Ruined by Mismanagement and Greed

Ruined by Mismanagement and Greed
May 29, 2024 Rob Artigo
In Podcasts

Some train wrecks are easily seen coming down the tracks while others go off the rails because of bad drivers. In this Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn discusses the faulty CEO who goes off the rails because their priorities get out of whack.


Rob Artigo: Well, a company called Stability AI was sold to investors as a, quote, “Herculean force poised to vanquish the twin serpents of illness and ailment and extend the olive branch of longevity,” unquote. And that sounds like a really good deal. Hey, I’m all about longevity and you’ve proven that you don’t need this technology to have longevity because you just live a good life and you’re good to go. One of the business startups that caught a lot of attention, and as recently as March of 2024, the CEO was hailed as a modern Prometheus. And you see how there’s like a Herculean force and a modern Prometheus, really like this hyperbole going on to build this company up. And a couple of weeks later, the creative leadership of the company, the creative team behind the company, they just all quit and the CEO ended up resigning. There were these issues going on like unpaid bills and bungled contracts and complaints about running out of money that had been known for, apparently, months and the CEO was unable to secure additional fundings.

And so, in March, he was out there while this was all going on, doing what amounts to some kind of tech TED Talk kind of thing where he is talking to a crowd of investors and people and building things up. So, where am I going with this? And the thing is that we were just casually talking about this not long ago. I thought it was interesting that your take on it was more about CEOs. You made the point that often a CEO kind of loses focus or doesn’t really know what the true objective is of the company. And you mentioned the company JUUL as an example of this. Let’s talk a little bit about how even good plans or good ideas can run afoul in a hunt for money.

Ray Zinn: Well, you’re talking about JUUL, which is that e-cigarette company.

Ray Zinn Cont: Their goal, they said, their stated goal was they want to get people off of cigarettes, tobacco, I should say, not cigarettes, but get them off of tobacco. And that sounded great. People jumped on it like crazy because they thought that, “Hey, this is a way to get off of tobacco,” because it was thought that it was the tobacco that was hurting your lungs and causing cancer and so forth. And so here they are, they were all Stanford, these are two Stanford students. They were all excited about, “Look at our ideal, our stated goal is to really get people off of tobacco and the effects of that-

Rob Artigo: Which you would think is a noble goal.

Ray Zinn: Yeah, it sounds noble.

Rob Artigo: Yeah.

Ray Zinn: It sounds noble. Just like this company wants to increase longevity. Anytime we have something stated that, “Oh, this is for the good of this society. This is good for mankind,” people tend to rally behind that. And so, in the case of JUUL, their stated goal or mission sounded good, get people off of tobacco, but their real goal, as it turns out, was to make money. But to do that, they had to get people addicted to their product. Addicted. You know an addiction is, so you can’t do without it. That’s what an addiction is.

Rob Artigo: Yeah.

Ray Zinn: So, if you get somebody addicted to popcorn or ice cream or candy or whatever, then they’ll keep buying that product. And so, almost everything that is an addiction is bad. Normally, addictions are associated with drugs and other things which are, pornography is an addiction. And so there are a lot of things that are addictive that aren’t necessarily a chemical or whatever. Addictions are bad, in general addictions are bad because we can’t do without it and it changes our life. It changes who we are. And so, these two Stanford students at JUUL, instead of having this creative idea of getting people off of tobacco, actually got them hooked on their product. And actually, because of the addiction, you take a little bit, but you keep taking more and more and more, you need more of it. They started promoting it to young people, even to middle-aged kids. And they got them hooked at a very early informative age. And that’s not good.

And so, now JUUL of course is undergoing a lot of scrutiny. I don’t know where their current situation is, but I do know that they got a lot of bad press. I know that the founders quit, and I think it was Marlboro or something like that, that actually acquired the major portion of JUUL. But again, these great ideas, these things that get people in society hooked on longevity and so forth, sound noble and great. And some of them are good, some of them are not good. But what this guy did, this CEO, was he was not focusing on their goal, their mission of improving longevity, he was focused on what can he do to promote himself. How can he become wealthier and better?

And so, he started not paying bills. He started spending the corporate money, the investor’s money on himself, tried to improve his own way of life. Most good CEOs, most entrepreneurs that are good entrepreneurs, their passion is to see their company succeed. They’re not necessarily focused on themselves. They’re not trying to make themselves successful. Some of the more successful people that we have in our mindset like Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill and others like that were not focused on themselves, they were focused on others. And so, what’s that? Mother Teresa?

Rob Artigo: Mm-hmm. Gandhi.

Ray Zinn: Is another one. Mahatma Gandhi. The true, real beloved people, beloved leaders, are those who don’t focus on themselves, they focus on others. And that’s the key to this podcast is, if you’re going to be an entrepreneur or a successful CEO, it’s because you focus on others. You put yourself second or third. Jesus Christ is another example of an individual who paid a great price for serving others, but He didn’t, certainly don’t remember Him as being wealthy or didn’t focus on His own success. He focused on others. And so, that’s the key to this podcast is, if you want to be successful, focus on others not yourself.

Rob Artigo: Really great advice. And I should tell the listeners that, as always, they can reach out to you with their questions at toughthingsfirst.com. They can continue their education in conversation with all the podcasts, blogs and links to information about Ray’s books, Tough Things First, The Zen of Zinn series is always recommended. There’s three books there and some great wisdom as well. You’ll find in all of what Ray writes more of what you experience here in this podcast. And just to underscore, it’s all good stuff to keep a rounded attitude about things. And Ray, the remarks you had about where a CEO needs to have the focus, I mean really, we’ve seen so many examples of it, that where a person focused on themselves ends up in ruin. Throwing it out there is, you were a CEO for 37 years at Micrel, and one of your most important attributes as a leader was your empathy and care for other people in the business and less about yourself and your finances.

Ray Zinn: That’s correct.

Rob Artigo: Yeah. Well, thanks Ray. Thanks. Great podcast.

Ray Zinn: Thank you, Rob.

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