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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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  • Proof of Concept

    It is one of the toughest tasks for the successful entrepreneur. That’s why your proof of concept should get done first! In this Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn discusses “Proof of Concept” as structured experimentation. Ray makes it easier to understand than it sounds.


    Rob Artigo: Rob Artigo here once again, your host for this edition of The Tough Things First podcast. I’m an entrepreneur in California. Great to be back here again, Ray, for another great podcast.

    Ray Zinn: Well, good to be with you again, Rob. I’m grateful that you’re able to do these with me. See, Rob used to be a radio announcer, and so he’s been able to go in and really hone his skills in this area.

    Rob Artigo: Well, and I’m glad I can put them to some use, helping you out here on Tough Things First. I’m a big fan of what you do and I always get a lot from your knowledge and experience. Let’s just jump right into it, Ray. Let’s talk about proof of concept as it relates to structured experimentation. Finding out what fails and what works, but using those results to learn and grow and optimize to make a product that actually works and is a profitable product.

    Ray Zinn: In other words, you’ve proven it, it’s viable. I know on Shark Tank, they often ask you, “Well, what’s your revenues?” That’s almost the first question out of their mouth is, “Well, what kind of revenues do you have? What’s been the experience so far?”

    (more…)

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  • The Clock is Ticking: Does your pitch have a clear mission and strategy?

    Mission and strategy are not afterthoughts. Just seconds for your first impression. Minutes to sell the idea. Don’t blow it! In this Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn explores several key elements your elevator pitch must include or it’s most likely dead on arrival.


    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: Hi, Rob. How’s it going today for you?

    Rob Artigo: It’s going great.

    Ray Zinn: Great.

    Rob Artigo: There are a surprising number of people, Ray, who have gone into business, literally invested their own money, drawn from savings, borrowed money, sometimes mortgages on their house, a second mortgage on a house, to launch a business, and they haven’t spent much time at all thinking about defining their company’s mission and concept. So let’s talk about how to define a startup company’s mission and concept before we ever go out and try to get others excited about it. Would you say a mission and concept, they go hand in hand?

    Ray Zinn: Okay, so the mission defines the purpose. That’s what the mission is, it’s the purpose of your company. The strategy is how you’re going to execute on that mission.

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  • Ray Zinn: “An excuse is nothing more than a reason wrapped in a bag of poop.”

    Ray Zinn, the longer serving CEO in Silicon Valley, was well known for fostering a culture of  “do whatever it takes, no excuses” at Micrel Semiconductor. In this Tough Things First podcast, Ray talks about why he views an excuse as nothing more than a reason wrapped in a bag of poop.

     


    Rob Artigo: I’m Rob Artigo here once again, your host for this edition of The Tough Things First Podcast. I’m a writer and investigator in California. Here with me is Ray Zinn, the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley history. Hello, Ray.

    Ray Zinn: Hello, Rob. It’s so good to be with you again.

    Rob Artigo: Well, in your 37 years as CEO of Micrel Semiconductor, you have heard just about everything. Certainly, you’ve heard your share of excuses. I imagine over time working for you, you would hear from individuals fewer and fewer excuses based on your philosophy here. But you once wrote that an excuse is a reason wrapped in a bag of poop.

    Ray Zinn: I wrote that musing after one of my kids had offered an excuse on why something couldn’t be done.

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  • The Cryptocurrency Gamble

    Not too long ago we talked about chasing unicorns in Silicon Valley and the downfall of Elizabeth Holmes. Now the collapse of cryptocurrency exchange FTX. In this Tough Things First Podcast, Ray Zinn discusses how investing should be more than just a casual wager. (Watch the video version here…)


    Rob Artigo: Welcome to the Tough Things First Podcast, your indispensable source for business, leadership, and life advice with the longest-serving CEO in Silicon Valley. I’m Rob Artigo, your guest host, and he’s Ray Zinn. Hello, Ray.

    Ray Zinn: Hey, Rob. So good to see you.

    Rob Artigo: Good to see you too, Ray. This is a special edition of the Tough Things First Podcast. It’s on video. So if you’re listening now and you want to check it out on video, you can go to toughthingsfirst.com, find this podcast, and then right next to it will be a link to Ray’s video channel and on YouTube. You can check that out. And you can also see the previous versions of the Tough Things First Podcast on the YouTube channel.

    So Ray, not too long ago we talked about chasing unicorns in Silicon Valley and the downfall of Elizabeth Holmes. She was recently slapped with more than 11 years in prison for fraud after she deceived investors about the efficacy of her company’s blood-testing technology. Most people in the business world have heard this. It’s a cautionary tale in many ways. Now, we hear about the recent collapse of cryptocurrency exchange FTX, with an estimated 1 billion to $2 billion of missing funds out there. I’ve heard recently that it could be as much as $8 billion that was affected by this. Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder of FTX, faces what could end up being a worse penalty than Holmes faced.

    So Ray, you’ve always been skeptical of the cryptocurrencies and the exchanges as they operate kind of like a pyramid scheme. Is that fair to say?

    Ray Zinn: Yes. Actually, Rob, what’s interesting is that anything that sounds to be too good to be true, it probably is.

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  • Is Your Startup Doomed? It doesn’t Have to Be.

    Is your startup doomed, or headed in the right direction? What it comes down to is will people trust that you know what you’re talking about. In this Tough Things First Podcast, Ray Zinn breaks down the difference between a fleeting idea and a genuine money maker.


    Rob Artigo: Rob Artigo here. Once again, your guest host for this edition of the Tough Things First podcast. I’m an entrepreneur in California. It’s great to be back once again. Ray.

    Ray Zinn: I’m glad to have you here, Rob, honestly.

    Rob Artigo: Well, because of your ZinnStarter program, very important successful program. You get to hear a lot of people sharing with you startup ideas and in some cases they’re just an idea, a notion. And sometimes they’re more advanced. Now they’ve got a couple people working on a product or even making some kinds of sales. So let’s discuss your level of interest when somebody approaches you with an idea versus something that’s tangible and operating. Let’s define first the difference between an idea versus a company that’s actually operating.

    Ray Zinn: Okay, first, let’s talk about what ZinnStarter is. ZinnStarter is a program that I initiated about seven years ago with universities and I help fund students who come up with good ideas and help them develop that idea while they’re still in school. So, a company is not necessarily a company that has a product, could be a service, it could be just wanting to have your own company. And so the company itself, if you focus on having a company as opposed to an idea, then it’s going to be more long lasting. Because ideas come and go. You’ll say, oh I have a great idea and then it may not last more than a few months or days. Whereas I have a good company that could last out into centuries. A company is something that’s enduring, it’s like a family, it’s tangible, it has a people, it has assets, it has capability, it’s developing revenue. Whereas an idea is nothing more than a thought. And while you want to have a mission and a goal when you start your company, just having a great idea doesn’t make you a company.

    Rob Artigo: Is it usually when somebody walks up to you and says, Ray, what do you think of this idea here or platform of doing something, some kind of service mechanism. We have a lot of things like Lyft and different kinds of companies that figured out, here’s my niche and this is the area we’re going to go into. But if somebody walks up to you and says, here’s a concept and what they’re hoping to do in some cases is to snatch your interest, maybe figure out how to get some funding going so they can develop their product. They’re right in that phase. Can you tell right away that all they are is in the infancy?

