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What people are saying about Ray Zinn:
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What people are saying about Ray Zinn:
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What people are saying about Ray Zinn:
“Ray Zinn is an amazing businessman.”
What people are saying about Ray Zinn:
“Ray Zinn inspired me to be better inside my Business and in all aspects of my Life!”
What people are saying about Ray Zinn:
“The story of Mr. Zinn's journey to success on many fronts is full of lessons in both business and for life.”
What people are saying about Ray Zinn:
“Ray had some great advice and management principles for building a sustainable business.”
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“I applaud Ray Zinn for sharing his path to corporate success that doesn’t compromise one’s integrity and desire for it.”
What people are saying about Ray Zinn:
“Ray's leadership style, emanating from his personality and values, produced one of the most successful companies in the world's capital of entrepreneurship, Silicon Valley.”
What people are saying about Ray Zinn:
“Ray is a terrific Silicon Valley personality who has many lessons to share.”
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.

Think of this podcast as a weekly pep talk from the managerial godfather.

Ray Zinn, Silicon Valley’s longest-serving CEO, dishes out five-minute doses of wisdom from his career with Micrel, a chip company that profitably navigated eight major downturns in global markets. Though his life is the stuff of tech legend, his advice is applicable to anyone with an ounce of ambition. Discipline, focus and leadership are frequent topics.

—The Six Fifty

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  • New ideas and new technologies for an exciting future

    New Tech, Exciting Futures

    It’s an exciting era in technology. In this Tough Things First podcast, Ray discusses recent breakthroughs that are catching his interests.


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

    Ray Zinn: Hey, Rob. You know, it’s always a real delight to have you on the program. You always have these interesting questions and topics to discuss.

    Rob Artigo: Thanks Ray, I appreciate it. It’s a great opportunity to be able to chat with you and I learn something, I think, every time. There’s a company out there, an American company founded by a guy by the name of Graham Dugoni. It was founded back in 2014. It’s called yonder, Y-O-N-D-R. And it was in the news recently because in San Francisco or in the San Francisco Bay area, it’s actually San Mateo, there’s a high school that has decided that they’re banning cell phones, during class time. So when you come into class, every or come to school every day, you put your cell phone in this Yondr pouch and it’s locked and then you can’t use it. I think it’s a Mylar protected, I don’t know the exact details, but what they do, all the students put their phones in there so they can’t access them during the school day. But all the teachers have the unlocking mechanism, so that if there’s an emergency or something and they need to redistribute the phones, they can do that quickly no matter where the students are.

    And that was a product that I thought, “Oh, that’s kind of cool. That’s a pretty neat thing.” I also saw recently a friend of mine who works for a security firm gave me this little, I don’t know, if you want to call it a little phone charger, USB port connector. It’s a little thing that looks like a memory device, but it’s not. And you plug your phone cord into it and then you plug that device into whatever you’re going to charge it with and it prevents any data transfer from occurring. It strictly deals with power charging your phone so that if you’re interfacing with a car or a charging station at an airport or something like that, there’s no chance that data will be transferred between the devices. That was an exciting thing that I saw pretty recently as a security conscious person. Are there any trends or technology or ideas out there right now that have gotten you excited and you follow what’s happening with them?

    Ray Zinn: Absolutely. In fact, the most recent one was, I can’t remember the name of it right now, off the top of my head, but they are able to replicate the brain to some degree, the entire wafer, 12 inch wafer. It’s a computer and it mimics the brain. In other words, it has the ability to crosstalk. And so each, on the wafer, silicon wafer, that’s how semiconductors are made are on Silicon wafers that are 12 inches in diameter, or can be up to 12 inches. And then they have these little circuitries on them. And so what this wafer is supposed to emulate is the brain. And so, that’s amazing to me because as we can better emulate what the brain does, that means we can now make decisions that are similar to what a human would do. And we can make smarter devices or you can even help a person be smarter or more intelligent.

    For example, let’s say you have Alzheimer’s and or some form of dementia, and usually it’s associated with short term memory loss. And so the computer, then can, through sensors and so forth, can then collect what’s going on peripherally in your sphere, then it can help you remember. It can jog your memory as you would because it’s recording that information almost like a movie. And so then it can help you then remember names and faces and also surroundings and so being able to replicate the brain, to me, is fantastic. We already have artificial hearts and other organs that we can get artificially. I understand we can even make them through 3D printing. So, the one part organ that we have that is not as easy to replicate, of course, is the brain, which is the heart of our existence is our brain. (more…)

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  • startup founder exhaultion

    Founder Overload

    Why do startup founders kill themselves work themselves to death? They shouldn’t, according to Silicon Valley’s longest serving CEO.


    Guy Smith: Hello everyone in podcast land. My name is Guy Smith. I’m your guest host today for the next episode of the Tough Things First podcast, where we’re going to a chat with Ray Zinn, longest serving CEO in all of Silicon Valley. And we’re talk about subject that’s near and dear to my heart, which is being a founder and working your butt off, which oddly enough is probably not a good combination. It’s almost doctrine in Silicon Valley that founders need to kill themselves at their desk working the 80 hour work week, and Ray Zinn has been very vocal about how that’s kind of nuts. So good morning Ray, how are you doing today?

    Ray Zinn: Doing just fine, Guy. How’s it there in North Carolina land?

    Guy Smith: Well, I can’t complain. The view from my office is an unobstructed view of the Smoky Mountains and it’s a pleasure to come to the office every day.

    Ray Zinn: You’re in the office, aren’t ya?

    Guy Smith: I am, yeah. So let’s talk about founders. You have been on record on more than one occasion saying that a founder and a CEO on average does not need to work more than 40 or 50 hours a week. Why so?

    Ray Zinn: Well, you know, for one thing, the body needs rest. Studies show that you need somewhere around seven to eight hours a night rest, no matter how old you are. In fact, the younger you are, the more rest you need. Even as a new entrepreneur, the more rest you need as opposed to the more work you need. What happens is that if you are just putting in many, many hours with the desire, with the effect to show everybody how hard a worker you are, you’re going to be less efficient. You can only put in so many effective hours a day. Most studies have shown that we’re only productive about four hours a day, which is only half of a workday basically.

    Trying to put in 12, 15 hours a day with only four hours of productive work, that means you’re putting in 10 hours of unproductive work, and that’s not good for your people, it’s not good for you, and it’s not good for your family. What you want to do is work smarter, not harder, as I say. The most time you really need to spend… You have to be open a certain number of hours a day, as you would, is in that eight to 10 hours is his max. Your body needs rest and your body includes your mind, and so you needed a diversion. So that’s why I say working more is not better. It’s worse. (more…)

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  • Tech Investing

    Technology Investing

    What does Silicon Valley’s longest serving CEO, and now a tech investor, think about tech investing and the current state of the industry? In the episode of the Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn lays it bare.


    Guy Smith: Well, good morning to all the audience and welcome to another episode of the Tough Things First podcast. I’m your host today, Guy Smith. As always, we have Silicon Valley’s longest serving CEO, Ray Zinn. How you doing today, Ray?

    Ray Zinn: Well, hopefully better than you are back there with that ice storm. So yeah, we’re doing fine. We might get a little rain, but it looks like a decent day.

    Guy Smith: Well, there’s an old joke that meteorologist is the Greek word for liar and all of the forecasts they made for ice here did not happen. So, thank God for that. We don’t need any down power lines. Hey, so what I wanted to talk about today is Silicon Valley tech investing. After your Micrel years, you got into a little bit of investing on your side. I’ve been on both sides of the pitch table in Silicon Valley, so I’m kind of intrigued by some of the commonalities, some of the traits, some of the things that we’re seeing out there in the marketplace in terms of startups and investing.

    So now that you’ve been actively on the other side of that table for awhile, what are some of the common traits that you’ve noticed about companies that have been pitching to you for investment money but never got to their serious discussion phase? Where did they fall down in their approach to you?

    Ray Zinn: Well, that’s an interesting question, Guy, because I’m somewhat of a old school investor, meaning that I tend to like to see all the nuts and bolts in place in a company before I consider investing. So, there are two kinds of companies that I see. One is someone who’s just iterating something that’s already been done out there and just wants to get their two cents worth in or get to get themselves involved. The other is a totally new market, something that’s kind of disruptive, and they think that they’ve got the next most exclusive idea, and it will make us all a fortune.

    So, those are the two kinds of companies I see. In both cases, what I see as that is that they’re more wannabes. In other words, they want your money, and they talk about their investment being sweat equity. In other words, they’re just putting up their sweat equity and not putting any money into it themselves. I was talking to a fellow the other day, and I said, “Okay, how much money do you have in your company?” He says, “Well, you mean investment?” I said, “Well, how much do you have invested?” He says, “Well, I really can’t do much because other than selling my house, or mortgaging my house, or refinancing my house. I really don’t have the funds to do that.”

    I said, “Then, why do you want to go into business?” He says, “Well, because I got this great idea.” I say, “Yes, but you’re using other people’s money to do it. So if you’re not going to put yourself at risk, why would you expect someone else?” “Oh, well, I’m putting up sweat equity, I’m working for no money,” I said, “For how long? How long has it been since you have been working with no money?” “Well,” then he kind of [ham har 00:04:21] around, and I said, “So, the money you’ve raised so far, the money you’re raising, you’re using to produce a salary shares for yourself.”

    “Well, yeah. I have to live,” and that turns me off. I watch Shark Tank, obviously, from time to time, and I’ve seen the same kind of thing that when a shark see that they’ve not really, put themselves at risk, other than saying, “Well yeah, they’re working part-time or they’re willing to start in the future putting in full-time,” it turns the sharks off, and it turns me off too.

    Guy Smith: Well, and just to pitch your book for you on this account, there’s a wonderful story in the book, Tough Things First, about your origin story. When you launched Micrel, you went to banks, and banks never lend money to startups, but you were putting almost everything that you had on the line, your house, your cars, your investments, et cetera, et cetera, to get going. That showed the bankers that you had real teeth in the game.

    Ray Zinn: Yeah. Well, as a personal guarantee. What a personal guarantee is that you take out a loan with the bank and, or lending institution, and then you’re willing to put up your assets to protect the bank in event of a default, and that’s called a personal guarantee. I certainly did that. The banks wouldn’t never have loaned me the money had I not been willing to put up all my assets.

    Now, some of my partners weren’t willing to do that, but the bank was relying on me primarily because of the strength of my net worth to back up the loans. So, the one that’s really at risk was me. Of course, I was the present CEO anyway, but the bank absolutely demanded that I personally guarantee the loan.

    Guy Smith: Well, and given the way bankers views startups, I’m assuming that that had to be the position that they weren’t going to even ponder a startup that didn’t have the founders financial backing in that, because it basically creates some sort of guarantee of efforts, some sort of guarantee of commitment.

    Ray Zinn: Well in a bank case, Guy, they don’t have a financial, I mean, I shouldn’t say an equity investment, in the company. They just have that loan. They don’t want to loan to a company that doesn’t have the cashflow to make their monthly payments. For example, if you went out and bought a home, or a car, or some other expensive asset and took out a loan, they’re going to use the home or the car as collateral for the loan. Then, they’re going to look at your ability to make these monthly payments to pay back that loan.

    If you don’t, then they’ll foreclose on you or they’ll confiscate your car. So, they’re very specific about wanting you to have the ability to make those monthly payments. So what I’ve seen with these startups is they don’t have the cashflow yet, and so they’re unable to immediately begin payments. So you say, “Okay, well when can you start making payments? When are you going to be profitable?” Of course, they ham har around about, “Well, this is a new business,” and blah, blah. Then, that just turns me off.

    Guy Smith: Well, and that segues nicely into my next question because a little bit ago, you had mentioned new markets, companies that are developing for new or pretty nascent markets. Are you seeing a disconnect between the quality of the pitches or the business readiness of startups who are going into new markets? When I’ve talked to these people, almost all of them say that they’re relying entirely on first mover advantage, and they think that’s the only thing that they really need. So, are their pitches lacking because they’re depending way too much on that?

    Ray Zinn: No, I don’t think so. I think that it’s the same no matter whether they’re going into an existing market or whether it’s called a nascent market, a first mover. It’s not so much the newness of the market or the matureness of the market. It’s more how that CEO or that team views their risk, as you would, in the business.

    What I want to make sure is that they’re all. In other words, it’s not one of those things that, “Oh, well.” It’s like me hiring them to run the company, and then if they just decide that they’re tired of running the company, that they all say, “Well, let’s go and look for another job,” and then I’m stuck with the investment because I’m the ones who’s got to cut the money in it. I look for that. I look for how far they’re in to the company. Does that make sense?

    Guy Smith: Yeah, that does. That does. I’ve got to imagine it’s kind of tricky with these new market companies. When is it too earlier or when is it too late for an investor to sink money into a company that is attacking, or in fact, maybe even trying to create a whole new market?

    Ray Zinn: Well, most of these startups that are into these new mover markets usually get angel funds. In other words, they’ll go to parents, or family, or to angels and raise a small amount of money, and then try to get the thing going. Once they get that going, it’s that kind of seed money, then they’ll go start raising money in a serious way through venture funds or other means to really launch the company. So, most of them die right before they actually get out there and start having to raise some serious money. They tend to fall apart right at the seed round.

    Guy Smith: Right. But from an investor’s standpoint, how do you know when the right time to jump in is? How do you know that you’re not too early in the game, you’re not investing before they have shown some real ability? But also, when are do you know that you’re too late to the game, that maybe you’ve missed the prime opportunity in somebody who’s exploiting these new markets?

    Ray Zinn: Well, those are two different questions. When you know you’re too early is when they’re not ready. In other words, they don’t have their product fully qualified or haven’t proven it, and so they’re just feeling their way along. In other words, you’re just in a very early, early stages.

    When you’re know you’re too late is they’re floundering. They’ve gone for round A, round B, round C, almost the whole alphabet, and they’ve raised a tremendous amount of money, far more than they’re ever going to be able to pay back. So, they’re crying. This is their suicide round. They’re trying to make sure they take, “Okay, this will be it. I mean, this is my last round. If I can just get this round, I know we can do it. Right on the verge, we just got this customer all qualified and ready to go.” So when they sound panic, then you know that they’ve ran out of gas.

    Guy Smith: Okay. Speaking of running out of gas, this is kind of a leading question, but Silicon Valley venture capitalist, on average, have a tremendously horrible profitability record. Last time I looked into it, they were getting of returns of like maybe 2% or 3% on the invested capital that they put forth. So, what are the Silicon Valley venture capitalists getting so wrong?

    Ray Zinn: Yeah. Well, we should call it Silicon Valley roulette because they do a lottery. They’ve raised lots of money, and most of them have raised lots of money, and need to put that money to work. If they just put it in money market, of course, probably do their investor just as well because you can make probably 2 or 3% on money market, but the investors don’t want you to let that money sit there in money market, so they have to go out and find these opportunities. So, it’s a game of roulette, it’s gambling.

    So, this whole concept of venture capital is really just another form of gambling. They’re just playing a lottery. So, they’re looking for that one deal that will make their investors a fortune. We know the record is that nine out of 10 of these startups fail. The reason they fail is they run out of money. The reason they run on the money is because they can’t get to profitability in any kind of a reasonable timeframe.

    Look at some of these big companies like Uber and such as that. They’re not making any money, and it’s hard for them to sustain themselves except on cashflow. So what happens is, is that they just fold up. Within the first three years, they’re out of money, and investors just don’t see the recovery, and so they move on to the next lottery deal. So, it’s really a lottery thing. I mean, they’re expecting to hit that one in 10 that’s going to make it for them. In the meantime, of course, they bet on the wrong horse, and they spent a lot of money, and then they have less money to invest in those good deals that are out there.

