“Doing the tough things first, and learning to love what you don’t love doing are all part of building a company for the ages. This entrepreneurial discipline — like the discipline of a world-class athlete — is an essential ingredient too often missing in the forgotten companies in Silicon Valley’s landfill.

Tough Things First ties together the real-world experiences of Ray Zinn, founder and CEO of Micrel Corporation for 37 years. A business legend and contrarian, Zinn — the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley — founded Micrel without venture capital, but with the relentless will and mindful discipline that defines all great entrepreneurs. This has resulted in a nearly unbroken string of profitable years for Micrel, a feat unheard of in the semiconductor trade.

Zinn credits his success to disciplined work habits, servant leadership, fulfilling the human needs of his employees, and the will to do the Tough Things First.

McGraw Hill
Publisher of Tough Things First



“Entrepreneurial discipline turns hurdles into exciting challenges, and no hurdle appears too high.”

Excerpt from Tough Things First, Ray Zinn


Tough Things First is the management opus of Ray Zinn, the longest serving CEO and most consistently profitable businessman in Silicon Valley.

In Tough Things First, Zinn maps corporations as an organism and explains the interaction of the mind, heart, eyes and the entire body. This metaphor drives Zinn’s analysis of his nearly 40 years at the helm of Micrel, a Silicon Valley institution.

In the second half of the book, Zinn exposes the critical factors that entrepreneurs and seasoned executives alike need to know, including the intricacies of nurturing corporate culture, how to make every employee (and every human) feel important, the impact and limitations of policies and procedures, and how to manage growth.


Why Tough Things First? Nowhere else will you get:

  • A contrarian’s view of Silicon Valley, venture capital, and on-shoring
  • Detailed perspectives on self-discipline and organization discipline (the two are uniquely related)
  • Deep insight on the mechanics of enterprises
  • Rapid grip on management and leadership
  • A autobiographical treatise on the interaction of people, management, and becoming legally blind mere days before an IPO


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Every executive needs to understand how to be as perpetually successful as Ray Zinn. Over nearly four decades, Zinn’s company has been profitable every year except one (during the dot-com implosion). Zinn achieved this through an intimate understanding of people, their value, their needs and how to lead them.

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Zinn started Micrel without venture capital, which is unheard of in the semiconductor business. His lessons on why venture capital can be undesirable, how to lead during tough times, inspiring creativity, institutionalized frugality, and crafting a culture that reduces employee turn-over are critical for founders.

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Leadership is a key component for every entrepreneur and executive. Zinn’s Tough Things First provides unique insights into why people care and contribute to a company’s success. These are the lessons you need to pass on to your students.

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MBA Candidates

As you prepare to manage a company or launch your own, Zinn’s historic term as Silicon Valley’s longest serving CEO will finish your schooling. These are the lessons not taught in MBA programs, but in the real world of building an enduring and consistently profitable company filled with employees who value their contribution.


Tough Things First is available for pre-order in hardcover and ships on November 3, 2015. Digital formats (Kindle, Apple, Nook, etc.) will be available for pre-order soon. Tough Things First will be available at major book stores on November 3rd. Click here for more buying options, including bulk orders.


Ray Zinn is a disciplined man. In his youth, he was a superb athlete — a track star and gymnast. The discipline to excel at these sports remains with Zinn, who in his 70s still walks on his hands at his company’s headquarters to the amusement of Micrel employees and visiting executives. It is a demonstration that discipline lasts a lifetime (will you walk up stairs on your hands when you approach 80 years of age?).

Buy Tough Things First on Amazon.com and other popular retailers.