    Ray Zinn:Sure. When you talk about an idea and we learn this while watching Shark Tank, they say, well where is your revenue? What is your revenue? And if they say, Well I just came up with the idea and so there’s no revenue yet, that’s different than them saying, well I’ve been working on this for 10 years and there’s no revenue yet, but I… That’s an idea that’s going nowhere. So I can tell by how long they have been looking at this idea and what they have done to develop it as to whether or not I want to get involved. So what I look for is, in fact, I just taught a class on this last week, is the idea unique? How is it differentiated? What did they do to differentiate that product other than just having an idea?

    In fact, I had a student, I said, “Well why do you want to start the company?”

    “Well, because there’s a parking problem at San Jose State.” And I said, “Oh well, so a lot of people say that.” I mean if you ask half this class, they’re going to say that there’s a parking problem at San Jose State. So just the fact you’ve identified a problem doesn’t make it an… You have to have a unique concept. What are you going to do to resolve that parking problem? Then that makes it different, that’s when rubber meets the road. And so just saying, I’ve noted that there’s a great need for this doesn’t mean you have a unique idea.

    Rob Artigo: You’ve identified a problem but you don’t have an idea actually. You pretty much have nothing if you don’t have a solution. And do you think that people give a little bit of short shrift on the question of, is somebody else already in that space?

    Ray Zinn: I think they do. I think because of the fact they see the problem hasn’t been solved, they immediately think they can get in there and make a difference. The fact that’s not been solved doesn’t necessarily mean you have a great idea. You have to say, okay, why is my concept going to work where the other ones, the other 20 or 30 didn’t work? And so, you need to focus on what you’re going to bring to the table as opposed to the fact that yeah, there’s a real need for this particular solution.

    Rob Artigo: I see a lot of commercials for fresh foods that are packaged up so that all you have to do is really just kind of cook the package together. It’s almost like a high quality TV dinner or something because they’re giving you a fresh meal in a day or three meals a day or something like that. You order these meals this way. And now I’ve seen multiple companies that are doing that. I imagine there are people out there that go, oh, this is a great idea, I want to do that. I guess if you want to open up a convenient store in your community where there’s already a bunch of convenient stores, that’s up to you. And maybe you’ll do it better than anybody else, but at the same time you’re not going to get a huge amount of innovation interest if you walk up and say, I’m going to deliver fresh meals to people’s houses. Isn’t that already being done?

    So it happens a lot in this industry where you hear people… I say this industry meaning technology where you hear people with their ideas and you think, okay, I think I’ve heard that before.

    Ray Zinn: What’s your added value, your unique added value? That’s the same thing as I was teaching this class last week and had this person bring up their idea was to solve the parking problem in San Jose State. And I said, “Well I’ve already helped fund five companies that were doing the same thing. Why don’t you look at what they’re doing and find out how well they’re succeeding? If you’re all are solving the same problem, it seemed like to me there’s too much duplication.” Same thing with this fresh food thing. By the way, we do solicit or subscribe to a fresh meal three times a week. It’s a lot of work. They’ll provide you all the ingredients, which is fine. It’s real gourmet stuff, but it’s a lot of work.

    Rob Artigo: You still got to cook it.

    Ray Zinn: Oh man. It’s a lot of work. It takes twice as long to cook that kind of a meal as it does just to throw something together like a can of soup or something.

    Rob Artigo: Which is why it’s so much better for you and healthy in all respects. But the parking example is a great one because I think, and even the food service deal is if you’re going to go out and let’s say you’ve got four or five companies that are already in the space doing something like the meal delivery thing. And you walk up and you say, ?Well the problem was people weren’t getting good fresh food at home.” Okay, well I’m going to bring it to them or I’m going to bring them where they can park. And you go, well these other companies are already doing it and you still have a problem. I think the place to be for that guy in his mind or woman is to say, “What are these people doing wrong?” The problem may not be the parking in general because that hasn’t changed. But the other problem is these people are providing services that aren’t working. So what am I supposed to do that’s going to fix that problem?

    Ray Zinn: Well, there’s a pre-prepared meals you can get the pre-prepared. And then there’s the ones which are the gourmet meals. They provide you all the ingredients. There’s a difference. If you want something that’s just going to help you after you get home from work and you’re tired and you just don’t want to spend an hour preparing a gourmet meal, then those are the ones that work. So you have to pick and choose as to what you’re going to do. And the same thing with parking problem. They got to come up with a solution that’s going to work, not just come up with another idea that doesn’t work.

    Rob Artigo: I think it helps to think through these things before you mention it to somebody like yourself who might be able to provide good advice. They might even direct them towards how they can take whatever they’re doing to the next level. But if you haven’t investigated the competition, you haven’t figured out if it’s there already and you have an idea that’s really just duplicating something else that’s already there and they’re already way ahead you, I don’t think you’re going to find a lot of interest in ZinnStarter or anything else.

    Ray Zinn: So let me talk about the various components of a business plan. Number one, you have to define the mission, in other words why are you doing this? What’s the concept of your business? The second thing is to be able to describe your product very quickly in less than two or three minutes. Describe the product or service and how it’s unique. What is unique about that particular product or service to solve that mission. The third thing is your team. You have to have an identified team. If you’re going to be a team of one, you’re probably not going to succeed because two heads are better than one. So you want to make sure you have a team. And then the fourth then is you got to develop a financial statement. How much money you’re going to need to get you to profitability. And if you can’t define how long it’s going to take you to get profitable, you probably shouldn’t go into business.

    So raise enough money to take you to profitability. And that’s the key to any good business plan, is to raise enough money up front to get you to profitability. Because you don’t want to be running out of money in two or three years and then have to be out on the road again looking for more money. It just doesn’t work. Then you have to also look at what your ROI is. In other words, is the money that I’m going to raise, is that going to have a decent return? And if it doesn’t have a seven or 8% return, then it’s going to fall in deaf ears. So those are the components of a business plan, mission, defining a product and how unique it is. Your team, your competition that you’re going to face, your financial requirements, you’re going to have to go to profitability. And then what’s your return on investment?

    Rob Artigo: It sounds like you better have those things in your pocket and ready to go when you’re discussing this stuff so that people know that you know what you’re talking about. I think that’s what we learned here in this podcast. So for our listeners, please rate this podcast on your favorite platform and as always, you can reach out to Ray with your questions at toughthingsfirst.com. There are links there for social media, he has blogs and virtually anything you need there. And you can go back and listen to all the podcasts going back to the very first one. And also you can pick up raised books. Of course there’s the Tough Things First and also the Zen of Zinn series includes book one and two and soon book three. So keep an eye out for that. Thank you again, Ray.

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

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  • Micromanagement for Success

    Micromanagement. Does it get a bad rap? As head of Micrel Semiconductor for 37 years, Ray Zinn took a taboo management style and turned it on its head. The results were nothing short of amazing. In this Tough Things First Podcast, Ray breaks down the reasons that putting a positive spin on micromanagement can transform workplace culture.


    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: Hi Rob. How you doing today?