    So, the whole flawed concept of venture capital is the fact that it’s a timing thing. The partnership is usually a five-year partnership, and so they have to get it moving, get out there, get the money invested within the first year or first few months because, it’s going to take five years or so for these companies to really make a name for themselves and become about a viable company.

    So these VCs, they spent a lot of time just rushing out, and jumping on these deals, and then just hoping that their winning lottery ticket’s going to pay off for their investors, and it usually doesn’t.

    Guy Smith: It usually doesn’t. I mean, the way you describe it makes me think of a slot machine. They’re just continually putting quarters in the machine, and pulling the handle, and the hoping that one of those pulls of the handle is actually the big Jack Pot.

    Ray Zinn: Exactly. Exactly. It’s exactly the game.

    Guy Smith: Oh, that’s terrible game to be in. You would figure that they would take a little bit more time to analyze trends, narrow down their portfolios, really focus on a few high probability companies instead of just continually pulling the lever.

    Ray Zinn: Well, they say they say they do. I mean, they claim that they go through that vetting effort, and they will tell you that they spent a lot of time and energy vetting these out. But if you ever watch Shark Tank, you know that every one of them, everyone of the sharks, is looking for the revenue, that the potential the candidate has achieved. So if you don’t have any revenue, the sharks just turn away. I mean, and the sharks are sharks. I mean, they’re looking for good deals, and they’re looking for ownership in the neighborhood of 15 to 20%.

    Whereas in the case of the venture capitalists, are looking at something north of 40, maybe even north of 50. So, that’s an early round. That’s very, very seed round. When a company’s just starting out and they’re just getting their feet wet, they’re more likely to fail. If I look at all the shark programs that I’ve watched, and I bet you less than a third of them that the sharks even jump on. When they do jump on it, they want a huge percentage of the ownership of the company.

    Guy Smith: Right. When you’re putting up your own money and trying to get somebody boosted to that next level, you definitely want that equity position, but that’s the game I’m afraid that they continually playing Silicon Valley. Because, so many of these startups are in the early phase, in the seed phase, maybe around a funding that the VCs are trading off the same amount of cash for more equity, and that’s their way of hedging their bets. That’s their way of trying to find that bigger payoff in the end by having that larger equity stake.

    Ray Zinn: Right. That’s exactly what they’re doing.

    Guy Smith: Yeah. Well, thanks, Ray. I appreciate those insights. For the audience, if you want more insights from the guy who’s basically done it all in Silicon Valley, do get a copy of his book, Tough Things First. You can get it from Amazon. Absolutely entertaining, inspiring read from beginning to end, and you’re going to walk away feeling smarter than you ever have before. If you want to continue feeling smart, tune in for the next episode of the Tough Things First podcast coming out every Wednesday.

    Ray Zinn: Thanks, Guy. Look forward to the next one.

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  • startup founder confidence

    Founder Confidence

    Do founders of startups need confidence? Silicon Valley’s prototype founder tells you so and why.


    Guy Smith: Hello and welcome again 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’m your guest host for today, Guy Smith. And hello, Ray. I trust you’re doing well.

    Ray Zinn: I’m doing as well as I can do.

    Guy Smith: Oh man, I enjoy these podcasts just about more than any other part of my week.

    Ray Zinn: That’s great.

    Guy Smith: What I want to talk to you about is what I consider to be an interesting ingredient in the successful founder, the successful entrepreneur, and that’s the element of confidence. When you look at some of the more famous CEOs out there, you see all kind of different flavors of confidence, but they all seem to have nearly bottomless self-confidence. So it’s obviously part of the success formula. Why is being confident so important to an entrepreneur, having self confidence?

    Ray Zinn: If you don’t have that drive, that self-assurance that is so important in a running your business, what happens is that gets filtered back to your people, and to your customers, and your vendors. They’ll say, “That guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about or he’s drinking his own Koolaid.” So having confidence in what you’re doing is the key to inspiring others. The thing that this is so uninspiring is when someone lacks confidence in what they’re doing, either as a sports person or as a teacher or as a entrepreneur. (more…)

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  • Passion for Entrepreneurship

    Pros and Cons of Passion

    You can follow your passion, but it takes a lot more than that to be a successful entrepreneur.

    In this edition of the Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn explores why there’s a difference between having passion and following passion.


    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, hi.

    Ray Zinn: Hey Rob. Such a great opportunity to be with you again.

    Rob Artigo: I’ve got a good subject here. We’ve talked about the idea of passion and what it takes for an entrepreneur to be a good entrepreneur, a successful entrepreneur. This dovetails right into that area right there. There’s a business guy out there, a serial entrepreneur by the name of Scott Galloway. He’s described as a businessman and serial entrepreneur. He had a company called L2 Inc. I don’t know what it does, but he sold it for $130 million. That’s the estimate at least.

    He gave a talk recently at NYU and he said that, “People often say, ‘Follow your passion.'” I know that you’ve said that to be a successful entrepreneur, you need to have passion. But he says, “If you’re just following your passion, that’s total bull.” Here’s the quote from him. He said, “Because the individual telling you to follow your passion usually became magnificently wealthy selling software as a service for the scheduling of healthcare maintenance workers. And I refuse to believe that that was his or her passion.” So he makes it, he makes an interesting point there. But do you buy into that?

    Ray Zinn: Well, I agree with him in the sense that don’t follow your passion. I said, “Be passionate.” If you’ve listened to any of my previous podcasts, I’ve talked about that if you’re not passionate about what you’re doing, then of course you’re not going to succeed. So the difference between all of us as entrepreneurs to create, innovate and negotiate, we have to have passion. I didn’t say follow your passion. I mean, I don’t know where he’s coming up with that one. I think that I’ve heard I think that term used before, follow your dreams. I’ve heard that, follow your instincts, follow this, follow that.

    Follow your passion is a bit broad. I think be passionate is different than following your passion. If you have a passion for doing something illegal, you don’t want to follow that passion or you’ll end up- (more…)

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  • Employee Compensation

    Employee Piece of the Pie

    Employees want a larger share of the pie as they stick with a company.

    Ray Zinn, Silicon Valley’s longest serving CEO, maps out the right way to balance employee expectations with company growth.

     


     

    Guy Smith: Hello again and welcome to another episode of the Tough Things First podcast. I am your guest host today. Guys Smith. Former Silicon Valley alumni and now a Silicon Valley refugee. And as always, we’re chatting with Ray Zinn, the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley. And today we’re going to be talking about some interesting aspects of employee motivation and growth. But before we jump into that, how are you doing Ray?

    Ray Zinn: Doing fine. Thanks for being on the podcast today Guy.

    Guy Smith: Oh man, this pretty much highlight of my week. So here’s one thing I have noticed about businesses in general. Startups in particular, employees expect increasing rewards for their work, for their effort, for their genius, for their longevity in many cases. But growth is uneven in companies. So how does the leader of a company, especially during times of down cycles in the GDP times when the company itself is not growing. How do they keep rewarding their employees who are expecting more when maybe the company can’t deliver more or at least not deliver to the fullest of the employees expectations?

    Ray Zinn: It comes when you’re fair. If you’re fair with your employees, you’re keeping them informed. They know there are ups and downs. And so what I have found that the way I got the loyalty of my people is, by just being fair. They know if they have a fair salary, or a fair wage, if they have a fair benefit, vacation policy, holiday policies. Everything is comparable and fair. They will work with you. And so, I think the concern comes is when you know that there’s not an ongoing growth in your particular business. Let’s say your business is stable, year after year or year, your revenues aren’t increasing particularly and your profit margins remain the same. But yet the employees, they want to see that annual increase or they want to see more vacation or more holidays or for more medical benefits. (more…)

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  • Michael Canic and Ray Zinn on the Tough Things First podcast

    Making Strategy Happen – Michael Canic

    Strategy is often easier than execution.

    In this episode of the Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn chats with Michael Canic of Making Strategy Happen to explore how an organization goes from planning to execution, all while remaining faithful to the underlying strategy.

    Michael Canic, PhD, CSP is the founder and Chief Flag-Bearer of Making Strategy Happen®. Through high-impact consulting, action-inspiring presentations, and a wealth of resources, Michael helps committed leaders turn ambition into strategy, and strategy into reality.


    Ray Zinn: Welcome to another Tough Things First Podcast. I’m so delighted today to have with me Michael Canic, who is a management consultant specializing in helping companies develop realistic strategic plans. And so Michael, welcome. Hopefully we have a great session today.

    Michael Canic: Great. Great to be here, Ray. Looking forward to it. Thank you.

    Ray Zinn: Before we begin, Michael, would you please just tell our audience, who you are, what your background is?

    Michael Canic: Great. Thank you. Yeah, my company is making strategy happen. We work with committed leaders to turn ambition into strategy and strategy into reality and simply put, it’s the execution where we fall down, Ray. We’ve got good intentions, good ideas. And making it happen is the hard part. So my world, the past 18 years has been focused on making that happen.

    Prior to that, I ran the consulting division of the Atlantic Consulting Group. I’ve got a PhD in the psychology of human performance and I’m a former football coach as well. And we can get into that as well. But lots of things that have led to this point. But it’s really around making strategy happen.

    Ray Zinn: Well, you know, it’s interesting, your experience as a football coatee is fascinating. So why don’t you just briefly tell us about that and how that ties into what you’re doing with your current company?

    Michael Canic: Yeah. The big thing, one of the big lessons I took away from coaching is there’s a big difference between the will to win and the will to do what it takes to win. And you better understand that difference. All of us want to win. We want to be successful, we want to feel what it feels like to win. But are we willing to do what it takes, which is often the detailed discipline, difficult things. Often what we don’t want to do, what we don’t like to do, but the things we have to do to make sure we win. And you see this in successful people, whether it’s in sports or business, whatever field, there is no easy path. But that commitment, that focus, alignment, and commitment is key to success.

    Ray Zinn: You know, I’ve heard that over half the athletes and especially in football become bleacher watchers as opposed to a players, because they just don’t have that burning commitment to do whatever it takes to become the best of the best. And so, they’ve done well in little league football or Pop Warner or whatever. But when they got up into the big leagues, college, and pro sports, over half of them are sidelined.

    Michael Canic: Yeah, I think that’s right. And how that plays into business, just to take a brief aside here, when it comes to recruiting people, I like to look for people who are often former, whether it’s athletes or excelled in some field, but importantly, Ray, those who weren’t the naturals, those who are the overachievers. Who had to work hard, who had to dedicate themselves. They built the good habits and the good traits which transfer well in the business world. Often the great natural performers don’t have those traits.

    Ray Zinn: Yeah, that’s true I think in life. Whether it be as a parent, a husband or wife, it’s the same. We all have to have that desire to see something succeed. We have what, over half the marriages in this country end up in divorce because they weren’t willing to make it work. And as you point out in your writings and your training that this research shows that 60 to 70% of all initiatives fail because of just that commitment. Is that correct?

    Michael Canic: Exactly. Yeah. It comes down to what we as leaders don’t do. We lack the commitment. We don’t make certain that all of our decisions, all of our actions are consistently aligned with our intentions. Were unwittingly inconsistent and people pick up on it. So it’s really being, just very painstaking around, “Is every decision I make, every action I take consistent with my intentions.”

    And when that’s reflected and people see that all the arrows are aligned, they pick up on that as well. And that’s when you create a focused and energized organization.

    Ray Zinn: Well, you talk about commitment, and again, I remember as a college student, we had a hypnotists come to school and was teaching us about hypnotism and how it helps. And so I immediately, I could raise my hand, “I’d like to be one of the hypnotists”, or be hypnotized…

    Michael Canic: Hypnotized.

    Ray Zinn: Right.

    Michael Canic: Yes.

    Ray Zinn: And, and so, he did his thing, and he asked me to do some certain things and of course I didn’t do them. And so I looked at him and I said, “Well, I thought you’re going to put me under.” And he says, “You have to want to go under.” And I says, “Oh, I want to go under.” He says, “No, you don’t, by your actions. I can tell you’re not committed to what we’re doing. You don’t believe in what we’re doing.”

    And so he excused me promptly because it was ruining the whole thing by him not being able to get me to want to commit to it. Now, as I sit here today, I’m not sure I’m a believer in hypnotism, but it does reflect your comment about I wasn’t committed to it. I didn’t believe in that, at least deep enough. I didn’t believe in it to allow it to happen. Does that make sense to you, Michael?

    Michael Canic: Absolutely. And it’s easy to fool ourselves, because we want to be committed. We think we’re committed. But the moments of truth are often the uncomfortable thing. So here’s an example. Holding people accountable is something many organizations struggle with. And we say we’re committed, but when it comes to holding people accountable, constructively accountable, we avoid it, we put it off, it’s uncomfortable, it’s confrontation. Maybe it’ll get better on its own. We come up with rationalizations. That’s a good example.

    But if we realize no, to be successful, we need to hold people constructively accountable. And I’m just picking on accountability, now. There’s a lot of other things we need to do to reinforce people, and support, and train them, and develop them. But accountability, if we’re not willing to do that, we’re sending a mixed message, Ray, about our commitment. People pick up on, “Oh, I guess this is optional. I guess the leader really isn’t committed.” That’s why we have to be so consistent. And commitment is reflected in what I call ruthless consistency.

    Ray Zinn: Even though I got my masters, 50 something years ago. I was taught that leaders get things done through people. In other words, if you can’t get things done through people, you’re not really a leader. You may have the title like CEO, or vice president, or some other fancy title that makes you sound important. But if you can’t get things done through people, are you really a leader? So can you address that Michael?

    Michael Canic: 100% right. In my view, and I emphasize this with clients all the time, it’s not about you, it’s through you, right? You are only a vehicle. And if you do the things that you should do as a leader, that enables your people to perform at their best. And when people perform at their best in the right direction, with the right goals, the right objectives, that’s when success happens.

    So leaders are great enablers. They create the right environment to be successful. So 100% agree, it really is. I think… John Maxwell, of course the prolific leadership writer wrote, “If you say you’re leading, but no one is following, then you’re really just going for a walk.” And that’s what we have to keep in mind.

    Ray Zinn: Exactly. Exactly, and I think it’s important for our listeners to understand that you may be committed in your mind, but if you’re people that follow you are not committed, you’re again, you’re just going for a walk, and by yourself.

    Michael Canic: Exactly.

    Ray Zinn: So help us understand, Michael, how we can get people to follow us. Maybe you could share some guidelines, or some ideas that you’ve come across that can help our listeners understand how they can get people to follow us.

    Michael Canic: Sure, in my model, Ray, it’s really creating the right environment, which is made up of five things. Have we oriented people, have we equipped them, have we coached them, have we supported them, and have we valued them as individuals? So let me just touch on each of those.

    When I mean orient them, I mean orienting their heads and hearts in the right direction. Everybody today talks about purpose. Yes, very important. But have we linked purpose to goals and expectations? We have to connect the dots for them. It’s one thing to say we have this high level purpose as an organization, but do people see how that translates into goals and what we expect of them?

    Orienting them also means taking away the disincentives that would keep good people from changing. The number one disincentive that keeps people from changing is fear. Fear of the unknown. So as leaders, we have to make sure we overcommunicate during times of change to remove that fear of the unknown. Letting people know what we want to accomplish, how, and importantly why. And if we can overcommunicate with them, take away that fear of the unknown, we overcome that disincentive.

    So number one, we’ve got to orient hearts and heads.

    Ray Zinn: Yeah, and go ahead. Yeah, I interrupted you. Go ahead.

    Michael Canic: That’s all right. And number two, and I’ll just talk through each of these quickly here, but number two, in terms of equipping people, we have to make sure they have the knowledge, skills, resources, and authority to succeed, and not endless amounts, but sufficient amounts.

