re not mutually exclusive. It’s part dictatorship and it’s part democracy.

    Ray Zinn: Right. You know it’s interesting that we get labeled, so this concept of this Class A personality or Class B or Super A or whatever, those are labels, and people tend to put these labels on us. So if you are in a leadership capacity in a company you’re probably going to get labeled as a Class A personality generally speaking, or a Super A or whatever, and that’s what we refer to as the alpha personality person who has to always have their way.

    In leadership you tend to get saddled with that, because what happens is is that leader or the CEO, vice-president, whatever, they’re the ones making all the decisions, and if you don’t agree… As a subordinate you don’t agree with that decision, you tend to think of that person as being an alpha, or being a Super A personality, in other words always have my way or the highway kind of thing. (more…)

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  • How entrepreneurs can make decisions differently

    Decide Differently

    Entrepreneurs make decisions all day, but do successful entrepreneurs make decisions differently? In this Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn explores the process of effective decision making.


    Rob Artigo: Welcome back to another edition of the Tough Things first podcast on your guest host, Rob Artigo, writer and entrepreneur in California. Hi, Ray.

    Ray Zinn: Hello Rob.

    Rob Artigo: Well, you know Ray, there’s really not a single person on this planet who doesn’t make decisions daily, but an entrepreneur makes multi-tiered and often complex decisions almost as frequently. So thinking about small decisions and big decisions, do successful entrepreneurs make decisions differently?

    Ray Zinn: Absolutely. So what entrepreneurs can do is, because they are thinking outside the box and are listening to their gut as well as their head, they can make a decision with a lot less information than say a regular person because it’s called process by analysis. The ordinary person who is not entrepreneur tends to overanalyze something because they’re afraid to make a mistake. And as you know, entrepreneurs don’t worry about mistakes, they just move forward. And in fact, people who are good actors, when they make a mistake, it doesn’t show because they just keep going along and you never hear the mistake. I was talking to a professional organist and he said, “Did you notice the mistake I made?” I said, “No, I didn’t.” He says, “Good.” So he was able just to cover it up.

    Ray Zinn: So, while it may look like the entrepreneur didn’t make a mistake, he did make a mistake, but he corrected it. So the advantage of being an entrepreneur is that you can make decisions with less information, and if you do make a mistake, you correct it quicker. Whereas if you’re not an entrepreneur and you’re going to analyze it inside and out, what’s going to happen is, is that you’re going to want to make sure that you’ve looked at every single parameter, every single direction before you can go back and move forward. It’s kind of like they walk into a room that’s completely black and they just stop. Whereas an entrepreneur, if he walked into a black room, would start… Or dark room, would start putting his hands out and start feeling his way around, and when you get to the other side or wherever he had to be, whereas an ordinary person who is risk averse would just stop dead and say, “Hey, turn the lights back on.” (more…)

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  • bad manager

    Bad Managers

    At one time or another, we’ve probably all worked for a bad manager and perhaps wondered if the boss’s boss knew that manager had issues. In this Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn walks us through how to recognize a bad manager and how to handle the situation.


    Rob Artigo: I’m Rob Artigo, your guest host for another edition of the Tough Things First podcast with Ray Zinn, the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley. Hello again, Ray.

    Ray Zinn: Hi Rob, so good to have you back with us today.

    Rob Artigo: And it’s good to be back. And I have another good idea here, I think. We’ve talked a lot on Tough Things First, on this podcast, many times about management and managing those leaders. Some factors are very obvious to me in determining whether or not somebody is a bad leader, but some things are not so easy to figure out and requires experience and expertise and sometimes that’s a learned experience you learn over time. How do I know which leaders are good ones in my business and which ones are not so good?

    Ray Zinn: Well, the simple answer is because they meet their goals. In other words, if when you sit down with them establish their goals and their objectives and if they meet them, then they’re probably a good leader. If however, they’re constantly, consistently missing those goals and objectives, either you are not a good leader in the sense of where to helping them set those goals or you are finding that they as individuals are just not capable of leading an organization or a particular function. (more…)

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  • Managing Managers

    Managing Managers

    In a diverse workplace with varying levels of experience and drive, managers come in all types. But knowing how to use them, challenge them and maximize their potential is tricky. In this Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn demystifies the art of managing managers.


    Rob Artigo: I’m Rob Artigo, your guest host for this edition of the Tough Things First podcast. Hi Ray, it’s good to be back with you.

    Ray Zinn: Rob, it’s always good to share these podcasts with you. You always have great ideas and thoughts.

    Rob Artigo: This one’s really interesting to me. I don’t know anyone who has as much experience at levels of business, managing managers. You have, you’ve managed presidents, VPs, EVPs, unit managers, production managers. The list is pretty much endless.

    So let’s say I’ve launched my business, and we’re 50 or a 100 employees strong. I’ve got some good managers, and I’ve got some production managers, and other managers. So when I’m looking at this business I’ve got, this business model, and I’m looking at the different maybe many divisions that I have, and I’ve got creative conflicts, maybe even near physical confrontations in some cases, with internal conflicts. What’s my first step in figuring out what’s happening here among my managers? If it’s something new to me?

    Ray Zinn: Well, it’s a characteristics of all people to form silos. We do that as a family, or husband and wife, we form a silo, meaning that it’s us against the world. And unfortunately we take that to work. And in our groups we tend to want to build the silo, meaning that this is our territory, our turf. And if you start butting in, if you start moving over on our turf, we’re going to defend it. And so that’s the big problem, because that’s a built in conflict. (more…)

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Tough Things
First Podcast

Weekly wisdom from Silicon Valley’s longest serving CEO


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