    Rob Artigo: I’m well. And so don’t micromanage me too much on this podcast, but please, let’s talk about micromanagement. I’ve talked to people who worked for you at Micrel over those many 37 years, and some of them were in senior management, and I’ve been told that your own philosophy regarding micromanagement was to encourage your managers to do a little bit of it and make it a positive thing. Tell me about when you have such a negative connotation for micromanagement across the business world and you take a different tact as usual.

    Ray Zinn: Well, micromanaging has gotten a bad reputation, a bad story and narrative.

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  • The Right Company Hires the Right Person

    In thirty-seven years as CEO of Micrel Semiconductor, Ray Zinn has done his share of hiring at all levels. In this Tough Things First podcast, Ray talks objectives when interviewing candidates and how to get hiring managers to sing the same tune.


    Rob Artigo: I’m 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. Here with me as Ray Zinn, the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley history. In being invited back Ray, you know it’s always a pleasure. So, I’m glad to be here.

    Ray Zinn: Well, thank you, Rob. It’s always good to be with you.

    Rob Artigo: In 37 years as CEO of Micrel Semiconductor you’ve done your share of hiring. So let’s talk a little bit about your objectives when you’re interviewing candidates, and then we can talk a little bit about what you tell your hiring managers about their efforts to hire somebody and how to fulfill your objectives through what they’re doing. So let’s start with your objectives in interviewing candidates. When you sit down, and it can be at any level, like I said you’ve so much experience doing this, but what do you go into it focused on? Obviously, you want to get the best candidate, and I guess that’s a foregone conclusion, but there has to be other objectives.

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  • Tax Payers to Help U.S. Chip Makers with $52B. Is it Doomed to Repeat History?

    The US Government is set to spend billions on American semiconductor manufacturing. Is it an aggressive, much needed, offensive against aggressive, international dominance or destined for disaster? Few industry leaders know where this is headed like Ray Zinn. In this Tough Things First podcast, Ray explains where the industry stands and what it really needs. A do not miss podcast for the industry and government leaders. (Watch the full video podcast HERE)


    Rob Artigo: Welcome to The Tough Things First Podcast, your indispensable source for business leadership and life advice, with the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley. I’m your guest host, Rob Artigo, and he’s Ray Zinn. Hello, Ray.

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

    Rob Artigo: And, it’s great to be back as always. So, this is obviously a special edition of The Tough Things First Podcast. If you’re listening right now, and not watching it and you’d like to, you can go to toughthingsfirst.com, find this podcast there. You might even be listening to it there, but there’s a link. You can click the link. It’ll take you to Ray’s YouTube channel and you can watch, as well as listen, and let us know what you think.

    Well, Ray, the White House says, “The Chips and Science Act of 2022 will be a historic investment that will poise US workers, communities, and businesses to win the race for the 21st century.” $52 billion for the Chips and Science Act that the Biden administration says, “Will boost American semiconductor research, development and production, ensuring US leadership in technology that forms the foundation of everything,” as we’ve discussed many times on this program.

    Ray Zinn: Yeah.

    Rob Artigo: So, is that what’s going to happen?

    Ray Zinn: Well, let’s do a little background first. Let’s kind of drop back and take a look at the industry from a 40,000 foot perspective.

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  • Business Survival in Downturns and Recession

    There is little debate that the economy has hit the skids. Is your business ready? In this Tough Things First podcast, also available in video, Ray Zinn explores being prepared and what to do in the thick of financial woes that will keep you ahead of the game. (Watch This Podcast on YouTube)

     


    Rob Artigo: I’m Rob Artigo, writer and entrepreneur in California, your guest host for this edition of the Tough Things First podcast, special video edition. Hello, Ray.

    Ray Zinn: Hello there, Robert. How are you?

    Rob Artigo: I’m doing well, sir. Thanks for bringing me back once again.

    Ray Zinn: Oh, listen, my pleasure. It’s great to do it this way.

    Rob Artigo: Well, for our casual audio listeners out there, a very popular podcast, the Tough Things First podcast. If you’re interested in seeing the video option for this podcast, go ahead and check out toughthingsfirst.com. You click on the podcasts, find this post, and there will be a link there for this video. Now if you’re watching the video and you want to listen to more podcasts, just head on over to the same place, toughthingsfirst.com and click on video posts.

    There are many dozens, and I don’t know, we might be into 300 podcasts by now. Who knows? Well, Ray, let’s get into the topic. In a recent podcast, you described how downturns were inevitable and they tend to come around about every three to five years. In 2008, the so-called Great Recession, it was significant and lasting, so let’s start by just asking you is what we’re facing now potentially worse than what we experienced during the Great Recession?

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  • Why Businesses Fail

    Success in the mind comes before anything gets started in business, but how much consideration is given to the chances of failure and is there a way to improve those chances? Ray Zinn discusses why businesses fail in this new Tough Things First podcast.


    Rob Artigo: Rob Artigo here. Once again, your guest host for this edition of the Tough Things First podcast. I’m an entrepreneur in California. It’s great to be with you again, Ray, for another great podcast.

    Ray Zinn: Well, I look forward to this one especially, Rob.

    (more…)

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  • Surviving Calamity

    A calamity can be home grown, natural, or an attack like 9/11. Effective business leaders know how to overcome adversity and restore robust optimism. In this Tough Things First Podcast, Ray Zinn explores how to reignite a business after unexpected and protracted calamity like Covid 19. Beyond the financial.


     

    Rob Artigo: I’m Rob Artigo, your guest host for this edition of the Tough Things First podcast, where I get a chance to talk to Ray Zinn, as noted, the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley. And that’s for good reason. Hi Ray.

    Ray Zinn: Hello, Rob. Welcome back to the number one podcast for business.

    Rob Artigo: And we’ll talk about that later on because I think it’s important that we get people to go to their podcast platforms and rate the podcast, so it stays number one.

    I recall on a past podcast, this great series of podcasts here, you talked about how downturns were inevitable, and you should always expect them with your business. You did things like make sure you always had a certain amount of operating capital to weather any storm that might arise. But what happens if that storm is financial, but also political, personal, painful, spiritual, and prolonged, all at once, like it was with COVID. Have you seen anything like this before, Ray?

    Ray Zinn: Oh, yes. We’ve had what they call the perfect storm before. Every one’s unique and different. We had that big downturn in 2001, after the Y2K, as they called it, debacle.

    (more…)

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  • Who Moved the Cheese?

    The ability to pivot is not only an option in business, but also a necessity. In this Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn is joined by Robert Barker to discuss the important concept of embracing change to stay profitable.


    Ray Zinn: Hello, everyone. Welcome to another very special podcast of Tough Things First, I am so delighted. My name is Ray Zinn. I’m the author of Tough Things First and also the head of these podcasts, Tough Things First. And with me today, I have a very special guest. His name is Robert Barker. Robert worked for me for many, many years. He was my CFO and is also my vice president of HR and legal. And we had a great time working together for many, many years at Micrel Semiconductor. And I’m glad to have Robert with me on the program today. So welcome, Robert.

    Robert Barker: Thank you very much, Ray. I’m happy to be here.

    Ray Zinn: We had a meeting every Friday at one o’clock. Every single Friday that we invited all the main players in our staff, operations, HR, accounting, design. We had all these different groups that met, about 20 or 30 of us there.

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  • Inflation Nation. How We Got Here. When it Will End.