    For example, one of the things we often do, we say, “Well, we don’t a lot of resources do the best with what you have.’ Well, the message we’re unwittingly sending, Ray, is that it’s not that important. Better to do fewer things but, sufficiently resource them so people feel they’re being set up to succeed, not set up to fail.

    Number three, are we coaching them instead of just managing them? And the big difference here, Ray, is that coaches take responsibility for the performance of their people. Coaches to ask themselves, “What do I need to do to enable my people to perform at their best? How do I create the right environment? What buttons do I need to push? What levers do I need to pull to give them a fighting chance to succeed?” Coaches take responsibility.

    Number four, as an organization, do we support them? Have we aligned processes and policies And our structure? Do we have the right infrastructure, again so they can and be successful?

    And number five, and this is critical, do we value them as individuals? Because I can tell you, Ray, as somebody who’s, my wife and I have traveled over 40 countries. It’s a passion of ours, just discovering different cultures and countries. One of the things I’ve discovered, is that there are universals, and that is everyone wants to respected, everyone wants to feel trusted, and everyone wants to feel cared about as an individual. If we as leaders can truly value people, that will energize them, and again, help them perform at their best.

    So quickly, the five things we need to do to create the right environment. We have to orient people, we have to equip them, we have to coach them, support them, and value them as individuals.

    Ray Zinn: Perfect. You know, and I was taught that there’s a difference between ministering and administering. So ministering is where they feel your love, your compassion, your willingness to help. Administering is when you’re dictating you’re directing, and you’re more of checking the boxes as you would. And your employees know that, when you’re ministering to them or when you’re administering to them. They sound similar. But they’re not the same are they Michael?

    Michael Canic: No, no, that’s a very good point. And you said people can pick up on it. People are bloodhounds for mixed messages, for inconsistency, for do you care about them, or not care about them. People pick this up. So as leaders, we have to recognize we are on stage 24/7, and the messages we send intentionally and not are being perceived by our people. So we have a great responsibility to make sure we’re very consistent in sending clear messages aligned with our values, aligned with our direction, aligned with winning.

    Ray Zinn: It’s important that people understand what your motives are, in other words, where is your head? And are you being honest, or are you just doing your job? And so honesty and integrity is something so important. And of course you mentioned about respecting every individual because they want to feel valued. So you mentioned also to me that something about anything we do is everything we do. So what’s that all about?

    Michael Canic: Well, yeah, what’s more important than anything we do then is everything we do, meaning any single mixed message can undermine our efforts. So let me give you a few examples. If we communicate with our people our intentions and we train them, but let’s say we don’t give them the authority to apply that training, then they feel powerless.

    If we on the other hand communicate with them, but don’t give them sufficient resources, that one thing alone can undermine everything. If we spout our values, “Here’s what’s important”, but we don’t hold people accountable for violating the values, again, we’re sending a mixed message. So all to say that you could do a hundred things right, but do they remember the 99 times you’re honest, or the one time you are dishonest?

    Any single thing misaligned can undermine everything. Again, that’s why as leaders, we have to be very consistent, and very aware that we’re sending messages continually.

    Ray Zinn: What’s interesting is that we use this word, hold them accountable, hold them accountable, and so holding them accountable is more than just saying, “Hey, you did this wrong”, or, “We need you to apologize”, or whatever. So I think this “holding them accountable” is a overly used a phrase. So how do we truly, honestly, hold people accountable? How do we do that, Michael?

    Michael Canic: Right, the number one thing I would say to your listeners, Ray, is whenever you think of the term accountability, put the word constructive in front of it. Constructive accountability. And that changes your mindset to one of accountability, like, “You were wrong, you were bad, you didn’t perform”, negative, to how do we help people improve?

    Because really the reason we hold people accountable, the right reason, is to help them improve, help them get better. It is intended to be a constructive purpose. So again, thinking we are coaches, we’re not just managers. If as coaches, we think, “Okay, what do we need to do to help get better performance? What do I need to do to enable the person? What leavers do I need to pull? And then what do I expect of them? What’s required of them?”

    Part of this is just a mindset about accountability being negative. I think we need to think in terms of constructive accountability.

    Ray Zinn: Well it’s just interesting and I’m glad you headed me down this direction that when you hold someone accountable, it’s got to start with yourself. In other words, if they work for you and they’re performing one of your responsible areas, then you have to hold yourself accountable, because accountability doesn’t start with the person who you’re directing. Accountability starts with you as the individual leading the organization. Is that correct?

    Michael Canic: Absolutely. And again, you have to look in the mirror. The story that comes to mind here is many years ago, a guy named Bill Walsh who coached the San Francisco 49ers ultimately to, I think it was three or four Superbowl wins. Before they had won their first super bowl. I think it was the previous year, and they lost in the playoffs. He came into the dressing room at the end of the game, all the players, face him and they had performed very poorly. They were thinking he was going to chew them out. What he said to them was “Fellows, what I need to do is go back and look at how I can be a better coach and help prepare you better for these kinds of games.”

    He first took responsibility, he looked in the mirror, he held himself accountable, and when you as a leader do that, that not only sends a very strong message to your people, but it also is more likely to encourage them to hold themselves accountable.

    Ray Zinn: I call this looking in the mirror rather than around the mirror.

    Michael Canic: That’s very good.

    Ray Zinn: And so that’s the term I use. So when we look in the mirror, then we take responsibility, even for the failings and the frailties of our organization. When we look around the mirror, we’re pointing at them, we’re pointing at someone else other than ourselves. And so when we hold our organization accountable, it’s got to start with ourselves as the leader. And again, on this podcast we’re talking about the leaders. And so those of you who are listening to this, who have a responsibility for leading your organization, when you say holding someone accountable, look in the mirror, not around the mirror. And who do you see? You see the problem. Yes, it’s you. So the more successful you are, the more successful will be your organization.

    Michael Canic: Exactly right. Yeah. And it all comes down, in my world, it all comes down to committed leaders, committed leaders. If a leader is truly committed, they will develop the focus, they will get the right team, they will create the right environment, and they will work to improve themselves and surround themselves with good people if they are lacking in capabilities.

    But it really comes down to commitment, and we see stories like this all the time, again, whether it’s in business, in sports, in entertainment, whatever. Those with that real deep commitment find a way to make it work.

    Ray Zinn: And the example you used of Bill Walsh and him taking responsibility for his team as opposed to just blaming them as players is a good one. I was going to ask you for a story but you came up with one, which was this one about Coach Bill Walsh. So anyway, do you have any questions for me, by chance, Michael?

    Michael Canic: Yeah, one thing that comes to mind, Ray, you’ve got a tremendous background and really clear from your past that you were shaped by your upbringing in terms of work ethic and discipline and some very admirable traits. I guess my question is for people who haven’t benefited from that kind of early life experience, and I had a similar experience in terms of work ethic and discipline, but for those who haven’t benefited from that early life experience, how have you seen people develop those traits?

    Ray Zinn: It’s again, they have to be committed. They have to be willing to look in the mirror rather than around the mirror. And so that, that’s what I think is the key is whether you have been brought up and had the exposure to accepting responsibility as a young person, or whether you’ve taken on this leadership role later on in life.

    It’s a matter of commitment, as you pointed out earlier in our podcast that if that person is committed, and if they’re willing to, to listen, and so we have two ears and one mouth for a reason. And we should use them proportionally. We need to listen more rather than just talk, because we can’t listen while we’re talking. And so if they’re willing to seek out a good mentor, and I think that’s another key of a person willing to learn, is they want to get a mentor.

    Maybe they’ll find somebody that’s been down that road before, and people who say, ‘Well, I don’t need anybody telling me how to do it then”, then they’re not going to be the committed a leader that you need them to be. So, seek a good mentor is another suggestion that I would have, Michael.

    Michael Canic: Very good. Yep. No, I agree. We can’t do it on our own, and whether it’s a peer advisory group, whether it’s a mentor, or it’s a coach, and there are lots of resources available there, online and otherwise, yeah, find the tools, find the resources to help make you a stronger leader.

    Ray Zinn: Yes sir. So any other thoughts or are you just about it?

    Michael Canic: Well, that’s great. I know it’s a lot in a short time. Yeah. I would just say if your listeners are interested more on our website, makingstrategyhappen.com, I have over 400 blog posts. There are lots of downloadable tools, models, resources, a lot of things that people can access to help them on this journey. And I would just leave people with the idea that ruthless consistency, the more you can be committed, and the more that’s reflected in a ruthless consistency in your decisions and your actions, then the more likely you are to enable your team to be successful.

    Ray Zinn: Oh, I love it. Ruthless consistency. Ruthless. Oh boy, that has a strong connotation to it. So once again, what is that website?

    Michael Canic: makingstrategyhappen.com.

    Ray Zinn: makingstrategyhappen.com. Okay. So those of you who want to learn more about committed leadership and developing the right kind of habits with a ruthless commitment, then please go to Michael’s website. So again, thank you so much Michael for joining us today. I appreciate it, the time you spent here with me today.

    I hope that our listeners get a big learning session out of this. And again, appreciate the time you spent. So with that, please come visit our website, toughthingsfirst.com. Get my book, “Tough Things First.” You can get at any a book retailer. This, again, we’re willing to take your questions online. If you have questions or thoughts, please don’t hesitate to send me an email or Michael at his website. Again, I sure appreciate you being with me today, Michael.

    Michael Canic: Fantastic. It’s been a great pleasure. Thank you, Ray.

    Ray Zinn: See you later everybody.

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  • team innovation

    Creative Teams

    No matter how large or small your creative teams are, you’ll want to maximize their cohesiveness and innovation. But that’s almost never easy. Ray Zinn has worked with creative teams his entire career and there’s hardly a situation he hasn’t experience. In this Tough Things First episode he’ll flatten that learning curve for managers at any level.

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  • wisdom

    Knowledge versus Wisdom

    Spending your life in academia doesn’t promise wisdom, any more than working in the trenches guarantees knowledge. In the latest Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn explores the need for balance and how making a weakness a strength is important for success.


    Rob Artigo: Rob Artigo here, your guest host, for another edition of the Tough Things First podcast. I’m a writer and investigator in California. Being invited back always great, Ray. How are you you doing?

    Ray Zinn: I’m doing fine. Glad you’re able to join with me again today on a nice podcast.

    Rob Artigo: I have this quote from Konrad Lorenz, he’s an Austrian zoologist, a scientist who looked at behavioral patterns in animals, and he was also known for his work on the roots of aggression which sounds kind of interesting to me, but we’re not going to talk about that stuff. What I’m going to get into is just this quote here. It stood out to me and I thought maybe you’d be interested in talking a little bit about this, so here’s the quote: “Scientists are people who know more and more about less and less until they know everything about nothing.” Do you agree with this statement?

    Ray Zinn: Another kind of an old adage as you would, a person that is a jack of all trades and a master of none. That’s what Lorenz is talking about is just that if we become so diversified in our capabilities, then we don’t really master any of them because we just don’t take the time to become the best at any particular area. (more…)

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  • venture capitalists

    Venture Capitalist Control

    Why do venture capitalists (a.k.a. vulture capitalists) always want controlling interest in a startup? Silicon Valley’s longest serving CEO never took VC money, so he has some keen observations on why the VCs do this and why you might want to avoid it.


    Guy Smith: Hello everybody. Welcome to another episode of the Tough Things First podcast. I’m your guest host this week, Guy Smith, and as always it’s a joy to be here. And today a especially exciting for me because we’re going to talk about venture capitalist or as they’re alternately known in Silicon Valley from time to time, vulture capitalist. And it’s a certainly a mixed bag when it comes to investors and startups and we’re going to be of course talking with Ray Zinn, the epitome of entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley. Longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley.

    Guy Smith: Good Morning Ray. I trust everything as well.

    Ray Zinn: Hi Guy. Doing fine thank you.

    Guy Smith: Great. Let’s dive right in. Here’s one of the things that confounds me. It’s understandable, but still confounds me about venture capitalists. They tend to love to micromanage their portfolio companies. It seems like there’s almost no detail too trivial for them not to be sticking their nose in. Why do VCs micromanage startups?

    Ray Zinn: Well, I don’t think it’s all venture capitalists. I think some do. It depends upon the firm that you’re dealing with. If you’re looking at selecting a venture capital firm, best to talk to companies that they have previously funded and get their reaction as to how that venture fund reacted or interfaced with them. And then you’ll get a real sense of what kind of problems you’re going to face by selecting that particular fund.

    Again, I don’t want to cast them all with the same a paintbrush or paint them all the same paintbrush because they’re different. Some of them, maybe because they’ve had some bad experiences with their previous companies that they have funded that they tend to dig right in and they will try to get involved. And again, depends upon the manager of that fund or the one that’s assigned to manage your particular investment. I think it’s not so much that all of them do it. I do believe that some of them do, but certainly not all of them will micromanage the fund, but they do stay pretty close to you and you have to remember that.

    Guy Smith: Well, and I think that creates kind of a catch 22 problem for a lot of founders. They need the money, they need the funding, but they also need to have a reasonably free hand at managing their company, setting the foundation of the corporate culture, managing their employees. How does somebody pursue venture capital and still have the ability to manage their own firm? How, aside from the selection process, how do they know the best ways to escape being micromanaged?

    Ray Zinn: I think being willing to overly inform them of how things are going. You can surprise them by the level of detail you provide them. Appear very transparent, not, don’t show any willingness to hide or to to dodge. Make sure that your financials are current and that you’re willing to share all the information about how the firm is doing though. That’s the surest way. And actually, over communicating is better than under communicating.

    I have a little company that I’m involved with and they under communicate and been trying to work with them on. that just makes it more concerning to me as an investor or disconcerning, is because I’m having to chase them down. I’m having to go after them saying, “Well, where’s the financials or where’s this or where’s that? And how come we’re not holding board meetings and so forth?” That’s the challenge is under communicating and that’s when the VCs will start to tying a tighter rope around the relationship.

    Guy Smith: And I guess that’s a lesson to the founders in the startups that are listening, is that lack of communication could also be perceived as the founders hiding something.

    Ray Zinn: Yeah, that’s what I just said.

    Guy Smith: And that would set off alarm bells, I guess for any investor.

    Ray Zinn: That’s exactly right. And that’s why I said, better to over communicate than under communicate.

    Guy Smith: Let’s take a situation where, we have a startup, they have a VC, they are doing a reasonably good job in communicating and managing, but they’re still being micromanaged. How does the founder pushback? How does he say to the investor, “You’re getting in my business too much. You need to back off some,” without creating a longterm relationship problem with the investor?

    Ray Zinn: Well, again, it depends upon how micromanaging they are. They are going to, especially if you’re having difficulties in your operation, even though you’re communicating like crazy with them, if you’re having difficulty with your company, they’re going to get in. They’re going to want more and frequent and more detailed meetings. The thing to do of course, is just to give them the truth and obviously if you’re not doing so well, you’re going to see them more often. And in more difficult circumstances so you can be upfront with them. You can tell them, “Hey, I’m having trouble right now running the company and you looking over my shoulder and constantly having me run reports is not helping me run the company.” Just be frank and up front with them on it. That’s a good way of doing it. Recognizing that this could also cause you some problems with them as far as relationships. And especially if you need another round from them.

    Guy Smith: I kind of wonder whether this is the reason most VCs really want majority equity in the startup. Does that give them the fear of God leverage that they need to be able to walk in and micromanage on a whim? Does a founder have a better joy of life and less micromanaging if they don’t give up that 51%?

