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Tough Things First: Words of Wisdom with Ray Zinn

Tough Things First Podcast

The Tough Things First podcast is where you receive short bursts of Ray Zinn’s leadership, executive and entrepreneur’s wisdom. Tough Things First podcasts are typically five minutes long, giving you one important concept to ponder for the rest of the day.

Tough Things First
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  • Exporting Silicon Valley Culture

    Exporting Silicon Valley Culture

    There are good aspects to Silicon Valley culture.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Ray Zinn: Thanks, Guy.

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  • Silicon Valley History - Part 12

    Silicon Valley History – Part XII

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

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

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


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

    Guy Smith: Always great to be here.

    Peter Marchetti: Likewise, Ray.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • Silicon Valley History - Part 11

    Silicon Valley History – Part XI

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

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

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


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

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

    Guy Smith: Hidey, ho.

    Peter Marchetti: Hey, Ray, good morning.

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

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

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

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  • History of Silicon valley - Episode 10

    Silicon Valley History – Part X

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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  • History of Silicon Valley - Episode 9

    Silicon Valley History – Part IX

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

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

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


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

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

    Guy Smith: Great to be here.

    Peter Marchetti: Morning Ray.

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

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

    Peter Marchetti: Research in motion. RIM.

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

    Guy Smith: Code Division Multiple Access

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

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  • Silicon Valley History - Part 8

    Silicon Valley History – Part VIII

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

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

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


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

    Guy Smith: Great to be back.

    Peter Marchetti: Likewise, Ray.

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

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

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

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

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  • Silicon Valley History - Part 7

    Silicon Valley History – Part VII

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • Silicon Valley History - Part 6

    Silicon Valley History – Part VI

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • Silicon Valley History - Part V

    Silicon Valley History – Part V

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • Silicon Valley History - Part 4

    Silicon Valley History – Part IV

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

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

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


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

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

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

    Peter Marchetti: None taken.

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

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

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

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

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  • History of Silicon Valley - Part III

    Silicon Valley History – Part III

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • History of Silicon Valley - Part II

    Silicon Valley History – Part II

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

    Peter Marchetti: We have Victor Grinich, Sheldon Roberts.

    Ray Zinn: Okay. And then- (more…)

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  • History of Silicon Valley - Part I

    Silicon Valley History – Part I

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • Trey Taylor's A CEO Does Only Three Things

    Trey Taylor and the CEO’s Three Things

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


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

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

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

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

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

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  • Gloabl technology, nationalism, commerce and security

    Tech Nationalism

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

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

    (more…)

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  • Onshore or offshore supply chain decisions

    Supply Chains – The Onshore Option

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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  • How startups can make smart product choices

    How to Set SMART Startup Goals at The Idea Stage

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Friendly, Not Friends

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Creating Enduring Businesses – The Top Three Tough Things To DO

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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  • Leadership strategies for managing work stress

    Strategies for Managing Work Stress

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

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

     


     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • Michael Canic and Ray Zinn discuss Ruthless Consistancy

    Ruthless Consistency

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • Managing a distributed, at-home workforce

    Worker Decentralization

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

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


    Rob Artigo: Rob Artigo here, your guest host for another edition of the Tough Things First podcast with Ray Zinn. I’m a writer and entrepreneur being invited back. Always a pleasure, Ray.

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

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

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

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

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

    Greedy CEOs

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • How to identify and cure a toxic corporate culture

    Toxic Corporate Culture

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • How entrepreneurs keep going, and going, and going

    Being Best When You Aren’t Feeling It

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

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


    Rob Artigo: Rob Artigo here. Your guest host for another edition of The Tough Things First podcast with Ray Zinn. I’m a writer and entrepreneur in California. Being invited back always a pleasure. Ray, how you doing?

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

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

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

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

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  • The top three things to do when pitching to VCs

    Pitching Your Company – The Top Three Tough Things

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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  • Jennifer Chatman, Professor at U.C. Berkeley

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • Jennifer Chatman, Professor at U.C. Berkeley

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • Jennifer Chatman, Professor at U.C. Berkeley

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • How to communicate your point without enraging other people

    Make Points, Not Enemies

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

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


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

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

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

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

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  • How to set goals for your business and your life

    Setting Business Goals

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Managing Conflicts

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

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


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

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

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

    Ray Zinn: Exactly.

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

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

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

    Bad Decisions, Good Outcomes

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


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

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

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

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

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

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  • debt and growth

    Managing Debt and Corporate Growth

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • Surviving a Business Downturn

    Surviving a Downturn – Three Tough Things series

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

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


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

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

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

    Ray Zinn: Well, thank you.