    From lumber prices to gas prices, all the way down to toilet paper, everything is more expensive. A New York Fed survey in early July 2022 showed near-term inflation expectations at record highs. The outlook was a whopping 6.8 percent. In this Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn explores the causes of inflation and explains where we’re headed. (New: Video Option here)


    Rob Artigo: Welcome to a Tough Things First podcast, a new one and a special one because we’re on video today. We’re going to try to do it more often. It’s a top rated Silicon Valley podcast. I’m Rob Artigo, a writer in California and he’s Ray Zinn. Hello, Ray.

    Ray Zinn: Hey, how you doing there, Rob? It’s so good to be with you with a video.

    Rob Artigo: Yeah. And seeing you while we’re talking is unusual, because we’re usually in sometimes different states. So I should let the listeners know that this is a video podcast as well as being online as just an audio podcast. So if you’re listening online and you want to watch it on video, go to the Ray Zinn’s YouTube channel, check it out there. And if you’re watching on video and you want to follow it later on the website, toughthingsfirst.com. It’s your option, and we hope you enjoy us being on camera as well.

    So, I think we should just jump right into this.

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  • The Evolution of Semiconductor R and D

    It’s the technology that transformed nearly every aspect of our lives and holds the promise of a totally unpredictable future. But it started out humbly enough with cloudy skies, murky waters, and no clear path ahead. In this Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn talks to industry insider Robert Quinn about the paths forged and discoveries won.


    Ray Zinn: Welcome to another fantastic Tough Things First podcast, we’re here talking to Robert Quinn about the fantastic semiconductor industry. Probably the most important industry in the world. At least the technologies is probably one of the most important in the world. And wars are going to be fought over that. I see going forward, I’ve invited Robert Quinn. Who’s a good friend of mine. I’ve known the industry for a number of years to join me. We’re going to talk about how R and D has changed in the industry over the last 50 years. So Robert welcome.

    Robert Quinn: How you doing, Ray? It’s great to talk to you.

    Ray Zinn: Well, I’m glad to have you here. So let’s jump right in. Let’s talk about how R and D has changed.

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  • Whatever it Takes. No Excuses.

    Ray Zinn is joined by his former CFO at Micrel, Robert Barker, to discuss the culture of success fueled by the attitude of doing “whatever it takes. No excuses.”


     

    Ray Zinn: Welcome to another Tough Things First podcast. We are so delighted today to meet with you. And I have a very special guest with me today. His name is Robert Barker. He was my CFO for many, many, many years while I was at Micrel. And so, welcome, Robert. Good to have you with us.

    Robert Barker:  Thanks a lot, Ray, glad to be here.

    Ray Zinn: Subject that you chose today, which I think is interesting, happens to be one of the cultures of Micrel. We had four cultures, honesty, integrity, dignity of every individual means respect for everyone, and then the fourth was doing whatever it takes, no excuses. So, that’s the one we’re going to talk about today.

    Robert Barker:  I’m going to start by just saying that when we had a plan, I knew, because of the culture, that I needed to do whatever it took to make that plan, to make those numbers for the quarter. And we did that consistently. And we did it because I could go to anybody in the company, I tell them this is what we need to do, this is what the plan is, and here are all your problems and this is how we go about fixing the problems. Or I would tell them what the problems were, they would tell me how to fix the problems. But I think everybody worked together, and we all knew from a top down, this was our revenue plan, and this was our profit plan for the both the quarter and for the year. And we were successful, because I think everybody in the company did whatever it took to fix the issues. Because everybody has a plan, but it’s the problems that come up in the middle, and we knew we had the authority to do whatever it takes.

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  • Tubes to Wafers: The Evolution of Semiconductors.

    Few industry leaders have the breadth of knowledge Ray Zinn has achieved in semiconductors. Over his lifetime, the evolution of the technology has literally changed the world and employed countless millions upon millions. In this edition of his very popular Tough Things First podcast, Ray is joined by industry insider Robert Quinn to discuss the remarkable and revolutionary engineering history of the semiconductor.


    Ray Zinn: Hello, everyone. Welcome to another Tough Things First podcast. I’m so delighted to be here today with a longtime friend from the industry, Robert Quinn. So how are you doing today Robert?

    Robert Quinn: Doing great, Ray. How you doing?

    Ray Zinn: We’re doing great. So it’s good to have you with us as we talk about how the industry has changed over the last 50 years. Robert, why don’t you tell us where you are, what’s going on with you and your career in the industry and then we’ll launch right into talking about how the industry has changed over the last 50 years.

    Robert Quinn: Well, Ray, as you know, I’m somewhat of a LinkedIn semiconductor industry content provider for everybody.

    (more…)

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  • Supply Chain Have You Down?

    The term “supply chain” can be defined simply, but its complexities bring advantages and vulnerabilities the world over. In this edition of the Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn explains why interruptions have such massive ramifications whether a subtle change or a gigantic disruption.


     

    Rob Artigo: You’re listening to the Tough Things First podcast. I’m your guest host, Rob Artigo. Here once again with this great opportunity to sit here and talk with Ray Zinn, with an unmatched level of experience in building business and managing successful profitable organizations in Silicon Valley. It’s great to be back, Ray.

    Ray Zinn: Thanks, Rob. It’s always good to have you on because you’re so cheerful.

    Rob Artigo: Well, this is a simple concept. I think this podcast is about a big complicated topic, but this is a simple concept. A supply chain is a focus on the core activities within an organization required to convert raw materials or component parts to a finished product or service. Now, another way of looking at that in a bigger picture, right? Is the supply chain is the activities required by the organization to deliver the goods or services to the consumer. And if something goes awry there, it can quickly go off the rails and end up costing the consumer a lot more. So it’s not so simple. Is it Ray?

    Ray Zinn: No. I mean, the supply chain is more than just manufacturing the product, is how do you get that product to the consumer.

    (more…)

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  • If it’s Too Good to Be True…

    Silicon Valley has had more than its share of global market game changers, but also a larger than average share of gigantic failures. Sometimes if you invest in a unicorn, you get the horn. In this Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn discusses Elizabeth Holmes and the funding of fantasy.


    Rob Artigo: Welcome, everyone, back to the Tough Things First Podcast, a top destination for entrepreneurial leadership in Silicon Valley and across the globe. I’m Rob Artigo, I’m an entrepreneur in California, here once again with Ray Zinn. Hi Ray.

    Ray Zinn: Hey, Rob. It’s so good to be with you again.

    Rob Artigo: I’m flattered by the opportunities every time. I’m sure you have heard of Elizabeth Holmes. She is not an unknown name in Silicon Valley, of course. She dropped out of college at age 19. She launched Theranos, I think that’s how you pronounce that.

    Ray Zinn: Theranos, Theranos.

    Rob Artigo: Theranos, okay, Theranos. She touted Theranos as a breakthrough health technology company. She promoted the company’s technology. She said her technology performed blood tests rapidly and required only a very small amount of blood and could be performed rapidly thanks to this small automated device, which she’s commonly pictured holding just between her index finger and her thumb. That was 20 years ago when she dropped out of school to start this. Today, the company is no more. Holmes went from being the world’s youngest female billionaire now to down on her luck, ex billionaire, convicted of fraud.

    (more…)

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  • The Great Resignation. Is America’s workforce slump here to stay?