    Ray Zinn: It’s not my experience. That has not been the case where because they owned less than, or more than 51% or higher that they seem to have more authority or can exercise more authority. That’s not been my experience. My experience has been that, even if they’re a 10% shareholder. Look at these mutual funds that or hedge funds that are, they’re taking a five, 10% interest in the company and they’re exercising all kinds of muscle to get their point across. You don’t have to be a 51% shareholder to exercise muscles. Even if I say a three or 4% shareholder could exercise that muscle. I don’t think percentage has anything to do with it. Now, because they have 51% that does, gives them some leverage with regard to being able to do change management because they own the majority of the stock. They could, because you do as a founder, you do report to the board and assuming that the board is run by 51%, a particular fund that they could in effect change the management at the company.

    Guy Smith: Yeah. And that heart replacement, a heart transplant is never generally a healthy thing for a startup. And to the listening audience, I’m going to tell a little story about Ray and then get his input on this tied to the main topic, but by all means a copy of Ray’s book, Tough things first. One of the first things that you read about Ray in this book is that he launched his company, Micrel Semiconductor without venture capital money. One of the great lessons there, is that there’s always a way to get financed and not necessarily have to do it the same way, everyone else in Silicon Valley appears to prefer doing it. And the takeaway in that is that by searching for funding but in a way that suits your business vision and mission, that you’re going to have a much better go of it.

    Guy Smith: And Ray was at the helm of Micrel for 37 years and that says quite a lot about looking towards that approach. Now Ray, when you launched Micrel, you skipped the venture capitalists, but you went to banks and you leveraged yourself to the max to do that. But you did have investors and I assume that in communicating to them, given the rather strenuous covenants that they had placed on you, that that communication, always keeping them up to date about your progress with inside of the framework that they had a defined for you, was essential to keeping them off of your back.

    Ray Zinn: In the bank. Covenants they have requirements for reporting and then if you miss that reporting period, then you’re in violation of your covenants and they have the right to call the loan. The banks probably don’t micromanage you to the point that VCs do, but you do have some strict reporting covenants and, and compliances that you have to meet or you’re going to have your loan called. And if you get your loan called, it’s hard to get another loan. And knowing that, but you, and then you have to come up with the money to do it or they’ll foreclose on you.

    Guy Smith: And in my mind, that sounds more frightening than a venture capitalist trying to replace me as the founder and CEO of a company.

    Well, thanks again Ray, for your insights, magical as always to have this time with you. And to the listening audience, by all means, do get a copy of book, Ray’s book, Tough Things First, and the companion read, his book, The Zen of Zinn. If you’re looking for that more holistic insight into the interrelationship between management, employees, community, and society at large. And by all means, rate and review us at iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, wherever you get your podcasts from, and join us again next week for another episode of the Tough Things First podcast.

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  • Shariq Shah - Ambii

    Pivoting – Shariq Shah and the Music Industry

    Nearly every startup pivots.

    In this Tough Things First podcast episode, Ray Zinn chats with Shariq Shah, one of Ray’s ZinnStarter fellows, to discuss how they are pivoting, why it is important, and why entrepreneurs should plan on pivoting.


    Ray Zinn: Hello everyone. Welcome to another fabulous podcast of toughthingsfirst.com. Really grateful today to have Shariq Shah with me. Shariq was a student at San Jose State University, was a Zinn fellow, part of our ZinnStarter program, and I’ll explain a little bit about that. But first, let me welcome Shariq. How are you doing, Shariq?

    Shariq Shah: Thank you, Ray. It’s a pleasure to be here.

    Ray Zinn: Yeah, it’s great to have you, too. So I got to know a Shariq on a personal level as he developed his little company called Ambii. So it’s really neat to see how much progress he’s had. So what ZinnStarter is, it’s a program for universities, kind of like Kickstarter for universities. It includes that both academic and some hands-on effort of developing a company. I also help fund ZinnStarter at the various universities that we host. It’s a great little program, you can read more about it on our website, Tough Things First. You can look up more about ZinnStarter if you’d like. Anyway, it’s a good program for students. Just briefly, Shariq, how did you find ZinnStarter’s help?

    Shariq Shah: So, ZinnStarter was probably one of the things that enabled me to continue my company outside of school. I just graduated a little while ago and turned down job offers because I decided, “Hey, I have this amazing opportunity. I’m going to take it.” And ZinnStarter and the program surrounding it was the thing that allowed me to take the first step into the world of entrepreneurship. Otherwise, right now I would have probably become just a programmer.

    Ray Zinn: Nothing wrong with that, however.

    Shariq Shah: Nothing wrong with that.

    Ray Zinn: No, but you wanted to be an entrepreneur and ZinnStarter gave you that opportunity to develop your company while you were yet in school. And that’s kind of what ZinnStarter is all about. Let’s go into it, Shariq. Where are you? How can I help? Let’s talk about where you are with Ambii and what help you need.

    Shariq Shah: Sure. So to begin with, we were a platform that allowed groups of people to enjoy music together. That’s the concept that I worked on all throughout the ZinnStarter program. And as we evolved, we solved more and more problems, I started understanding more of the music industry and more of the problems that surround it. And as time moves forward, we launch our initial consumer platform and I see an opportunity, a better opportunity for me to solve a much more tangible problem. And that problem is that 83% of businesses as of right now illegally play unlicensed music in their business establishments. And they are risking over $300,000 of fines and essentially they’re stealing $2 billion from the labels and the artists. When you tell them that, “Hey, you’re doing something illegal,” half of them don’t know what they’re doing, and then once you do tell them, most of them don’t want to pay. (more…)

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  • Ofir Paldi on Organizational Learning

    Fighter Pilots and Entrepreneurs – How Organizations Learn

    Learning from mistakes is a team process used by fighter pilot squadrons.

    In this Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn chats with entrepreneur and former fighter pilot Ofir Paldi to discuss learning organizations.


    Ray Zinn: Welcome to another Tough Things First podcast. This is a fantastic opportunity to be with you again today, and to just talk about, really, some very fundamental and good business principles.

    My guest today is none other than Ofir Paldi. He is an entrepreneur from Israel. He’s only been here in this country, in the United States, for seven months. His company is Shamaym. He’s got about 25 people in this company. I’m going to let Ofir tell you a bit about himself, and his company before we jump right into the podcast.

    Ofir, tell us a bit about Shamaym, and what it means, and a bit about what your company does?

    Ofir Paldi: So, Ray, first of all, thank you for inviting me to the podcast, a great honor.

    Shamaym actually means sky, or heaven. Before I’ll tell exactly what we are doing, I want to ask you to try and imagine an organization that every day becomes better than the day before. Organizations that every day, each one of its employees becomes better than the day before. An organization that everybody feels free to speak about their mistakes, to share their mistakes, to learn from their mistakes and from others. It sounds a bit off topic, maybe, but this is the reality for us, and for the organizations that we are working with.

    I actually had a background in the Israeli Air Force, where what we call a debriefing culture is an amazing tool to create both a continuous learning organization, and a culture of excellence, accountability, transparency, and never repeating a mistake. (more…)

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  • training to be an entrepreneur

    Training to be an Entrepreneur

    Can you train yourself to be an entrepreneur? Silicon Valley’s longest serving CEO says ‘yes’ and explains how.


    Guy Smith: Hello once again and welcome to the Tough Things First podcast where we sit down and have a chat with Silicon Valley’s longest serving CEO, Mr. Ray Zinn. Today we’re going to be covering what I know is the topic dear to his heart, how does one become an entrepreneur and can you actually train yourself to be an entrepreneur. I know that this tickles ray because through some philanthropic outreach, he’s coaching the next generation of entrepreneurs at various college campuses around the country. He is the epitome of Silicon Valley entrepreneurship. So hello Ray. How are you doing today, sir?

    Ray Zinn: Staying dry. Staying dry. So yeah, it’s been an interesting winter, one of the winter winters we had here so. Well, good to have you back with this Guy.

    Guy Smith: It’s always a pleasure for me to be here. So let’s dive in and talk about some natural entrepreneurs, some entrepreneur wannabes. What separates those two creatures? What defines the natural entrepreneur and what defines the wannabe who maybe someday become one but isn’t quite ready for primetime?

    Ray Zinn: Well, we are all entrepreneurs, so we’re all naturally entrepreneurs in that we do create, innovate and negotiate. So we’re all entrepreneurs. The differences between one that is willing to step out and run his own company, and I think that’s what you’re referring to, is the passion. Now not the passion to follow your passion, it’s to be passionate about what you do. I had a friend of mine who work for IBM, he’s a senior fellow at IBM, and when I was starting Micrel, he would ask me to tell him the story, “Tell me the story. How’d you start the company? How’d you do it?” I remember as a kid admiring various business leaders like John D. Rockefeller and so forth then that had made millions of dollars and I wondered how they did it. How does one get to the point where they’re like an icon? Whether like a Thomas Watson at IBM? Or how do you do it? How do you just start a company? (more…)

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  • Fighting the Cycle of Quitting

    How do entrepreneurs get past the desire to quit? Ray Zinn, a man who avoids using the word “quit” sits in discussion with Suzanne Evans whose has been on the Inc 500/5000 list of fasting growing companies for 5 straight years.


    Ray Zinn: Good morning everyone. So happy to have you with us today on this podcast. My name is Ray Zinn. I’m Silicon Valley’s longest serving CEO. Recently, I sold my company in 2015, and now writing books and just enjoying helping out universities with various projects that I have on Tough Things First.

    With me today, I’m so delighted to welcome Suzanne Evans. Hello, Suzanne. How are you today?

    Suzanne Evans: I’m awesome. Thank you so much for having me, Ray.

    Ray Zinn: It’s delightful to have you. I think after reading your bio that I’m going to call you Suzanne “Wonder Woman” Evans because Suzanne has done some remarkable things. She started a business from basically a humble beginning, I think a secretary’s great, but it’s a humble beginning, to a company that does $7 million in sales in record time. She’s also written a book, New York Times Bestseller, How You Do Anything is the Way You Do Everything, which is really a nice title to a book. We’re going to talk a little bit more about that in this podcast.

    She’s been on the Inc 500 and 5000 list for five straight years. She’s really just done remarkable things. Her book is a New York Times Bestseller. She’s helped thousands of business owners get on a fast track to success.

    Her company’s called Driven, by the way. I’m sure she’ll tell us a little bit about what Driven is. That sounds good. Being Driven is a good thing. With that, Suzanne, tell us a little bit about yourself and your company, Driven, and how you help businesses.

    Suzanne Evans: Thank you so much. It’s funny. We were bantering a little bit before we started the podcast today, and I am a seventh generation North Carolinian, but I think the most important thing is I’m seventh generation farm family. I believe the farmer was the original entrepreneur. I grew up in that family and that experience, and strangely moved from that experience to working in the Broadway theater industry. (more…)

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  • Crossroads and Tough Decisions

    Crossroads

    We’ve all experienced crossroads in life, but is there a way to know when you’re making a good decision?

    Ray Zinn has seen more than his share of turning points and crossroads, and in this edition of the Tough Things First podcast, Ray discusses the art of making the right moves.


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

    Ray Zinn: Hello Rob. Good to be with you this morning.

    Rob Artigo: It’s great to be back. I’d like to pick your brain a bit about life experiences that influenced you. If you remember, maybe you’ve heard this quote before, legendary New York Yankee Yogi Berra once said, “When you come to the fork in the road, take it.” You recall that one.

    Ray Zinn: Oh yeah. But that was a real thing because it was literally you could go on either road to get to his house. I was on a open house he was having and he just said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” It applies to life also. It’s those forks in the roads that we said, “Well do I go left or do I go right?” The yin and yang as they say.

    Rob Artigo: Were there some interesting crossroads that you came to in your life that sort led in directions that you just didn’t expect?

    Ray Zinn: Absolutely. Life is that way. It’s a constant round as they say and we deal with the changes as they occur. I was born and raised on a cattle ranch and so my background is really more agrarian. Working with animals, agriculture. Never did I think at the time when I was growing up that I would ultimately end up as a CEO of a semiconductor company in the Bay area, Silicon Valley and being Silicon Valley’s longest serving CEO. Hindsight’s 20/20 so when you’re growing up, you don’t really know what’s going to happen but you do is you hope for the best and then expect the worst and then solve problems as they come up. (more…)

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  • Keli Hammond - Branding for Startups

    Branding and Startups

    Startup branding expert Keli Hammond chats with Silicon Valley’s longest serving CEO, Ray Zinn, about the importance of branding for early stage companies.

    Keli Hammond is CEO of B Classic Marketing & Communications in Washington, DC and author of the marketing book Craved: The Secret Sauce to Building a Highly-Successful, Standout Brand. A highly sought-after speaker, trainer and writer, Hammond regularly speaks to groups of business owners, students, and women about self-care and personal and professional growth. You can learn more at KeliHammond.com and can find her book at CravedBook.com

     


     

    Ray Zinn: Well, good morning, or good afternoon, wherever you are today. We are so delighted to have this podcast today with you and my name in Ray Zinn; I’m the author of Tough Things First, and also the website, as well as Silicon Valley’s longest serving CEO. I am very honored and privileged to have a very special guest with me today, this is Kelli Hammond. She, I think, is in Washington D.C., she is an author, she’s consultant, she helps people brand their products and their company, and she’s just an all around extremely competent and helpful person. So welcome today, Kelli, glad to have you on the program.

    Keli Hammond: Thank you so much, it’s an honor to be there.

    Ray Zinn: So can you tell me a little bit more about yourself to our audience, Kelli, about you and kind of what you’re up to?

    Keli Hammond: Sure. So I actually just finished my debut book, the name of it is Craved: The Secret Sauce to Building a Highly Successful Standout Brand. I wrote it … so I have 15 years of industry experience in marketing communications, advertising, brand development, positioning, all of those different kind of business strategy pieces that are flanked under the umbrella of marketing. So I wanted to take all of that expertise and the knowledge that I’ve accumulated over the years, having seen so many different brand problems, and kind of distill it into a really clear, highly fundamental and foundational book that really walks people through all of the things that go into branding and marketing yourself or your brand or business.

    Ray Zinn: Well I’ve heard about branding, what’s so funny is that, as a kid, I was raised on a cattle ranch and my grandfather was a brand inspector, and so each cattle owner had his own brand and it’s a special, unique little symbol that we would put on the back of the animal, on his rear, and that would then identify him as being owned by that particular brand owner. And it’s so funny because my grandfather, we’d go round and he would inspect these cattle and make sure that they were owned by that person, and so I always thought branding was putting this identification on the back of an animal, and so here we are, talking about branding but in a different format. So-

    Keli Hammond: They are related, actually, which I’m sure we can find some type of way to link in, tie it together. (more…)

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  • ZinnStarter

    ZinnStarter Student Questions

    A Q&A between Ray Zinn, the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley, and some new ZinnStarter Fellows – students participating in Ray’s college entrepreneurship project.

    Read more
  • Innovation and exporting Silicon Valley

    Innovation Changes

    Decades of innovation in Silicon Valley show no signs of slowing.

    In this Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn talks about what’s next as little silicon valleys pop up in other areas of the country.

    Read more
  • Zinn's Law

    Zinn’s Law

    It’s hard to put life into simpler terms, but Zinn’s Law establishes a paradigm that’s hard to oppose.

    In this edition of the Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn details this idea and explains why it may be helpful at any stage in life.


    Rob Artigo: I’m Rob Artigo, 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. Ray, it’s always a pleasure.

    Ray Zinn: Thanks Rob for joining us today.

    Rob Artigo: Well, I’ve heard you talk about Zen’s Law. For our listeners of course, what is Zen’s Law?

    Ray Zinn: Well, over the years I’ve developed an understanding about there’s a time and a season for all of us. In other words, there’s a time and a place. Time to get married, a time to have children, a time to start your own company or whatever, so the time and the season is what Zen’s Law is all about.