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

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

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

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  • Balance between business success and social activism

    Social Causes and Smart Business

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


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

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

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

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

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

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  • Choosing the right leadership style

    Dictator Leadership

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • How entrepreneurs can make decisions differently

    Decide Differently

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


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

    Ray Zinn: Hello Rob.

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

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

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

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  • bad manager

    Bad Managers

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


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

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

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

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

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  • Managing Managers

    Managing Managers

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


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

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

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

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

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

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  • offshoring manufacturing

    Offshoring

    There’s no rule that says you must offshore even a fraction of your manufacturing needs, but it’s an option. The problem is knowing why and when to make that change.  In this Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn answers those questions and puts it all into perspective to avoid costly mistakes.


    Rob Artigo: Rob Artigo here, your guest host for another edition of the tough things first podcast with Ray Zinn. I’m a writer and entrepreneur in California. Being invited back is always a pleasure, Ray, how are you doing?

    Ray Zinn: I’m doing great, Rob. Appreciate you taking the time with me today and doing another great podcast.

    Rob Artigo: Your decades of experience in the Silicon chip industry, I suppose you’ve manufactured all over the world and built alliances as well as products with companies in multiple countries for a single production. Probably, fair to say.

    Ray Zinn: Yeap, absolutely.

    Rob Artigo: You didn’t start out offshoring, but at some point it made sense. If I’m a small business… or a growing operator here in the Bay area and I’m getting peppered with questions about costs, not pressured about making a cost change, but I’m being asked about it. Where am I at in the process of deciding when to offshore?

    Ray Zinn: Well, you look at your costs. That’s the first thing and find out, can I get the same equivalent quality and service by doing some offshoring? Or complete offshoring? Depending upon the kind of product or business you’re in. And, so once you’ve decided that. Once you said, yes I can benefit from offshoring. Then you have to look at where do I offshore? Where do I go? And of course with me at Micrel, I always favor those countries and those peoples that were friendly to the United States. In other words, I would not want to offshore to a place where there was conflict between the country and our country. Because I know that could be short lived as you would, in my offshoring. Offshoring is expensive and to the extent you want to set it up, it’s to bring it back is not easy but I would never offshore to a country where there was political conflict between the… where I am and the offshoring of country is.

    Rob Artigo: If I’m looking at my product and I… it’d be impossible to just come up with an example of something. I suppose that would make sense for the purposes of this conversation. But sometimes the product has multiple port… multiple parts and sometimes it’s a single product that’s manufactured on an assembly line that… using your Wafer Stepper for example. Puts the product on there. It’s all part of very high tech stuff. But if you have these different products and some things are done in one spot, but some things are maybe done in multiple spots for the purposes of bringing them all together. It can be very complex and how do I know when I’m prepared to be able to reach out to those different countries and make it work. So that is… it is an advantage. Like you said, offshoring can be expensive and it could end up being a mistake if you do it wrong.

    Ray Zinn: Well… various countries are known for their various expertise. Like India is known for its software capability. Malaysia and Southeast Asia are known for their manufacturing… low cost manufacturing. So it’s that sort of… and then Israel’s well known for their technology, their creativity, inventiveness. And so other countries, they have their expertise and so you tend to go to the countries where there is a built-in expertise or at least the countries are favoring that particular expertise. If you just go to a country just because they’ve got low cost labor and they don’t have the expertise that you need your costs are actually going to go up.

    Rob Artigo: I suppose that there are no guarantees against intellectual property theft when you’re doing… your offshoring activities, but what kinds of things can I do to mitigate those types of problems?

    Ray Zinn: It’s like… locks are to keep the honest people honest, you’re not going to keep the thieves honest. I mean, if the thief wants to break into your house, he’s going to break into your house. We got 10,000 cameras and locked doors everywhere. You want to go to a country where they’re known for their integrity and that they’re not going to be… or then their laws also favor integrity and protection of your IP. Again, if you’re going just to cut your costs and you’re not taking into consideration the political environment, the reputation of that country for its honesty and integrity and protecting your IP. You’re going to lose in the long run.

    Rob Artigo: And like you said, again, underscoring the fact that it can be expensive because if you lose your intellectual property and…

    Ray Zinn: Right.

    Rob Artigo: …if it ends up being sold on some knock off website somewhere, then you’re not getting anything out of it. Except for being the person who did all the hard work to create it and just so somebody else can take advantage of it and sell it for a cheap price. Is it a matter of networking? Reaching out to the people you know, and then finding out who they’re dealing with and who they trust, or how do I get there so that I know that I can trust the people that I’m going to use in these other countries?