    One headline read: “…the Great Resignation may be followed by the Great Regret.” But how long will that take?

    In this edition of the Tough Things First podcast with legendary Silicon Valley CEO Ray Zinn, Ray is joined by his long-time friend and former Micron CFO Robert Barker, to mull over the state of the Great Resignation and its fallout.


    Ray Zinn: Welcome to another wonderful and fantastic Tough Things First podcast. This is Ray Zinn. I’m the CEO of Micrel and also Tough Things First, and I’m so delighted to be able to have this podcast once again with my good friend and employee, Robert Barker. Robert was my CFO Vice-President of Business Development and Human Resources for many years. And so I’m just delighted to have Robert back on my program today. Hello, Robert.

    Robert Barker: Hi, Ray. Happy to be here.

    Ray Zinn: So, let’s talk about this supposed big subject of the Great Resignation. Have you ever heard of that?

    Robert Barker: I have heard of that.

    Ray Zinn: What’s your thinking about the Great Resignation?

    Robert Barker: Well, I think that it’s a bunch of people that once they decided they didn’t have to drive into work and back and they could work at home, and once they had a different environment, and also that they decided, well, maybe I don’t need to work as much. And I think that the stock market was up and they thought, “Gee, maybe I don’t need to work as much.”

    (more…)

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  • Essential Leadership Part 10

    Actions before words. How leaders benefit from avoiding the same mistakes. When does a leader’s appearance matter?

    In this final episode of Ray Zinn’s Tough Things First podcast series on Essential Leadership, Ray looks back at some of the major lessons so entrepreneurs can look forward to a new energized focused on success in business and life.


    Rob Artigo: Welcome to the final episode of the inspiring special series called Essential Leadership with Ray Zinn here on the Tough Things First Podcast. I’m your guest host, Rob Artigo, I’m a writer and entrepreneur in California. Good to be back, Ray.

    Ray Zinn: Hey Rob, man I hate this’ll be the last one, but we’ll come up with some others, but this has been an exceptional series, Essential Leadership. I also call it Exceptional Leadership, both of them have E’s and so essential, exceptional. Those are things that define what we’ve been talking about during this series of ten podcasts.

    Rob Artigo: If you understand the essential qualities of leadership and you put them in place, you will be demonstrating what it’s like to be an excellent leader. Don’t you think?

    Ray Zinn: Well, exceptional leader, for sure.

    Rob Artigo: Exceptional leader, sure.

    Ray Zinn: Yeah, this is a reason why we did this series, is to give people a chance to hear what we believe are the essential attributes of good leadership.

    Rob Artigo: Well, I thought maybe it’d be a good idea to close out just by reviewing some, not all, of what we talked about in the ten episodes, or the nine previous episodes. But to talk about some of those that stand out to me as being worth reviewing, I think they’re all worth listening to, learning about, but we only have so much time.

    (more…)

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  • Essential Leadership Part 9: “Leaders, they are of integrity.”

    Leaders can inspire a culture of integrity in any organization, but what is more effective, words or actions?

    As we continue this special series of podcasts, Ray Zinn provides his thoughts on the difference between projecting an attitude of integrity in words and proving integrity through actions. Which priority is essential for the truly successful leader.


    Rob Artigo: Welcome to Episode Nine in Ray Zinn’s Tough Things First podcast series on essential leadership. I am your guest host, Rob Artigo. I’m a writer and entrepreneur in California. Hello, Ray.

    Ray Zinn: Hey, Rob. You’re sounding good today, buddy.

    Rob Artigo: Thanks. I just feel like we’re getting close to the end, and I’m not looking forward to really closing this out. I just am enjoying the conversations about leadership here in this series.

    Ray Zinn: Well, thank you.

    Rob Artigo: We have eight terrific episodes behind us, now onto number nine, and this is leaders. You’ve said leaders of integrity inspire confidence and admiration through their actions, not just their words. Also you’ve said many leaders claim that integrity is important to them, but good leaders put their actions where their name is bad. What do you mean by that?

    Ray Zinn: You are who you portray yourself to be, and so when we talk about ethics or integrity, it comes from the heart. It’s doing what’s right when no one’s watching, so it has to be kind of a basic part of who you are as a person, and your language, the kind of words you use, whether you use vulgar language or whether you use clean language, how you communicate, when you communicate, that all goes into who you are as an individual.

    (more…)

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  • Essential Leadership Part 8

    Successful leaders establish trust with their clients, customers, and employees. It doesn’t stop there.

    Part 8 of our special series on Essential Leadership, Ray Zinn discusses why trust is a priority, the signs a leader has failed to build trust, and how to reverse that failure.


     

    Rob Artigo: Welcome to a special edition of the Tough Things First podcast, as we continue Ray Zinn’s series on Essential Leadership. This episode is episode eight on building trust. I’m your guest host, Rob Artigo. I’m a writer and business owner in California. Hi, Ray.

    Ray Zinn: Hello, Rob. How you doing today?

    Rob Artigo: I’m doing very well. Thank you for asking. So Ray, what does it mean to build trust with the people who work for you?

    Ray Zinn: Well, at the heart of a relationship, I don’t care if it’s husband or wife, if it’s friends, if it’s your employee, trust is at the heart of a relationship. And so when we think of trust, we think of something that has a higher level. It’s devotion. It’s kindness. It’s in terms of being trustworthy and honest and ethical and all those things wrapped up into what is trust.

    (more…)

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  • Essential Leadership: Part 7

    These words sound the same, but a leader needs to know the difference.

    In Episode 7 of our special series on Essential Leadership, Ray Zinn discusses the entrepreneurial skill of valuing the difference between “ministering” and “administering.”


    Rob Artigo:    Welcome to a special edition of the Tough Things First podcast with Ray’s series, Essential Leadership. This is episode seven. I’m your guest host, Rob Artigo, writer and entrepreneur in California. Hi Ray.

    Ray Zinn:       Hey Rob, good to be with you again.

    Rob Artigo:   Now, you’ve said, “Ministering and administering are two words that sound similar, but are very different”, define the difference.

    Ray Zinn:       Administering is more like supervising, managing, taking care of the business as you would. Whereas ministering is like a minister does he’s… Or the difference between say a department at administering is more like what accounting does and ministering is more like what human resources does. So, ministering is more the touchy, feely, putting your arm around somebody and providing us in the right way.

    Rob Artigo:   Of course.

    Ray Zinn:       And where you’re showing love, concern, empathy, sympathy and so forth. Where administering none of that’s there, it’s all about dealing with the numbers, not the person. So, administering is the numbers, administering is a person.

    (more…)

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  • Essential Leadership: Part 6

    You can learn on the job after failing, but if you want to beat the odds?

    Part 6 of our special series on Essential Leadership, Ray Zinn discusses the long odds of entrepreneurial success, and the for pillars that can building a strong foundations for beating the odds.


    Rob Artigo: Welcome to everyone listening to this podcast. It’s great to have Ray with me again to chat a little bit about Essential Leadership. Ray, you’ve written that trying to start a company is like playing Russian roulette with five of six chambers loaded. I don’t like the odds there. And so statistics, you’ve said show that nine out of 10 startups fail within the first three years. Why is that?

    Ray Zinn:    Well, because they lack the training and the understanding of what it takes to run a company. So it’s kind of like somebody who wants to go into medicine or into surgery and hasn’t studied how to do it or practice even how to be a good surgeon.