    When it relates to your earning power, when it relates to your ability to provide for your family, there’re some characteristics you need to understand.

    In the first leg of your life, getting an education should take up until you’re about age 25, whether you get an undergraduate or a masters or whatever. By the time you’re 25 you’re getting educated. In other words, you’re forming the basis of your career. (more…)

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  • Dealing with Setbacks

    Setbacks

    Since the day we learned to walk it seems we’ve faced setbacks and challenges. If dealt with properly, these moments helped catapult us toward success.

    In this edition of the Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn talks discusses his own setbacks and how perseverance turned the tide.


    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, always a great pleasure. Ray, hi.

    Ray Zinn: How you doing, Rob? Good to be with you today.

    Rob Artigo: We all know the natural order of life is that we experience ups and downs. You’ve had a remarkably successful life. We know from this podcast that you’ve been fired from jobs and you had other setbacks, failures, and disappointments, pretty much like everybody else, every normal person in the world. Let’s talk about your setbacks and how you dealt with them. Do you have a setback that stands out to you that led you to an unexpected place?

    Ray Zinn: Well, you know we talk about failure as a great educator. Now we don’t want to fail just for the sake of failing. Now because we make mistakes and because we are, as they say human, we are prone to error. And rather than use, get grumpier, get upset because we have these setbacks, we should look at them as learning processes. So yes, absolutely there have been times when I’ve stumbled and had to pick myself up again. As you pointed out, I’ve probably been fired five times. Tom Peter says if you’re not getting fired, you’re not trying hard enough. So, I can say I tried awfully hard because I was fired a lot of times. (more…)

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  • Sources of Good Advice

    Advice

    Most people can relate to the idea that advice is everywhere, it’s what you do with that information that matters most.

    In this Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn explores the advice he values most and where you’re likely to find the best advice.


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

    Ray Zinn: Thanks Rob. Good to be with you today.

    Rob Artigo: Well, we’ve heard on this podcast you talking about growing up early because you lost your father at a young age and we’ve talked at length about the work you’ve done on the ranch. You ever once told a story about how you at age four your mother, sent you on a task to go to the store and get eggs and milk and whatnot. Age four? Let’s talk about some of the advice that you’ve received. Any recollections stand out to you for the advice you most valued when you were growing up?

    Ray Zinn: As you pointed out, I lost my dad when I was 26. I had already graduated and got married. He left nine children at home at the time when he passed away. And I had to pick up the slack there, helping my mother with the children even though they lived not around me, close wise. I had to help financially to some degree. And then mentoring my siblings. So I became actually their surrogate father. But some of the advice that I can remember that really panned out was my neighbor who was a very well educated civil engineer and very successful, told me to go into engineering. (more…)

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  • Asia and competition – from Japan to China

    Has much changed with Asia and international competition? Is China in the 21st century what Japan was in the 20th?

    Professor Robert Wood of San Jose State University joins Ray Zinn in a conversation about trade with Asia, then and now.


    Robert Wood: Hello podcast listeners this Robert Chapman Wood. I’m professor of Strategic Management at San Jose State University in Silicone Valley, and I’m today’s guest interviewer on the “Tough Things First” podcast.

    We’re building on Ray Zinn’s book, “Tough Things First” and we’re going to talk about one really tough thing today, and that’s US-China business relations.

    There seems to be a real battle going on for economic supremacy between the US and China, and that actual recalls the battle I personally experienced about 30 years ago when I was a journalist in Japan. I think Ray experienced the US-Japan battle very differently, so I want to start by saying, “Ray, can you talk about how your company experienced the US-Japan battle of the 20th Century?”

    Ray Zinn: Sure, and thanks a lot, Robert, for joining us on this podcast it’s a real honor to have you and your expertise to talk about this important subject.

    So as I think about, of course, I hate to give away my age, but I was born during the depression era, and at the beginning of the Second World War. So I’m very familiar with what happened after the war and what Douglas McAurther wanted to do to help Japan. And of course, he got Japan economically on its feet. The way, of course, that any economics work there’s a, what they call the first law of economics, which is: Individual A benefits from Individual B as long as Individual B’s loss is less than Individual A’s gain, is considered a good economic principle. The thinking was, Japan’s going to benefit from the US helping get Japan on its feet and then because it’s a small cost to the US, but a big gain to Japan. (more…)

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  • Automation, employment and the future

    Automation and Work

    Automation isn’t going away. As the use of AI technology and robotics seize ground once firmly occupied by the working class, is there a point of diminishing returns? In this edition of the Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn answers questions about what the future holds.


    Rob Artigo: Rob Artigo here 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 good to be with you again, Rob. It’s always fun to have you on the program.

    Rob Artigo: We appear to be transitioning from a mass employed service sector economy to a thinner employed service sector economy which is more dominated by artificial intelligence and robotics. Is that a … At least that’s the way I see it. Is that a fair assessment of what’s going on? The trends you’re seeing?

    Ray Zinn: Well it’s gonna be that way. It’s been that way ever since the industrial revolution. So we’re not talking about something that’s happened the last 20 years, we’re talking about something that’s been going on for over 100 years.

    Rob Artigo: Is it speeding up? Are we seeing a quickening in that area?

    Ray Zinn: Well I don’t know if it’s speeding up, per se. It’s certainly continued to accelerate. If I just look at my lifetime and what has come about, we’re having to deal with more and more things and then to do that we innovate and create things to help us do it, like the computer, for example. Personal computer, actually, has given us much more capability and allowed us to be more productive than we were in the past. So I mean, people worked longer hours as a farmer, my parents were in agriculture, they work long hours because there was so much they had to get done in a day, whether it be milking the cows or feeding the cows or raising the feed for them, all that had to be done in a timely way. And you couldn’t just say, “Well I just can’t do that.” And say I’ll just shorten my day so I can have more time to go off and have fun or be with the family. So, you know, the 18 hour days were not unusual in that time period. The farmers used to get up at like 4:00 in the morning and they didn’t retire until 8:00 or 9:00 or 10:00 at night. So I mean, they barely got in six or eight hours of sleep and there was no time, as you would, for doing the fun things like going to ball games or just enjoying an evening with your family.

    I think the average worker today probably (more…)

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  • Successful Entrepreneur

    Minting Entrepreneurs

    Entrepreneurs develop over time through a variety of paths, but is there something different about a successful entrepreneur?

    In this edition of the Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn and guest host Rob Arigo break down what makes a successful entrepreneur.


    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: Well, Rob, you’re here again. So, good to be with you.

    Rob Artigo: Time for another great conversation. We know there is a myriad of ways to get a business education; the experience and training, but is any of that, or even all of that put together, guaranteed to produce a genuine entrepreneur?

    Ray Zinn: Let’s first of all talk about what is an entrepreneur. An entrepreneur is a creator, innovator, and negotiator. So if you look at it in those terms, any one of us, you included, myself included, are entrepreneurs. What differentiates an entrepreneur who runs a company and just an entrepreneur that maybe has a little backyard service, as you would, or garage service, is passion. So what differentiates entrepreneurs that are willing to make that big leap is their passion. How passionate are they about what it is they want o do? And so, that doesn’t mean they’re gonna be successful, just because they have passion. But we’ll talk about that in a minute, about what’s the difference between a passionate entrepreneur and being a successful entrepreneur. (more…)

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  • Negotiations

    Negotiations

    The give and take required for successful negotiation stymies the stubborn.

    In this Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn and guest host Rob Artigo discuss fundamentals of negotiating and how to be successful even when you aren’t getting everything you want.


    Rob Artigo: Welcome back everyone 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: Hey Rob. So good to be with you this morning.

    Rob Artigo: I have a good question here and I think lots of people will be able to relate to it because we’ve been hearing a lot about the idea of negotiating on a national level. Donald Trump, as you know, penned a famous book called The Art of the Deal and it has been discussed a lot frequently because of the context of the negotiations with Congress to get border wall funding. Some have said that there are failures built into this that show that Donald Trump isn’t such a great negotiator after all, so as an outside observer Ray, would you agree with that? I mean just based on what you’ve seen?

    Ray Zinn: I think negotiations are really a tough subject and it depends again what we’re negotiating on and how important it is to a particular individual. If for example you’re negotiating with your spouse about where you are gonna go to eat and you don’t care, then it’s not a very difficult task but if where you go to eat is extremely important and depending upon the setting and depending upon the cost, depending upon the kind of cuisine, it can be kinda heated and debated. It’s not something as simple. When we talk about negotiating, we don’t necessarily put it all in one bucket. It all depends again upon the motivation of the individuals.


    In the case of President Trump and negotiating with regard to whether we do a government shutdown or whether they fund his border wall is a matter of principle and so if the one side says, “We don’t want him to have that little feather in his cap that says that he got that border wall built,” then they’re gonna resist and they’re willing to throw the baby into the fire to prove their point. Then of course President Trump on the other hand is gonna stand rigid and say, “Hey, you want to put all these people out of work? You guys go right ahead.” It depends upon what each side feels they have to lose.

    Rob Artigo: Ray, isn’t it like the idea of the stakes are different, and I love this idea of talking about Congress and the president negotiating over the wall because metaphorically you could really place this on top of other issues, whether it’s business or personal like you said, even just deciding with your wife what place you’re gonna go eat, but the idea of stakes and what struck me there, what you were just saying is that in the context of this negotiation, you may find one side, the stakes aren’t the wall for both sides. The stake for Congress appears to be whether or not Donald Trump gets a “victory” and gets what he wants so if they’re trying to avoid that, if they’re trying to avoid Donald Trump getting a “victory” here, then that’s different than Donald Trump’s intent. His goal, the stakes for him is he wants to get the border wall done.

    Ray Zinn: I mean, it’s a matter of victory again. He’s promised his constituents that he would build a wall during his administration. It’s a victory for him and it’s a victory for the other side if they can prevent him from doing it because they’re showing their power. Let’s see who’s really got the power and so it’s all about fighting. A negotiation is somewhat of a fight. If there’s no contest, then there’s no fight. If there’s a point to be made, then all hands on deck, they’re gonna try to make their point. Let’s be factual about this, the Congress does not love the president at all, at least the current Congress does not love president, and the president really doesn’t care for them either. He wants to drain the swamp, calling them swamp monsters is not going to sit well with them. When you go into negotiation, if both sides hate each other, negotiations aren’t gonna go very well.

    The first thing that we have to think about when we’re negotiating is what kind of … Where do we stand with regard to the individuals we’re negotiating with? Whether it be a teacher strike or whether it be a particular direction we want to head the company, if there’s a team effort, in other words, if we’re trying to negotiate the best outcome and the team basically like each other, then negotiations go relatively smooth. There’s compromises that will have to be made, but it will be a rather smooth transition whereas if there’s animosity and if there’s hard feelings, negotiating is not gonna go well, period. The best way if there is animosity, if there is hard feelings between two parties or multiple parties, then what we have to do is figure out what kind of compromise can be made where both parties walk away smiling. In other words, there’s give and take.

    I think we saw a little bit of this recently when the bill was put before the president to sign that Congress passed, Congress and the Senate passed for overcoming the government shutdown and then they gave him 1.4 billion for the wall. They didn’t give him much for the wall, but they avoided a government shutdown, another government shutdown. That was a compromise, so if you remember, the Democrats or Nancy Pelosi said we’re not gonna even give him a dollar. They gave him more than a dollar, they gave him 1.4 billion dollars. He got something, he just didn’t get what he wanted so they declared the victory, the Congress says, “Okay, we were victorious because he didn’t get what he wanted, he didn’t get five point whatever billion for his wall,” and we also avoided a government shutdown. Trump says, “Well, they gave me more than a dollar,” and so he declared victory and avoided a government shutdown.

    That’s kind of the way compromises are done. Both parties take a victory lap and smile. They may not get exactly what they want but in any negotiation, I don’t know if anybody gets exactly what they want, whether you’re buying a car or whether you’re buying a home or you’re sitting on negotiating a price and both sides are trying to get the best deal for them. You’re never going to get everything you want. When you go into negotiation, the first thing you must ask yourself is where do I draw the line? In other words, how far am I willing to go and we all do that. We all say I’m not gonna pay any more than this or I’m not gonna accept any more than that and so they’ve already set their bottom line and then they try to work towards something where both of them end up not having to cross their bottom line.

    That’s the key to negotiating. You go in with the idea of a resolution. If you’re going into a negotiation [inaudible 00:08:59] we don’t want a resolution, then just walk away. Just don’t even go any further. If a resolution is being sought, a true resolution is being sought, and your bottom line, you’ve accepted, in the instance here of President Trump, he said, “I’m gonna get more than a dollar.” That’s kinda what he told himself. “If I can’t get more than a dollar, we’re gonna shut the government down.” The other side says, “Well, as long as we don’t fund anything anybody could say was an appreciable amount of what Donald Trump is asking for, then we can take a victory lap because we avoided a government shutdown and at least he didn’t get all of his money to do what he wants.” They changed the name from wall to fence and some other ridiculous things, and that’s how stupid negotiations actually get sometimes. They actually get that way, where people act stupid and silly. That’s unfortunately the way compromise works sometimes is that you make silly compromises.

    Rob Artigo: I guess from what I’m hearing you say and then the example of Congress and the president is that it was important, it was more important to break the logjam or the impasse that they were facing than to get the perfect deal on either side.

    Ray Zinn: They were avoiding a government shutdown is what they were avoiding. They said, “Okay, what can we do to avoid a government shutdown? Well, we gotta give Donald Trump more than a dollar,” and Donald Trump says, “I’ve gotta get enough to say that I can at least build something of a wall, 58 miles,” and so that’s what they did. In the back of his pocket, he’s been saying this for some time, that he’s just gonna invoke a presidential … Make a presidential decision and declare an emergency. He always had in the back of his pocket and he knew he wasn’t gonna get five plus billion because the other side would have lost. In other words, they would not have been able to take a victory lap. He’s been gearing up to do this emergency declaration. That’s kinda what’s happened and that’s what we do in negotiating. We make compromises and move forward.

    Rob Artigo: As always, you can reach out to Ray Zinn with your questions at ToughThingsFirst.com. Continue your education in this conversation with all the podcasts, Ray’s blogs, links to the information about the book Tough Things First and Ray’s new book, The Zen of Zinn, a collection of writings on interrelated topics of entrepreneurship, leadership, management, discipline, determination, society, people, and life, that’s The Zen of Zinn. Thanks again Ray.

    Ray Zinn: Hey thanks Rob. It’s always fun to talk with you.

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  • Managing Multiple Generations

    Managing Multiple Generations

    Managers today might lead teams with Baby Boomers and Generation-Z members. How does a good manager lead such a diverse set of employees?


    Guy Smith: Hello and welcome again to another episode of the Tough Things First podcast, a weekly dive into management leadership and a bit of Silicon Valley as well. I’m your host this week, Guy Smith, and I’m going to dive into a topic here that I personally find fascinating. This may not have happened before in our society, but we’re at a point where we have four different generations active in the workforce right now, the Baby Boomers, Generation X, the Millennials, and Generation Z is just now entering the workforce.

    In Silicon Valley, we’ve got an eclectic mix of young turks and gray beards, so Silicon Valley is a good place to kind of think about how you lead such radically different people, and who better than to ask than the longest-serving CEO in Silicon Valley. That’s of course Mr. Ray Zinn, and how are you today, Ray?

    Ray Zinn: Well good, Guy. I’m trying to get over a cold, but we’re managing our way through it. This is an interesting topic that you’ve got today. So let’s kind of dive right into it.