    Ray Zinn: Well, you can visit those countries that you intend on implementing your offshoring. You can also talk to other companies that offshore there and get their experience. So, there’s a lot of homework you can do. I mean with all the social media and the press has around the world are… because of the internet, we’re so well connected and interconnected that it’s almost impossible not to know and understand the country you’re doing business with. How many countries that you can think of right now that are enemies to the US that if you were to go there, you might even be kept there. You may not be able to even leave. So… go to places where they’re friendly to us or to your particular, if you’re an entrepreneur in India then… or in wherever you are an entrepreneur, in Germany, England. Make sure that the companies… countries that you’re offshoring with are friendly to your particular country.

    Rob Artigo: And if you haven’t done all that due diligence. Don’t even bother, right?

    Ray Zinn: Exactly.

    Rob Artigo: If you step into something, you’re going to step into something that you are not prepared for. If you don’t know the laws of dealing with the those countries or the various… the costs of doing business with those particular countries. Even, I mean I think of Iran, you know there… we just simply American businesses simply just don’t do… can’t do business with Iran because there are restrictions there. And if you go to a place where you don’t know, I mean Iran might be an obvious one but there might be another country out there that, that there is a restriction regarding. And if you don’t know that, then shame on you for just not having done your homework.

    Ray Zinn: Yeap. Put whatever country you decide to offshore with, make sure that there’s all going to be a long-term relationship there and that your intellectual property will be protected and that there’s not going to be a political unrest in a near future.

    Rob Artigo: Smart decisions will help you in the long run for sure, right Ray?

    Ray Zinn: Absolutely. Think smarter, pay later.

    Rob Artigo: That’s right. Join the conversation on toughthingsfirst.com. Your questions and comments are always welcome. Make sure you rate this podcast and follow Ray on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Thanks again, Ray.

    Ray Zinn: Thank you, Rob.

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  • Money Hunt

    Balancing the Money Hunt

    Founders may need to go on the “money hunt” to raise capital. But they need to maintain control. Silicon Valley’s longest serving CEO talks about the trade-offs.


    Guy Smith: Hello again and welcome to another episode of the Tough Things First podcast, where we explore everything technology, Silicon Valley, leadership, executive management with the guy who’s basically done it all, Ray Zinn, the longest serving CEO in all of Silicon Valley. How are you doing today, Ray?

    Ray Zinn: Pretty good, Guy.

    Guy Smith: Hey, so let’s talk about where I used to live, Silicon Valley. There is a something that troubles me out there. You’ve spoken to this yourself many, many times and that’s the struggle that founders in startups have balancing between raising money and actually building their companies. One of the things that we see is that the founders go on what we’ve called the money hunt, where they are perpetually under pressure to keep raising round after round after round of money in kind of a blind obsession of raising the top line revenues, in theory, so the VCs can then just sell off the start off to Google or Facebook or whoever might be interested. But the downside seems to be that this takes all the time away from the founder and the CEO and probably hurts their company during its most formative years. So, talk to us a little bit about how the money hunt interferes with actually building a corporate culture and managing the shop.

    Ray Zinn: Well this money hunt thing is probably the reason why they don’t succeed. The rule I have is that you raise enough money up front, in the very beginning, to take you to profitability. The reason for that is because once you start the ball rolling, as they say, you want to spend the time developing a company. Now some of these startup guys, these want to be entrepreneurs, they’re more focused on just starting a company and hopefully selling it off sometime in the future. And they’re, hopefully the near future, and they don’t really worry about building the brick and mortar of a real company. And I see that as a serious problem with almost every single company that I’ve looked at over the past three years, is they’re more focused on trying to sell the company even before they start it than they are in building the company.

    And I asked him, “Why is that? Why are you so focused on selling the company?” He said, “Well, because everybody asks us what is your exit strategy”. And I said, “Well, I didn’t ask you that.” But they all seem to be focused on the exit strategy. And so that… An exit is not where you want to be. You want to be in the beginning. In other words you want to… It’s like trying to sell the house before you even get the thing built.

    So these CEOs or these entrepreneurs need to focus more on developing a company and forget about selling it. That should be a last thought in your mind is exiting. If I were in their shoes starting a company, I would say if somebody asked me what my exit strategy is, my exit strategy is to build a company. I want to build a real honest to goodness company and not one that I’m going to be bailing out of in a few years. So, that takes care of itself. (more…)

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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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