    Rob Artigo:  Yeah, you can’t just say that, I slept at a Holiday Inn last night and that was enough. And I think that some people get into businesses and basically that’s all they’ve done. Your philosophy though, of course, is that, to beat those odds, which are so bad, that you really need to start with your education and take four college classes. You say everyone needs to take Basic Accounting, Financial and Managerial Accounting, Business Law and Basic Economics. Why do you think those are the four?

    Ray Zinn:     Well, because that’s the essentials of understanding how to run a company. There’s a thing called the income statement and a balance sheet that every company has to understand. And so Basic Accounting and Financial Managerial Accounting, those are two separate classes, help teach you how to learn and how to interpret an income statement and a balance sheet. An income statement of course is the statement that talks about your earnings, what your revenues were, what your expenses are and what income you received from that particular effort. So, that’s the income statement then that flows into the balance sheet. Balance sheet talks about your assets and liabilities and your net worth and they flow together. And so in understanding how they work, how they flow together, how to do a cash flow statement is all part of Basic Accounting and Financial Managerial Accounting.

    (more…)

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  • Essential Leadership - Episode 5 with Ray Zinn

    Essential Leadership: Part 5

    How we carry ourselves and dress at work affects our ability to lead. But professional bearing doesn’t end there.

    In this special edition of the Tough Things First podcast, Essential Leadership Episode Five, Ray discusses how we look and carry ourselves in the workplace and why it matters.


    Rob Artigo: Welcome to episode number five in Ray Zinn’s Tough Things First podcast series on essential leadership. I’m your guest host once again, Rob Artigo. I’m with you throughout this entire series. I’m happy to be here. I’m a writer and I’m also an investigator in California. Hi Ray!

    Ray Zinn: Hey Rob. So good being with you again.

    Rob Artigo: Well, we’ve had four great episodes, they’re now behind us. Although the listeners can go back and listen to them if they haven’t caught them yet, go back and listen to them and it’s not like you have to catch up, but, but please do go back and listen because there’s a lot of good information there and, yeah, you’re going to need it as you move along in the next five podcasts after this one.

     So now number five, the professional bearing, the subject of professional bearing on an effective leader. So Ray, you know what I’m talking about when I say professional bearing, right?

    Ray Zinn: Absolutely. It’s the way you present yourself.

    (more…)

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  • Essential Leadership - Episode 4 with Ray Zinn

    Essential Leadership: Part 4

    Founders and visionary CEOs can have passion, both real and imaginary.

    In Episode Four in this Tough Things First podcasts series on Essential Leadership, Ray Zinn discusses how to foster real passion without looking like a phony.


    Rob Artigo: Welcome to a special edition of the Tough Things First podcast. As we continue, Ray Zinn’s new series on essential leadership. This is episode four, Inspiring Passion. I’m your guest host, Rob Artigo and I’m inspired to be here. I’m passionate about doing this podcast, of course, so I wouldn’t be here, right, Rick?

    Ray Zinn: Exactly. When we’re all that, we’re all listening.

    Rob Artigo: Well, you know this better than most of us out here in the world, as you were not satisfied with what your career was like and took the risk in the late   s to pivot and start Micrel, which you ran for nearly four decades to some great success, I might add. So, you had passion, correct?

    Ray Zinn: Absolutely. You know, if you don’t have passion, you might as well just roll over and bury yourself.

    Rob Artigo: Can you see that when somebody comes up in front of you that they’ve got an idea but they don’t have a sparkle in their eye that says by passion?

    Ray Zinn: Sure. You can tell that even when you go to buy a vehicle or go into a particular store. You can tell if that sales attendant has passion because they just exude enthusiasm.

    Rob Artigo: So, tell our listeners right now, just about how important it is to recognize that people can see that in you.

    Ray Zinn: That’s if you don’t believe in yourself, you’re not going to believe in the product. And so, you want to make sure that you can support that product or that service that you’re being involved. So, passion means that it’s unwavering and goes to what we talked about in an earlier podcast about Try, Try Again.  The person with passion just doesn’t give up. They say, “Stick with it.” You got to stick with the task until the task sticks with you. And so that’s the key for being passionate.

    (more…)

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  • Essential Leadership - Episode 3 with Ray Zinn

    Essential Leadership: Part 3

    Effective leaders are effective decision makers.

    In this special edition of the Tough Things First Podcast, Essential Leadership Episode Three, Ray looks at what it means to exercise sound judgement and what the alternative looks like.


    Rob Artigo: Welcome to a special edition of the Tough Things First podcast with Ray’s new series Essential Leadership. This is episode three on sound judgment as a leader. I’m your guest host, Rob Artigo writer and investigator in California. Hi Ray.

    Ray Zinn: Hey Rob. This is always wonderful to be able to do these podcasts with you.

    Rob Artigo: This is a great topic. I’m very excited about being able to do this and continue this. I mean, this is episode three, got a few more to go on this. Hopefully we’re going to do about 10, maybe more depending on how thrilled we get about continuing this, but I hope people are getting a lot out of it. I know I am. I do think it of value to the listeners, particularly those who haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about their own leadership skills and where they can go from there.

    Yes. You can develop skills. Yes. You can learn them and you can implement them if you just practice them basic daily habits that are good and positive. Let’s talk about what does it mean to exercise sound and judgment? In your evaluation as a leader, what is sound judgment?

    Ray Zinn: It’s wisdom. It’s being wise. You can make a judgment on anything, but sound judgment requires knowledge and experience. There’s no substitute for either of those. Knowledge without experience, is just learning, having experience without knowledge means it’s just trial and error. You want both, you want to have both, knowledge and experience if you’re going to exercise sound judgment.

    (more…)

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  • Essential Leadership - Episode 2 with Ray Zinn

    Essential Leadership: Part 2

    Leaders of all shapes and sizes can fall victim to one of the great challenges managers face, the danger of trying too hard only to find they’re doing the same thing over and over again.

    In this special edition of the Tough Things First Podcast, Essential Leadership Episode two, Ray looks at being realistic and knowing when to change tactics.


    Rob Artigo: Welcome to a special edition of the Tough Things First Podcast with Ray’s new series on essential leadership. I’m your guest host, Rob Artigo. I’m a writer and investigator in California. I’m happy to be back, Ray.

    Ray Zinn: Hey Rob, it’s always good to do these podcasts with you. You’re so energetic and positive.

    Rob Artigo: Well, this is a great subject to pick your brain about. Leadership is, as we discussed in the first episode, it’s a very broad topic. And it’s rich for grabbing those little details out of the realm of leadership, and exploring them a little bit so that we can grow and be better leaders. And if we’re just okay leaders, we can be better leaders. Even if we’re great leaders, we can still learn something, because we should be humble enough at least to understand that we don’t know everything. So let’s launch into episode number two of the Tough Things First series on essential leadership. I was reading-

    Ray Zinn: Let’s do it.