    Guy Smith: Yeah, I’m really fascinated by this because from a leadership standpoint, from an organizational policy standpoint, there are a lot of different parts of the fabric that are tugging against each other. So let’s start with the extremes. The Baby Boomers are on end and we’ll stop with the Millennials at the other end for the time being. For me, contrast the motivational differences you see between Boomers and Millennials. What is it that they respond to differently in an organizational setting?

    Ray Zinn: Well one advantage that I have of course is that I’ve been able to span at least three of those generations. I don’t know if you consider me a Baby Boomers but I did come out of the second world war where I was just a youth. And my grandparents, which would be in the pre-first world war, they had a different environment they were in. Horse and buggy was still the fare, as you would. Cars were just coming into being. The way people traveled, the way they moved together as families, was entirely different than it was for me when I grew up. I grew up, basically our families were all kind of together and we didn’t move anywhere. I mean, we stayed in the same spot. So our cultural differences were minimal and there wasn’t the huge immigration issue that we face today, with a more diverse society. (more…)

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  • Say NO to NO

    Say NO to NO

    Self help gurus may entice you to learn to say no, but is that going to really get you anywhere in business?

    In this Tough Things First Podcast, Ray Zinn says YES to answering the question.


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

    Ray Zinn: Well, good to have you again with us, Rob. You’re always a delight to talk to and have you on these podcasts.

    Rob Artigo: Thank you, Ray. This idea of learning to say no has a lot of supporters. It’s out there. I’ve seen it in several forms. I know that somebody’s famous for having written whole books about it. These supporters of you’ve got to learn to say no, say we should learn to say no. Many of us, apparently, don’t have that skill, so we need to learn it. Do you buy that idea?

    Ray Zinn: On the surface, no. Some of the people that I know that have written on this subject really never have run a company before. I think this whole notion that you should just say no is just a cop-out and I don’t buy into it. It’s, I think, somebody just trying to sell some books or just trying to sell a notion because it tingles in their ear. So if you’re a person who would like to say no, you’re going to say no anyway, you don’t need somebody to tell you just to learn to say no. It just made you feel better for somebody to say, “Just say, no.”

    And so, to me, it’s really the people that buy into it are the ones who believe in that concept, and I’m not sure we’re going to change anybody’s mind when we talk about the concept of just say no, but for those of you who also adopt out feeling on the subject, that just saying no is not a good thing because you don’t know how it’s going to impact the other person. No one likes to hear no, no one. This notion that somewhere there’s a new paradigm out there for everybody learning to say no, I think is a harmful thing. (more…)

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  • Dan Moshavi and ZinnStarter at SJSU

    Education for Entrepreneurs

    Dan Moshavi, the Dean of the Lucas College and Graduate School of Business at San Jose State University, chats with Ray Zinn, the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley, about entrepreneurship education, what classes are important for entrepreneurs, why passion is critical for them, what are the key lessons of entrepreneurship they should embrace, and the mission of Ray’s ZinnStarter program.


    Ray Zinn: Welcome again to one of our great podcasts, Tough Things First. Visiting with me today is Dan Moshavi, who’s a dean of the Lucas College of Business at San Jose State University. So Dan, thank you for, again, joining us. I’m sure we’re gonna talk about education one more time.

    Dan Moshavi: Absolutely, Ray. It’s my pleasure to be here, and thank you for inviting me into this mix and for sharing your wisdom with not only our students, but around general business education issues. As you know, San Jose State’s one of the largest business schools in California. We’ve got 5,000 students on campus. We have a robust and growing entrepreneurship program. And, as the only public university in Silicon Valley, we really are a key player in powering this valley. We have tens of thousands of alumni working here. They build successful careers here, including … We have 800 alumni members of our chief financial officer network who are current or former CFOs in Silicon Valley. And, many of our alumni have also been successful entrepreneurs. And, I know that entrepreneurship is near and dear to your heart, Ray, and your ZinnStarter Program is certainly a testament to that. So, I’d like to get your thoughts on entrepreneurship education today, if I can.

    Ray Zinn: No problem. In fact, my last CEO … CFO, I’m sorry. My last CFO at Micrel, Bob [DeBarr 00:01:59], he’s since passed away, God rest his soul, was a San Jose State graduate, got his master’s at San Jose State. So, that was my last CFO before we sold the company.

    Dan Moshavi: That’s great. Thanks for sharing that. Let’s dive into entrepreneurship education a little bit. So in your view, what are the most important courses a student interested in entrepreneurship should take?

    Ray Zinn: Oh, this is one of the most favorite questions I get asked. And, it’s so important because they’re classes with principles. The first one is economics. Economics is a very broad field, but understanding and learning economics, and how the various components of economics apply to business, are very important. Second, is accounting. As a CEO or an entrepreneur, you can’t run your business unless you understand accounting. And, accounting is just a very complicated, but, yet, very worthwhile field for them to learn and understand. Transactions, learning general ledger, understanding how the cash flow statement’s put together, balance sheet, income statement … They’re so important. You can’t even be a board of directors in California anymore, maybe across the country, unless you understand accounting. (more…)

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  • Setting Expectations

    How does, and how should, a business leader set expectations for employees?

    In this episode of the Tough Things First podcast, Silicon valley’s longest serving CEO discusses the public and private motivations employees have, and what a leader needs to consider.


    Guy Smith: Hello again, and welcome to another episode of the Tough Things First podcast. I’m your guest host today, Guy Smith and it’s like always a pleasure to be back here with my buddy Ray Zinn. Good morning Ray. How are you doing today?

    Ray Zinn: I’m doing just fine Guy, so good to be with you again this morning.

    Guy Smith: Well, fantastic. And now we’re on opposite sides of the country I can only imagine what weather over your way is. Out here in North Carolina it’s about as beautiful as beautiful gets.

    Ray Zinn: It’s beautiful here too, but probably a difference in temperature maybe.

    Guy Smith: Well the leaves are turning here, so everything is looking very very wonderful.

    Hey listen, what I wanted to talk to you today about is setting expectations among employees, communicating with employees about the ever shifting goals and objectives that are likely with inside of teams, because you know businesses are in dynamic environments, everything’s constantly in a state of change, and employees have, you know certain expectations that come and go over time. And that’s what I really wanted to dive into because I’ve got to imagine that that’s one of the more personal but also possibly intricate and tedious tasks that a leader has to deal with managing the expectations of a team.

    You know, so for our budding entrepreneurs who make up a large part of your audience, what are the kind of employee expectations that they really need to be managing? What are the ones that, you know are going to be most important in keeping teams happy, motivated, innovating, and doing the right job?

    Ray Zinn: There’s two components to it. One is reality, in other words what is the way things are, the business climate. For example, just in the last week or two, the stock market has really been going down, down, down, so the expectation is that the market will continue to go up, and up, and up, and up, and up but that’s unrealistic. What comes up must also come down. (more…)

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  • When Automation Hurts Your Customers

    Automation and Customers

    Automation could be a good thing for a company, but transparent cost cutting that frustrates your customers may backfire.

    Ray Zinn explores the value and risks of automation in this edition of the Tough Things First podcast.


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

    Ray Zinn: Good, Rob, it’s always good to have you on. You’ve got a good way of leading these podcasts, and so you’ve got a real talent for it. Appreciate having you back on the program again.

    Rob Artigo: Thanks a lot, Ray, and obviously it’s great to be able to pick your brain on a lot of these matters. I find it fascinating, and when I listen to the other podcasts that are done by the guest hosts, I always learn something, so I appreciate it.

    Ray, you’re not only known as a well-respected very successful entrepreneur, but you’re also an inventor and innovator. You came up with the wafer stepper, which changed Silicon manufacturing. Let’s talk about those kinds of advances in the context of businesses choosing new automation platforms, and maybe doing away with older methods. And I hate to say going from a buggy whip to automobile or something like that, but every new year, and it’s about that time to start thinking about it, every new year seems to bring advances in automation technology. So, what does it mean for businesses to consider automation when you have a lot of options but it can be costly?

    Ray Zinn: Automation does two things. Number one, it increases product quality, or should increase product quality and consistency. And it also, of course, allows us to go beyond where we were before. I know that when I invented the Waver Stepper it allowed us to go to really deep geometries. Very, very small chip sizes, as well as features. So, it really improved performance dramatically and continues to do so.

    So, sometimes automation is done just to reduce cost. Now, that’s the more difficult one, because people’s jobs and lives are impacted when we have automation to reduce cost. Now, sometimes we reduce cost and that’s at the expense of quality. Sometimes what we try to do is get more output and automation increases the output but also reduces the quality.

    So, there’s all kinds of automation. There’s what they call AI automation, which is artificial intelligence, which allows cars to be self-driven without having a passenger or a person behind the wheel manipulating the controls. And so there’s the issue about, well, what’s that going to do to safety? Maybe a person is more alert and can see things that maybe not all the little sensors in the car will know. And in fact we’ve known that there’s some people that have been killed when they went to these self-driving cars.

    So, there’s that aspect of it. The better the automation is in the way of not only improving safety, but improving quality and reliability, is good. But if it’s just there to cut costs, that’s not always a good thing.

    Rob Artigo: And the cutting the costs is one of the reasons why some businesses have chosen to go with almost an automated customer service. And you mentioned artificial intelligence, and one of the aspects of artificial intelligence, or the early stages of it, is you have a video screen or something with an automated person on there, automated image of a person on there. And then you’re interacting or talking to that, and then punching in numbers. And you’re not really interacting, engaging, with a real person.

    I suppose that when you deal with the type of business that it has always been traditionally a human interaction between your business and the customer, that an overstep in automation could push you into a zone where you really end up losing that relationship that you’ve always wanted to have with your customers.

    Ray Zinn: Like you, I’m probably bombarded with 50 to 60% of my phone calls are all automated, meaning they’re just dialing my number and then it does a pause while they then connect me with a person, or it’s just a recording. Those are very irritating, and so to me, I won’t deal with companies that use that sort of contact, when it’s fully automated. And you know how irritating it is by the way when you call a service and you’ve got to punch five different numbers in before you get a real person to talk to you.

    If it’s regarding a delivery, press one. If it’s regarding this and another, press two. If it’s another, press three. I hate that. And so some forms of automation to me have actually reduced my belief that that company has a quality operation.

    Rob Artigo: I had a recent experience, as you were just saying there, I have a couple of power poles on my property. And I had to call the local municipal utility to tell them that a guy wire that was holding one of the poles up had snapped off out of the ground. And I don’t think there was any immediate danger, there were other guy wires holding the pole. But obviously they want to know structurally if the system is sound and everything is working on. And I had to call and tell them that there was a broken guy wire, and navigating the voice system to get to the right person ultimately was, I said, “Problem with a power pole,” and they sent me to emergency line because it was a down wire thing. And I had to say, “Well no … it’s not.”

    If they had listened to my suggestion, it would’ve been, “Take me to somebody who can schedule a person to come out here and look at this in their appropriate time.” But it wasn’t an emergency. Ultimately, my relationship with that municipal utility is unaffected, because I need them. They’re going to be here no matter what, I don’t have a choice with the utility.

    But, I also have a negative opinion now of having to deal with them, because it was so impossible to deal with navigating their phone. Their voice phone interactions, and that’s one of the examples that when you have a business that deals with the public, and you force them to go through all the automation, you stand the risk of really losing your reputation as being a customer service-oriented organization.

    It must be a tough decision for a business operator to decide when to make that move.

    Ray Zinn: Yes, and you know, they primarily do it because of cost. In other words, they’re just trying to reduce head count, and so they’ll use as much automation as you can to cut the cost. I remember recently with an internet problem, it took me forever and I was on hold forever before I could talk to a person. And I said, “What’s the problem here with your service?” And they said, “Well, I’m one person, and I’m now the only human interface for the entire company.” And this is a company that has tens of thousands of customers.

    So, their quality of service dropped, but they’re trying to cut costs. It depends again what the automation does. In the case of the Wafer Stepper that I invented many years ago, this has helped industry, it’s been a positive. And so if automation is a positive, then I think it’s a good thing. If automation is a negative, then obviously it’s a bad thing. And we’ve been talking mostly about automation that’s negative as opposed to automation that’s positive.

    Most of the car manufacturers now, a whole lot of it is done automatically, there’s not a person that interfaces with that car, except maybe in the final inspection. Maybe even then, it’s done by automation. So, there are areas where automation has basically taken over the entire manufacturing of a product. But it’s the automation where it’s interfaced with customer service, is where I think we have the most difficult, because we know the company is just trying to cut costs, and they’re really not here to help service their customers.

    Rob Artigo: Well, thank you again, Ray, appreciate it.

    Ray Zinn: Appreciate being with you, Rob.

    Rob Artigo: You can join the conversation at thoughthingsfirst.com. You can ask your questions, you can put your comments in there. They’re always welcome. Ray loves to hear from you, you can follow Ray Zinn on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. And of course, get the text of Ray’s books. He has two, Tough Things First, and of course, the Zen of Zinn. Thanks Ray.

    Ray Zinn: Thanks Rob.

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  • Millennial Employees

    Managing Millennials

    How do front-line managers deal with millennial employees, who have a much different outlook on business+society than previous generations. Ray Zinn, who has led employees from boomers to millennials has some thoughts.


    Guy Smith: Hello once again, and welcome to the next episode of the Tough Things First podcast, where we get to chat with Ray Zinn, the longest serving CEO in all of Silicon Valley. And today we get to talk about managing and leading millennials. I am on the tail end of the Baby Boomer generation, I’m looking at the millennial generation and I’m grappling with how I would lead, manage them on a day to day basis. And Ray has spent 50 years in Silicon Valley, 37 years leading his own company, he has managed everyone from grandparents to young interns who are still wet behind the ears, so let’s dive right in, and talk about millennials who now make up 30% of the population, and you lead and manage them.

    Good morning, Ray, I trust everything is well with you today.

    Ray Zinn: It is, Guy, and I hope you’re having a wonderful New Year.

    Guy Smith: Oh man, everything looks … looks bright and optimistic from this side.

    Ray Zinn: Well that’s great.

    Guy Smith: Let’s talk about millennials, they’re different than their parents are, that’s for sure. And a leader is going to have to deal with the Boomers, the Generation Z that’s coming up, but the millennials seem to be intrinsically different than what we’ve had before. So from an employee standpoint, what’s particularly different about people who were born in the 80s and the early 90s, in terms of how you lead them, how you manage them, what their expectations are?

    Ray Zinn: Well as we’re seeing, they’re socially more active. In other words, they tend to have a different view of life, and what it’s all about. My granddaughter came over for Christmas, and she’s 17, and she was wearing these jeans that had these holes in them. And I said, “Kirsten, I mean, can’t your parents afford to buy you nicer clothes?” And she says, “Grandpa, this is a fashion.” And I says, “Fashion with holes in them?” And she says, “Yeah,” she says, “This is the fashion.” So I said, “Well why do you wear them with the holes in them? Why is that the fashion?” She says, “I don’t know. It’s just that that’s what my friends are doing, and that’s what they wear.” (more…)

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  • Startup partners

    Finding Startup Partners

    There are good partners, and the other kind. Pick your startup partner well and your odds of success skyrocket. Here is how.


    Guy Smith: Hello, everybody, and welcome to another episode of the Tough Things First podcast where we get to have a conversation with Silicon Valley’s longest serving CEO, Mr Ray Zinn. And I’m going to find this one interesting, because I’ve got a little insight into the story and I’ve seen so many startups in Silicon Valley that come and go, and some interesting tensions that can exist, and it’s all because most startups happen through a simple partnership. In Silicon Valley, the traditional story is that one business oriented person teams up with one techie. They go into their garage and they try to invent something slick. That’s the partnership and it happens all the time in Silicon Valley. And so, choosing your partner, whether you’re the techie looking for the business guy or the business guy looking for the techie, or something more complex than that arrangement, you need to pick a good partner because if you don’t it probably won’t last.

    So Ray, good morning to you. I’m anxious to talk to you about this. How are you today, sir?

    Ray Zinn: Doing well. Thanks, Guy. Hopefully I’m over my cold by now and be able to move right along. So interesting subject you’ve pick today, Guy.

    Guy Smith: Yeah, and I’m gonna start off just really personal. Tell us about Warren, your partner. You guys were, well, not to put too fine of a point on it, you guys were kind of different.

    Ray Zinn: We were called the odd couple. We were totally different in every respect. I was more of a business person and Warren was a very tech guy, techie guy. He dressed like a techie guy. He never wore the same pair of shoes to work. He’d have a different pair of shoes on every day, not even the same matching shoes I should say. And I ask him why he didn’t at least have matching pairs of shoes and he said, “Well,” he says, “I lose one, so I just couldn’t find it and I just put on whatever was there.” He says, “All I need is [inaudible 00:02:55] to cover my feet.” So he didn’t care whether the shoes the matched, or what …

    In fact, it was really funny. I gave him a watch one time, a digital watch. And so, I noticed that after about a year the watch quit working. And I said, “Why don’t you get a new … put a battery in that watch.” He says, “Why?” I said, “Well, because it’s not working. You wear it like a watch but you don’t … it’s not functioning as a watch.” He says, “Well, it’s correct twice a day.” And I said, “Well, yeah. Okay, fine. But why do you wear it if it’s not working?” And he says, “Oh, well, at least it looks like a watch.” So, I mean, he was just different that way. And we got along very well because he didn’t jump in my arena and I didn’t jump in his arena, so we didn’t argue. We didn’t have different points of view about how to run the company and that really helped out. (more…)

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  • Entrepreneur Decisions

    How should entrepreneurs make decisions? Ray Zinn, the epitome of Silicon Valley entrepreneurship discusses the rigors of starts decisions.


    Guy Smith: Hello again, and welcome to another episode of the Tough Things First podcast, where we engage Ray Zinn, the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley. And we talk about entrepreneurship, leadership, executive management, and a little bit about society and how we all get along in life.

    But today we’re going to have, I think one of the more interesting topics for my mind, and that’s the art of decision making for entrepreneurs. Because in my time in Silicon Valley, and nurturing a lot of startups myself, I have seen entrepreneurs absolutely lock their brains in trying to make some fundamental decisions and Ray, he doesn’t seem to have a lot of problems with making quality decisions quickly. So, we’re going to figure out how he does it.

    So Good Morning Ray. Welcome again. Thank you so much for taking time with us.

    Ray Zinn: Well, thank you guys. Good to be back with you today.

    Guy Smith: An entrepreneur or somebody launching their own business, they have to make thousands of decisions. I mean, that’s pretty much their job is to make a lot of decisions, make them quickly, make them with a certain amount of quality. And yet a lot of guys and a lot of women, they kind of freeze up, especially on some of the big decisions. What is it that causes people to freeze, and not make the decisions that they need to make?

    Ray Zinn: Well, Tom Peters in his book, In the Pursuit of Excellence, talks about ready, aim, aim, aim, aim, aim, and never fire. What we need to do, as Tom says in his book, is ready, fire, aim. That seems kind of counterintuitive, but back in the days when we had the battleships and destroyers, they would fire for effect. In other words, you would shoot a round off and see where it went, high or low. (more…)

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  • China and IP theft

    China and Intellectual Property

    Relations between China and the United States is fractured by theft of intellectual property. Ray Zinn, the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley discusses the what and hows of the dispute and options for dealing with it.


    Guy Smith: Welcome again to another episode of the Tough Things First podcast. I’m your guest host today, Guy Smith and as always, we’re chatting with Ray Zinn, the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley and the founder of Micrel semiconductor. One of the things I want to talk with Ray about, very important subject, is the interaction of the world economy, especially the United States and the technology industry with China. China has a long reputation for, how shall we say this? Misappropriating intellectual property and specifically that being a problem with their long term mission of basically taking over electronic manufacturing from the ground up. First things first. Hello Ray. How are you today?

    Ray Zinn: Doing fine. Appreciate you being with me today Guy. Thanks.

    Guy Smith: I always enjoy having these chats with you. First, let me find out. What have you witnessed? You founded and ran Micrel for 37 years. You were in the semiconductor industry even before then. What have you witnessed about China and their process for acquiring intellectual property from other countries, especially within sight of semis?

    Ray Zinn: Okay. Let me get a little history here. Back in 1975 when I was at Electromask, I invented the wafer stepper which is a piece of equipment to allow semiconductors to be photolithographically imaged on a wafer providing a much higher resolution and much more accuracy and allow the geometries to go to much, much smaller by using the wafer stepper, which is, by the way, the most dominate piece of equipment to … Used in the industry today, to manufacture semiconductors. Back in, oh, I’m going to say, mid 80s, late 80s, I hired a fellow who used to work in Hungary, back when it was part of the Soviet Union, and he told me, I’m hearing this directly just from him, that Russia had secured a piece of that semiconductor equipment they called the wafer stepper, through Austria and they just began to copy it and replicate that piece of equipment. (more…)

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  • Entrepreneur New Year Resolutions

    Entrepreneur Resolutions

    Ray Zinn, Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurship godfather, covers some New Year resolutions entrepreneurs should make and keep.


    Guy Smith: Hello everyone, and welcome to another episode of the Tough Things First podcast, where we pick the brains of Ray Zinn, the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley, and the epitome of entrepreneurship with insight of the Valley. Good morning Ray, how are you doing today?

    Ray Zinn: Doing great Guy. Thank you again for putting on this podcast with me.

    Guy Smith: Oh man, I always love doing this, and I think today’s going to be special. We’re timing this particularly for the New Year, because we want to encourage all the entrepreneurs in our audience to make some resolutions. Entrepreneurs probably should make resolutions for themselves, for their company in the new year. And just like personal resolutions, it’s something that you need to focus on for the entire year, and to stick to it. So let’s jump right into that. Why should an entrepreneur make New Year’s resolutions for their company?

    Ray Zinn: Well, I don’t think the problem is making the resolution, I think the problem is executing on that resolution. So that seems to be the trick, is not just making a resolution, because we can all say, “Oh, I’m going to lose ten pounds, or I’m going to do this or that, do more exercising, or whatever.” But, until you actually have an execution program to go along with your resolutions, they’re for naught. That’s not my feeling anyway.

    Guy Smith: Well, it’s funny you mentioned it that way, because statistically most gymnasium memberships are sold in January, and people are really gung-ho about their New Year’s resolution, and most people who buy a new gym membership, are never seen again after January 31st.

    Ray Zinn: Well, I’ve even heard that even … that if you even keep 10% of the resolutions you make, you’re at 90% level of the population. So at least 10% of them are not even keeping any of it, so just 90% only keep about 10% of their resolutions. So the key is, not just to make the resolution, it’s to also execute on it. And I think that’s the key thing, Guy. I know that you want to talk about some of the various resolutions that we should make, but I’d like to talk about executing, and there’s actually having a program to execute on your resolution. (more…)

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  • Employees and Layoffs

    Employee Fear

    Hard times are bound to come for any company and that uncertainty can be a real struggle for employees.

    Ray Zinn has employed thousands over his career, and in this edition of the Tough Things First podcast, he talks about having the courage to meet that challenge honestly.


    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.

    Ray Zinn: Thank you, Rob. Good to have you with me today.

    Rob Artigo: Well, Ray, the changing workforce picture can almost always be expected to lead some employees to exist in a kind of state of fear: fear of losing a job, getting passed over for a raise, not getting a promotion, that kind of thing. What is the main problem here as an employee manager when dealing with this problem?

    Ray Zinn: Yes, good point because GM just announced they’re going to lay off thousands of people as they restructure their company and focus more on hybrids. Any time you announce that there’s going to be a restructuring or that the employees sense business is not so good, they’re going to fear losing their job. Fear is probably one of the most important and most fundamental issues that managers face with their employees because it’s frightening. Fear is something that we all dread, and we have a difficult time dealing with, so it is a concern.

    I remember at Micrel, we had probably five different times that we had to cut back. We had to go to shorter work weeks, or we had to reduce salaries for a period of time. And of course, that freaks out everybody because their livelihood is being impacted. And I know you went through that same thing a few years ago when your company was sold.

    And so, it is a fearful thing. Bad health is fearful also, or a family member that’s got health issues, and it’s very, very disruptive. So to deal with fear, of course, whether it be health or family problems or financial issues or losing your job or potentially losing your job, or getting passed over, you just have to keep a proper perspective. And so as they say, for every dark cloud, there’s a silver lining, so you just have to kind of weather the storm as they say. You know, there are the bright sunny days, and then there are days that are cloudy and full of doom and gloom. As the saying goes, these things too shall pass. So you have to have a perspective that things work out for the better. That’s the optimist, right? (more…)

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  • Writing the Check

    It is not always easy to decide when to authorize big company purchases, but you can take steps to ensure when you do it’s for all the right reasons.

    In this edition of the Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn discusses his personal experience with due diligence.


    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. Good to be with you again.

    Rob Artigo: Well no matter the size of the company, purchases are part of just doing business. Companies always end up having to buy something, and it could be pens or it could be machinery. Sometimes those checks could be pretty big, and I understand the way you operated as CEO of Micrel for 37 years was that you were considered a penny-pincher, weren’t you?

    Ray Zinn: Well, I don’t know if a penny-pincher was right, but I guess somebody thought … I guess depending on who you talk to, they thought I was maybe a little bit of a Scrooge.

    Rob Artigo: Yeah. But you had a reason for that. You didn’t think of yourself as being a Scrooge. From what I hear you saying is, you would deny the label … if anybody said to you you were a penny-pincher, you would say no. You had some other … what would you call yourself?

    Ray Zinn: I’d say I’m just a frugal person. I’m careful about how I spend the company’s money. It’s not that I’m being a penny pincher or Scrooge, it’s just I wanted to make sure that they had an equal number of pros and cons. In other words, when I get a request for purchase, oftentimes, all it has on it is the item name and the amount of the purchase, but there’s no justification with both equal number of pros and cons. If you have pros, I want five cons. In other words, there’s got to be an equal number of reasons why you don’t think it’s a good idea, and then let me decide. Don’t you decide for me, worried that I’m going to figure out, “Oh, if he sends me 10 pros and two cons that someone out there sent you a fantastic deal.” (more…)

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  • Holiday Productivity

    There is no time like the holidays when employees and management alike tend to think about anything but work. In this Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn is quizzed on dealing with employee seasonal distractions. The give and take of making it through the holiday hump.


    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. Well, being invited back is always a pleasure, Ray. How you doing?

    Ray Zinn: I’m doing fine. I hope you’re enjoying your day today. And it’s always good to have you, Rob.

    Rob Artigo: I found a column on US News and World Report online. It was actually a column that was originally published by Associated Press and picked up by the paper. So this is the way it goes. “The holiday season can be a motivation and productivity killer at some small businesses,” it says. “Staffers may spend time chatting or shopping online, ask to leave early for children’s holiday events, or just not be in the mood to work.”

    It also says, “The companies with the most holiday problems are likely to be the ones where November and December aren’t a particularly busy period,” and so we’re not talking about that retailers, and the restaurants, and the caterers, and other companies like that where staffers understand when they’re hired that this is a prime time for the type of work they’re going to be doing.

    At any company though, if employees are distracted, the owners of course find it, it’s difficult to be flexible with the employees when you got to accommodate everything. I suppose, Ray, in your many years of experience, 37 years at Micrel, that you had to deal with, well if it was 37 years, it was likely to have been something like 37 Christmas/holiday cycles. So you’ve dealt with this a lot. Is this something, in your experience, that has been a problem historically?

    Ray Zinn: Well, it’s only been a problem, I think, in the last 20 some years. That wasn’t really a problem before that, but in the last 20 something years, it has become more of a problem, especially as people expect more and they expect, by the way, to have time off during the holidays. It used to be the employee worked around the problem and now they’re expecting the employer to work around the problem. (more…)

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  • Organizational Frugality

    Ray and his former CFO Robert Barker discuss the value of rational corporate frugality and how to achieve it.


    Ray Zinn: Hello, everyone. It’s sure good to be with you this beautiful day here in California. With me today, I have my ex-CFO and good friend, Robert Barker, who has decided that he could like to join me in this podcast to talk about organization frugality and just how you keep your company running and fine-tuning as you would. This is a special podcast, I think, for Tough Things First, and it’s just a delight to have Robert with me this morning. Thanks for coming, Robert.

    Robert Barker: Thank you, Ray. Thank you for having me. It’s always good to work with you. I’ve always said that you were the easiest boss that I ever had, and as a CFO, we need to watch spending, and that’s one of the things that can really stress out a CFO, and you would say, but when we were together, the six years that we worked together and when I was a CFO, we grew the company 10X to 200 million dollars, and during that time, we spent a lot of money, but I was always comfortable with the way we did it, and maybe you could start by just talking about your definition of organizational frugality.

    Ray Zinn: Thanks, Robert. Well, there’s a funny story told about me that I would have a shoebox in my drawer and that I’d hand out the money one dollar at a time because I was considered to be so cheap, but I don’t think it’s cheap. I think it’s just being frugal. Right, Robert?

    Robert Barker: Yeah, exactly. (more…)

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  • Is Entrepreneurship for You?

    Entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone, but it is possible for anybody.

    Ray Zinn, Silicon Valley’s longest serving CEO and the model for entrepreneurship, discusses why you might – or might not – want to be an entrepreneur.


    Guy Smith: Well, welcome to another episode of the Tough Things First Podcast and it’s no surprise to our loyal audience that there are a lot of entrepreneurs or entrepreneurial wannabes in the crowd. That’s what we’re going to talk about today, is entrepreneurship right for you? It’s not for everybody, but anyone can be an entrepreneur providing that they have the right mindsets and basic skills and whatnot.  Ray Zinn, our perennial star of this show is a Silicon Valley’s longest serving CEO and probably an icon entrepreneur in the valley. Hello Ray. How are you today?

    Ray Zinn: Doing great, Guy. Thank you.

    Guy Smith: Yeah, well thank you for being here again. My father was kind of like a serial sideline entrepreneur. He started everything from a cattle ranch, to a photography studio, to a advertising agency. Can’t say many of them were profitable, but he had no fear about starting a business. So what really makes people want to start a business? What makes them so different that they’re willing to go out there and take those kind of risks?

    Ray Zinn: It varies again, from person to person and situation to situation. Now my father was a cattle rancher and not very successful, but he provided a living for his family and a lot of difficulties and so forth that came along, which is classic with being your own boss as you would, but he stuck with it. I mean, no matter what problem came up, he seemed to have a good solution. So being an entrepreneur is kind of a wannabe thing. Some people, like I’m talking to a fellow who’s going into dentistry and he wants to join his father in his dental practice and then ultimately take over the practice himself.

    So whether you work for somebody else or whether you are working for yourself, being an entrepreneur is pretty much an individual thing. So whether you’re a housewife, or you’re an executive, or an employee of a company, you can still be an entrepreneur.  Entrepreneurs (more…)

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  • Getting Fired

    Unexpectedly losing one’s job can be an opportunity.

    Ray Zinn talks about how getting firsted led to being the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley, and how it works for people in more common situation.


    Guy Smith: Hello welcome to another episode of the Tough Things First podcast and I’ve got a question for the audience right off the bat. Have you ever been fired? I know I have. Never a pleasant experience and believe it or not, the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley got canned once and that really set his career in an entirely new direction and that’s what we’re going to be talking about today is, a traumatic event like this, is getting fired and the opportunity for people in general and entrepreneurs in particular. And so welcome back Ray Zinn, the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley. Howdy Ray.