    Rob Artigo: Yes. I was reading your latest book, which is Zen of Zinn 2, which follows Zen of Zinn. And you have all these basically little passages that you can read each day, or a couple times a day if you choose, and get little bits of wisdom about leadership, about life. And I find it very staying across the board. I mean, there’s this thing about daily affirmations. You get to sit there in the morning and read something. But it does give you something to get a frame of mind and focus on something. Particularly if you take something out of a particular reading and go, “You know what? I’m going to try to implement this in my life today.” Zen of Zinn 2. So if you have these thoughts and inspirations. Today’s topic, I think we’ll just say, what it takes to handle setbacks and failures, and yet still succeed.

    So great leaders, I know like you, tend to be tenacious. So remind us, in Zen of Zinn 2 you have an expression, or you actually quote the expression. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. But you have a caveat to that. What’s that caveat?

    Ray Zinn: Well, he who repeats the past fails in the future is another saying that I have. So it’s if you keep doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result, that’s insanity. So don’t keep repeating the same mistake and expecting a different result. You’re going to get the same result over and over and over. So that’s a concept of try, try again, but don’t repeat the same mistake.

    Rob Artigo: Do you see that a lot in the business world? (more…)

    Read more
  • Essential Leadership - Episode 1 with Ray Zinn

    Essential Leadership: Part 1

    From doing the right things in the right way, to considering how you dress and represent yourself and your company, the characteristics of essential leadership stand the test of time.

    In this special series of podcasts, Ray Zinn provides the finer points for leadership and leadership qualities and how to develop them.


    Rob Artigo: Welcome to a special edition of the Tough Things First Podcast as we launch a new series, Essential Leadership. I’m your guest host, Rob Artigo, writer and entrepreneur in California. Hello again, Ray.

    Ray Zinn: Hi, Rob. So good to be with you again.

    Rob Artigo: Well, I really enjoyed listening to your series on Silicon Valley history. It was a hit apparently, because you were asked to do another series. So this time we’re going to focus on leadership. I guess you must be very excited to spend at least maybe, I’m thinking 10 podcasts dedicated to something I know is near and dear to your heart, but also to your success.

    Ray Zinn: Absolutely. This is going to be a great series, Rob.

    Rob Artigo: So I’d thought we’d start with this broader question of leadership so that we can give kind of an overview. We’ll start with a broader question. And then we’ll end with sort of the final episode, we’ll look back at what we talked about and give another broader overview of leadership. But I thought we would start with talking about an overview of leadership and then we’ll break it down into smaller topics, individual subjects that really matter to making a decent leader better or a good leader great and that sort of thing. We’ll just really focus on that sort of thing. So let’s launch into Episode One. What do you say?

    Ray Zinn: That’s good. This is good, better, best, okay? This is what we’re going to be doing. (more…)

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  • Growing a business into a conglomerate

    Small Business, Small Conglomerate

    Diversifying, pivoting, or just opening a lot of businesses to see what works, there’s a line between being a conglomerate and an unfocused business manager.

    In this edition of the Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn defines the differences and how to stay on track.


    Rob Artigo: Welcome to this edition of the Tough Things First podcast. I’m your guest host, Rob Artigo. Hi, Ray.

    Ray Zinn: Hey, Rob. So good to be with you again today.

    Rob Artigo: And it’s good to be back. So you probably heard the saying, and I think this is more about a pasta analogy but, “I’m throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks.” And I figure there are people out there who start small businesses and before it really gets any traction, they’re off to start another business, because they’re not doing enough with that business. And they end up diverting their attention to another business and maybe even a third business. And they’ve got three businesses going at one time. And I think of also the old saying, “Jack of all trades, master of none,” where you end up doing several different things and not really focusing on one. In your mind, and in your experience, is that ill-advised.

    Ray Zinn: Well, it depends. For example, if you’re a holding company, you might have many, many business which are totally different. I had a podcast with a fellow just the other day. He’s a holding company. His family, they have about, I don’t know, 300 or so employees. But they have an insurance company, a real estate company, a restaurant and a couple of others. I can’t remember those off the top of my head but… And so, there they are running all these different companies with totally different skill sets required. But yet, they have them, and they refer to themselves as a holding company.

    And so, people who are not holding companies but who go from this little project, that little project and as you said, the jack of all trades, master of none. It depends upon what kind of success they’re having with their company. If they’re jumping from one thing to another, it’s usually because they’re not being successful in the operations they started. (more…)

    Read more
  • Business Health Insurance - Alternatives For Startups

    Insurance and Options

    Insurance is one of the highest cost for business, and alternatives are needed.

    Ray Zinn, Silicon Valley’s longest serving CEO, is joined by John Butler, and expert in business insurance and some of the interesting alternatives available today.


    Ray Zinn: Well hello everyone, welcome to another wonderful podcast of Tough Things First, we are so delighted to have with us as our guest today John Butler, who is an expert in healthcare insurance, and he’s going to tell us how healthcare, currently insurance sucks. So John, let’s talk about your background, just give our audience a little idea who you are and just what you’re all about.

    John Butler: Yeah, thanks Ray. I grew up in Bloomington, Minnesota here, I’m 63 years old. I tell people a little short story about how I started in my working career, I had a job selling pop and popcorn at Met Stadium, which is the old Twins and Vikings stadium, and they eventually tore that thing down to pull in this horrible thing called Mall of America. It was quite a fight way back when, people thought it wasn’t going to be a good thing. But anyway, that’s what I started in my career as 15, 16 years old, just working part-time over at the stadium.

    Just went to high school, college, when I came back from college, just the working guy for about seven, eight years, and I got into the financial industry and insurance industry. And fast forward to 1996, I bought my first block of business in the employee benefits area, which included healthcare, or health insurance, of course. And about seven years ago I started researching specifically the healthcare market for businesses, because that’s the big elephant in the room, and found out that there is a lot of things going on across America that are incredible things, and I couldn’t take credit for it, I just happened to discover these people all across the country that are doing things in a different way, thinking outside the box and using the power of technology to bring forward health insurance and health healthcare solutions for businesses large and small.

    Ray Zinn: I ran Micrel for 37 years, and I know that my healthcare insurance costs were about half of my benefit costs for my employees, so it was always a big cost, but I never really understood that they were taking advantage of us, and that this is really a problem that most companies, at least that are the size pf our company, which was we had 750 to 1000 employees working for us at any given time, and so this has been a big issue, health insurance, and I know that they’re trying to find ways of improving that and lowering the cost, but why don’t you tell us, what should we be knowing, as a company with 500 or more employees, about the health insurance industry?

    John Butler: Well, the first thing is there’s solutions that exist that are really easy to understand. There’s something called coalition plans that are taking a company from 500 to 1000 employees and put them in a group of collective employers around the country that makes the population 10 to 20,000, instead of just 500 to 1000. And everybody understands the law of large numbers, the larger the numbers are, the more you can manage the risk. So employers can join these coalition plans, but not everybody is eligible to join. You don’t want to get into a coalition plan with a dirty pool where everybody’s managing their claims willy nilly.

    The real cost drivers within health insurance and healthcare is basically four things, primary care, pharmacy, outpatient surgery, and hospitalizations, and the superheroes around the country are actually controlling those cost drivers, Ray. So the average cost for a business around the country right now, according to SHRM, is $15,000 per employee per year, and growing. And so these consultants and healthcare vendors around the country are bringing that cost down already, and have under 10,000 per employee per year, rather than 15,000. So you can do the math, and whatever size company you are, if you’re going to save about three to 5,000 per employee per year, and give them better healthcare, that’s something that’s worth looking into.