    Ray Zinn: Hey Guy. How you doing?

    Guy Smith: Oh man, it’s a fantastic day here. I hope everything’s well with you.

    Ray Zinn: It is. It is. But let me correct something actually. You said I was only fired once. Actually I was fired many times, four, five times. As Tom Peters says in his book, Pursuit of Excellence, “If you’re to getting fired, you’re just not trying hard enough.” That’s something that has caused me problems over the years is that pushing hard on getting things done sometimes ruffles feathers and so I ended up getting terminated quite a few times. But the one you’re referring to is when I left my prior company just before forming Micrel, I had just invented the wafer stepper and caused a lot of problems within the company and they said that to me, “You don’t belong in a company. You need to go start your own company.” I remember going home and telling my wife. I said, “That’s it. I’m had it. I’m not going to work for anybody ever again. I’m going to start my own company.” She said, “Well, what kind of company’s that going to be?” And I said, “I don’t know yet. We’ll figure it out.” Anyway, since July of 1976, I never worked for anybody again except for myself. (more…)

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  • Rational Frugality

    In business, survivability matters as much as profitability. Nobody ever went out of business with cash in the bank.

    In this Tough Things First episode, Ray Zinn, the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley, talks about rational frugality and making it a part of corporate culture.


    Guy Smith: Hello again, 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. Hello, Ray. How are you?

    Ray Zinn: I’m doing good, Guy. Thanks for being with me again today.

    Guy Smith: Oh, man. I love doing these podcasts with you. They are educational for me, and that’s a blessing for sure. I wanted to talk to you about what I like to call rational frugality. When I read your book Tough Things First, one of the stories that popped out of there was somebody who claimed that, during the Micrel days, the company that you founded and led for 37 years, that you practically handed the budget out from a cigar box, I think was the phrase that he used. I know it was a joke, but it was enlightening to see that and some of the other things you said in Tough Things First about how an organization, from end to end, needs to be what I call rationally frugal. What inspired you to carry around this metaphorical cigar box and not spend money in a wasteful, Silicon Valley type of way?

    Ray Zinn: Well, it goes to the way I was raised. I was the oldest of 11 children, and we lived in a very small home. In fact, most two to three-children families lived in a home that was probably three times the size of the home I grew up in. We used hand-me-down clothing, and we just made do. We ate a lot of Spam. That’s, by the way, a ham-type can you can buy that is inexpensive. I think frugality is living below your means, and so this joke that went around was because I was so stingy with our spending and our money that they said, “Well, you must have a cigar box in your drawer, and you’re handing out the money one dollar at a time,” and that was pretty true.

    I mean I questioned every single PO. I made them justify all their purchases. It wasn’t just on the big items. It was on the small items too because I wanted them to have the habit and the culture of honoring and recognizing the importance of the dollar. I said, “Money doesn’t grow on trees,” and, “Do you really need that? Do you have to have it?” They would say, “Well, look at all the money we have in the bank,” and I says, “Yeah, isn’t that great?” “Yeah, but why don’t you let us spend some of it?” I says, “Because then the more we spend, the more we want to spend.” Any company that is not frugal in the way they manage their financial resources is going to go out of business. (more…)

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  • Writing Books

    Any challenge you face that can take years, with hours upon hours of thought and work, can seem like an insurmountable challenge. In his latest podcast, Ray Zinn talks about writing books, and how met the challenges by doing the Tough Things First.


    Rob Artigo: I’m Rob Artigo, back again, your guest host for another edition of Tough Things First, with Ray Zinn. I’m a writer and entrepreneur. Being invited back is always a pleasure, Ray.

    Ray Zinn: It’s always, good to have you, Rob. You’re always so energetic and enthusiastic.

    Rob Artigo: Congratulations on the new book, The Zen of Zinn.

    Ray Zinn: Thank you.

    Rob Artigo: In short, I don’t want to say Reader’s Digest version, but here briefly, a little bit about what the readers will get where they pick up a copy of The Zen of Zinn.

    Ray Zinn: The Zen of Zinn is a collection of thoughts that I have written over the years, going back to when I started my coral. I just would have these thoughts, these motivational thoughts that I would give my staff and the operations people, just food for thought as they say, you know, Chicken Soup For The Soul. That’s what the compilation is, these little snippets, very short little blurbs on many, many, many subjects. That’s what The Zen Of Zinn’s about. (more…)

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  • When to Quit

    If your boss ends up in the headlines should you take upon yourself to quit? In this edition of the Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn says there is a lot to consider first.


    Rob Artigo: I’m Rob Artigo, guest host for this edition of the Tough Things First podcast with Ray Zinn. I’m a writer and entrepreneur in California. Happy to be back again, Ray.

    Ray Zinn: Thanks again, Rob. I’m glad to be with you.

    Rob Artigo: Well, CEOs, business leaders and politicians, I guess politicians can’t really help it because they’re involved in politics all the time. I guess maybe more from a business standpoint, people have been known to wade into controversial waters now and again. Sometimes it has led to disaster or embarrassment at best.

    If you find yourself at odds with your boss, if you’re an employee and you find yourself at odds with your boss for any reason, and it could be because the person was caught having some unethical practices, when we talk about Wells Fargo situation or somebody who is caught having an affair with an employee, that kind of thing. Should you just stand up and as a matter of protest just quit the company and say, “I don’t want to be a part of this person’s business anymore.”?

    Ray Zinn: We have to be careful, Rob, because you’re innocent until proven guilty. So a lot of accusations are made about a person. Depending upon where your stance is, for example, Intel’s CEO, recent CEO, was having an affair with an employee. Now that’s against company policy but I doubt seriously that his managers … Well, I shouldn’t say, doubt seriously. It’d be hard to believe that his managers care less about who he’s sleeping with. (more…)

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  • Under Pressure

    Pressure is everywhere in the business world, but it doesn’t have to cause you grief. In this Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn talks about handling pressure from the boardroom to the interview chair.


    Rob Artigo: I’m Rob Artigo, your guest host for this edition of the Tough Things First podcast, with Ray Zinn. As you heard there, on the intro, the longest serving CEO in Silicone Valley. Hello again, Ray.

    Ray Zinn: Hi, Rob. So good to hear from you again.

    Rob Artigo: Well, you’re an expert in so many areas and I know you’re going to enjoy talking about this. We’re gonna talk a little bit about pressure and how it effects results when we are trying to get something done. Job interviews, sales pitches, even tests put us under pressure, of course, everybody knows. There’s test anxiety out. I know, for example, I’ve heard anyway the Bar Exam is famous for wiping out test takers before they even get started. Some cases where people have such extreme anxiety over it, they get sick during the test.

    So, how can … Let’s talk about some of the ways we can cope with pressure so that it doesn’t negatively effect the results. But it can, pressure can dictate the results, agreed?

    Ray Zinn: Right. So, let’s talk about pressure for a minute. And so, because that’s the key to this whole thing about stress. Yeah, stress is something we bring on ourselves. Now granted, there are issues like illness, and loss of a loved one, or problems at work, or … that can induce it, but it’s something that we have to cause in order for us to get stress. (more…)

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  • Communication, Creativity, Innovation

    Communication technology has become a blessing and a curse for American companies. In this Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn discusses the potential impact on creativity and innovation.


    Rob Artigo: And welcome back to The Tough Things First podcast. I’m Rob Artigo. I’m a writer and business owner in California. Thanks for having me back Ray.

    Ray Zinn: All right Rob, so good to have you back.

    Rob Artigo: Ray, the dangers of isolation. I’m sure we’ve touched on this in many ways when we’ve discussed social media and texting and our faces down in phones. Get that crook in your neck from looking down at your phone all the time. Technology’s empowered us to communicate with everyone we work with, virtually at the same time. When we can send out a blast email, we can send out blast texts. Without even getting dressed in the morning I can telecommute for some of the work that do including doing this podcast and I am dressed but I don’t have to get dressed to do this. Despite FaceTime, we know that we get less face time usually with real people these days. Are we in danger of isolating ourselves in our business environments to the detriment of our creativity and innovation?

    Ray Zinn: Sure. I have a number of examples. I have a friend here who recently quit his company because his boss never communicated with him except vis a vis email or texting. What was the straw that broke the camel’s back is that my friend had sent an important email off to his boss and never heard anything back. He pinged him on text and never heard anything back so then when the boss finally got back to him, it was for they wanted him to go to be trained in Cincinnati and for a particular new product they wanted to sell. My friend said, “No, no thanks.” And so he quit because the communication was so one way, as you would. When your head is in Facebook or in other social media, it’s one sided. It’s like watching TV. It’s not two sided. Sure, you could take pictures and videos and you can go back and forth but it’s not very personal. (more…)

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  • United States Constitution

    The Second Amendment

    Whether it’s a political campaign or the tragedy of gun violence, the 2nd Amendment is a regular topic. In his latest podcast, Ray Zinn and guest host Rob Artigo, look at the realities of compromise to promote safety and protect the right to bear arms.


    Rob Artigo: I’m Rob Artigo, your guest host for another Tough Things First podcast. I am a journalist, a writer as well as an entrepreneur here in California, with Ray Zinn. Hi Ray.

    Ray Zinn: Hello Rob. Oh, it’s great to be with you again.

    Rob Artigo: We’re going to have a good topic here. It’s one that it seems to come up in just about any political debate, any kind of election, and, of course, this Supreme Court nominee recently, Brett Kavanaugh. I want to talk a little bit about the Second Amendment. Here’s a tweet from Chris Murphy, and I’m not entirely sure where Chris is from so forgive me on this, but this is the quote, “On assault weapons, Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh’s position is way out of the judicial mainstream, far to the right of even late Justice Scalia.”

    Now, I bring this up because when it comes to the Second Amendment, it’s a perpetual subject whether it’s the Supreme Court or political debate, but it comes up all the time. This is an example of the Supreme Court question and the assault weapons, but let’s talk a little bit about the Second Amendment. In modern political debate, we have the Second Amendment, the right to keep and bear arms. Now, it’s been framed several different ways depending on which side of the aisle you’re looking at here, and there’s been a huge debate lately about what should be considered a legal firearm. Obviously, that’s a question of assault weapons in a Supreme Court. When it comes to the Second Amendment, are we getting it right in the public debate?

    Ray Zinn: This whole issue of the Second Amendment is not necessarily down party lines. I guess it appears to be that way, but certainly it’s not because there are certainly people who are on the other side of the aisle who love hunting and shooting. Senator Jon Tester from Montana is a very big proponent of hunting and owning arms. He’s considered a fairly middle of the road Democrat as you would. So I’m not sure that it’s strictly down party lines even though it appears to be that way. (more…)

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  • Paying Talent

    It is a constant struggle for balance between what employers can pay and the burdens of cost of living for employees. This is now especially critical in the ever more expensive Silicon Valley.

    In this Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn discusses the dynamics of supply and demand driving both sides of the question.


    Rob Artigo: Thank you for listening to another edition of the Tough Things First Podcast. I’m Rod Artigo, writer and business owner. Hello, Mr. Zinn, ready for another big topic?

    Ray Zinn: Let’s do it, Rob.

    Rob Artigo: A CNBC.com column said this. It said “Tech workers are the envy of the labor market. They earn some of the highest starting salaries and often command top-notch benefits, but the money doesn’t always buy satisfaction,” it goes on to say. Entrepreneur reports that tech workers in major American cities earn an average of $135,000 a year and yet a survey of 6,000 tech workers conducted by a workplace app called Blind and reported by Quartz found that over 60% feel they aren’t being paid enough. Let’s talk about salaries and cost of living. Employees are bound to feel underpaid even if they’re making six figures, if they can’t buy a house. I know how it felt when I lived in the Bay Area and I couldn’t afford a house and my rent just kept going up.

    What’s more at play here in your mind just as a starting off point? Are we talking about runaway inflation or cost of living in key markets or is it over expectations for what people should actually be able to earn in most of these tech jobs?

    Ray Zinn: It could be a combination. I know that in the Bay Area where I live and it’s very expensive and it keeps getting more expensive. I’ve also heard talking to a number of people that I know very well who work in these tech companies, because they’re getting paid a big salary, the expectations are higher. In other words, the company wants more out of you. There’s a lot of dissatisfaction with the fact that you’re having to give up your family time as you would or your personal time to satisfy this big salary you’re getting. The big salary is not always what it’s cracked up to be. In Helena, Montana, where I also live, the people are paid 1/3 less than the average in the Bay Area for the same position. Even though the housing and the cost of living may be 1/3 less of even less than, they’re happier because the companies don’t demand as much from you in the way of your personal time with your family or individually. (more…)

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  • Immigration

    As we approach the midterm elections there’re no shortage of issues, but few have had the staying power like the question of immigration. In the latest Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn talks border protection and protecting immigrants from abuse.


    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: Hello, Rob. Good to be with you again.

    Rob Artigo: It’s great to be back. For decades it seems we’ve been talking about this big deal of immigration reform in this country and it has certainly been more political football, I think, and probably more like political theater, than a matter of action for politicians in this country. So today, we have a president trying to do something and if you listen to the news, you’d think immigration was never an issue before today, particularly what’s going on on the border, as if the president had invented the problems of immigration in this country. So let’s talk about immigration in general. Do we need immigration at all? I think we do.

    Ray Zinn: I do. I believe that. So let me give you a quick story. So a few weeks ago, my neighbor called and said that there are some cattle on my property up at North hills here in Montana, and there’s discourse, there’s no buildings on it. It’s a large ranch. I said, “Well, how’d they get in?”

    He says, “Well, apparently somebody opened the gate and just let them in.”

    I said, “Was there any chance at all that the animals opened it themselves?”

    He says, “No way, because the gate is tied securely to the fence,” and that really irritated me.

    So I called the sheriff and I said, “Hey, I’ve got somebody’s cattle on my ranch and they’ve opened the gate up and letting them feed on my property.”

    Then the sheriff says, “Well, do you know who they are?”

    I says, “No.” (more…)

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  • North Korea Nukes

    It didn’t take long for the leader of North Korea to upset plans for denuclearization. Can the effort be saved? Ray Zinn wades into international waters in this Tough Things First podcast with guest host Rob Artigo.


    Rob Artigo: That’s me, Rob Artigo, your guest host for this edition of the Tough Things First podcast. I’m a writer and an expert researcher/investigator being invited back. It’s always a pleasure. Hi Ray.

    Ray Zinn: Hello Rob. Good to have you here.

    Rob Artigo: The hopes of the President Trump meeting with Kim Jong-un regarding an end to North Korea’s nuclear program quickly went from what seemed like a victory to now apparently North Korea expanding its nuclear program. Why is nuclear non-proliferation which is obviously what they’re trying to accomplish with North Korea, why is nuclear non-proliferation in the world important when we already have so many countries that have a massive nuclear arsenal?

    Ray Zinn: Nuclear weapons are the issue of course. Using nuclear power or using nuclear energy for peaceful things are okay. It’s just when they decide to start using them for weapons and by the way, it’s not just nuclear. It’s also these weapons of mass destruction, chemical, nerve, other types of weapons. The fact that we’re talking about nuclear, denuclearization, bombs, nuclear bomb [inaudible 00:01:49], we’re also talking about weapons that have been outlawed since the Second World War or actually First World War using mushroom gas and so forth. It’s not just nuclear. Any time people use weapons which have the potential of mass destruction, whether it be through biological, chemical, whatever, that’s what Trump was trying to work out with Kim Jong-un and so let’s don’t confuse what he was trying to do vis a vis this meeting compared to what you hear on the radio or the news about denuclearization as being the only issue. That’s not correct. (more…)

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