    Ray Zinn: You wrote a book recently called How Health Insurance Sucks. (more…)

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  • Corporate Optics

    Machines are made-up of cogs. But if you spend all you time looking a cogs, you have no idea if the machine as a whole is running right.

    Ray Zinn educates us on how business leaders should focus.


    Guy Smith: Hello everybody, and welcome to another episode of the, Tough Things First Podcast. My name is Guy Smith, I’m your host for today. And as always, we are seeking, exploring, digging out the wisdom and experience of Silicon Valley’s longest serving CEO, Mr. Ray Zinn. We’ll just start off by saying hello, Ray. Good to talk to you again.

    Ray Zinn: Wow, Guy. Good to hear your voice again. Good to be with you today.

    Guy Smith: Always a joy to be with you. One thing which… And the topic today is of keen interest to me, and that’s how a leader, a CEO in particular, needs to view their organization. In the high-tech industry, where both you and I come from, a lot of CEOs come from the technical ranks. They’re used to looking at details, and in that respect they may tend to be looking at the machinery at the cog level, instead of at the overall machine level. I want you to talk for a minute about how in Oregon, how a leader views the organization and how they can simultaneously be worried about the overall machine, as well as paying attention to the necessary cogs.

    Ray Zinn: Well, it’s a matter of understanding, as we say, the white stuff and the chicken manure. So, you just have to be able to not get down in the minutia, but be able to step back and look at your company as a machine, as opposed to looking at it as a bunch of gears and bends, and wires and so forth. So, is your machine functioning? In other words, what’s coming in is improved as it goes out. In other words, are you actually getting out really what you’re wanting? And that’s the key, is what kind of machine is it that your company is? Are you a washing machine? Are you a refrigerator, or what is it you’re trying to do? So, that’s the machine that you’re referring to. (more…)

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  • Woke Capitalism

    Every CEO needs to heed their stakeholders. But can any CEO possibly have a company represent the values of every stakeholder.

    Ray Zinn, Silicon Valley’s longest serving CEO, draws lines between being woke and being overreaching.


    Guy Smith: Hello, and welcome again to another episode of The Tough Things First podcast. I’m your host today, Guy Smith, and I’m really excited about this topic. It’s one that’s been rummaging around in my head for the last few weeks, and I think it’s one that’s both touchy, but important for anyone who’s in a leadership role in a company, especially for the Chief Executive Officers. So as always, we’re going to be extracting the wisdom of Silicon Valley’s longest serving CEO, Mr. Ray Zinn, and getting his perspective on what I call woke capitalism, this belief that business leaders need to either adapt, conform to, or take a stand on everything political in the world. So, hello, Ray. Good to talk to you again as always.

    Ray Zinn: Well, hello, Guy. Yes, I know this is not one of those podcasts that I don’t think I’m going to enjoy, but I’m sure you are because it’s like, when did you stop beating your wife podcast. So, let’s go ahead.

    Guy Smith: I appreciate you taking a tough subject like this. It’s one that you feel like you’re dancing on landmines. You’re almost timid to take one direction or another, but let’s unwind. One of my thoughts about woke capitalism or conscious capitalism, whatever you want to call it, is that this is nothing new, that business leaders doing the right thing has been around as long as capitalism has been. I have done a little bit of reading about George Westinghouse. Back in the days when people were still working seven days a week, he was the first guy to collapse a work week down to five and a half days, which back then was unheard of. But boy, he just was considered a God in his community. His workers thought he was generous and beneficent. They made Westinghouse a household name. So give me your perspective on the relationship of business and society and community in terms of just being aware of a company’s role in all of that.

    Ray Zinn: Micrel, the company that I ran for 37 years, our culture was honesty, integrity, and dignity of every individual. There was respect for everyone, regardless of race, color, creed, or position. And the last was doing whatever it takes, no excuses. In other words, don’t become a victim. In other words, you’ve got to take control of your project and get it done and not make the company pay for your mistakes as you would. Those are the four cultures that we had, honesty, integrity, dignity, and respect, and doing whatever it takes. So Guy, let me ask you a question. In the cancel culture narrative, should we cancel that? (more…)

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  • Startup Nervous Energy

    When entrepreneurs channel nervous energy constructively, they take the healthy awareness that their business could fail and we use that awareness to stay on their toes.

    In this Tough Things First podcast episode, Ray Zinn – Silicon Valley’s longest serving CEO – chats with Dr. Chloe Carmichael, and expert on the psychology of emotional energy for teams and how it can best be channeled away from chaos into success.

    Dr. Chloe Carmichael, Ph.D, is a licensed clinical psychologist, known as Dr. Chloe. She holds a master’s degree and Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Long Island University and graduated Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude, with a bachelor’s degree and departmental honors in psychology from Columbia University in New York. Her practice in New York City employs multiple therapists to serve high-functioning business executives, people in the arts, and everyday people seeking support with personal or professional goals.

    Dr. Chloe is the author of the book Nervous Energy: Harness the Power of  Your Anxiety, endorsed by Deepak Chopra! She is a member in good standing of the American Psychological Association, as well as the National Register of Health Psychologists, an elite organization for psychologists with gold-standard credentials. She is also a consultant at Baker McKenzie, the third largest law firm in the world.  She is an Advisory Board member for Women’s Health Magazine (Hearst), and a featured expert for Psychology Today. Dr. Chloe enjoys relating with the media, as well as public speaking.  She has been featured as an expert on VH1, Inside Edition, ABC Nightline and other television; and has been quoted in the New York Times, Forbes, Vanity Fair, Shape, Cosmopolitan, Rolling Stone, and other print media.


    Ray Zinn: Hello, everyone. Welcome to another wonderful podcast of Tough Things First. I am Ray Zinn, the author of this great book that I did several years ago, also Silicon Valley’s longest serving CEO. I ran my company, Micrel Semiconductor, for 37 years, profitably by the way.

    With me today I’m so excited to have Dr. Chloe Carmichael, who is that author of a fantastic book. I hope you all have a chance to read it. In fact, we’re going to talk about her book today in our podcast. It’s Nervous Energy and Harnessing Your… I think I’m saying this right, Harnessing Your Anxiety. If I didn’t say that right, Dr. Chloe, I hope you will correct me. But, anyway, welcome to our podcast.

    Dr. Chloe: Thank you so much, Ray. Yes, the title of the book is Nervous Energy: Harness the Power of Your Anxiety.

    Ray Zinn: Harness the Power… Oh, yeah, that’s it. Harness the Power of Your Anxiety. Before the podcast we were… Almost doing the podcast, talking about what that really means. So I’m going to let you explain that to our audience, about your nervous energy and how you harness the power of anxiety.

    I was telling you I ran Micrel for 37 years and I was on red alert, I had anxiety or was anxious every single day for 37 years. You likened it to not having saliva in your mouth. Go ahead.

    Dr. Chloe: The concept behind Nervous Energy: Harness the Power of Your Anxiety is that a lot of people just assume that anxiety is bad and that they want to get rid of it, whereas the truth is is that the healthy function of anxiety in psychology terms… The healthy function of anxiety is to stimulate preparation behaviors.

    So if we were to say get rid of all the anxiety we wouldn’t even look both ways before we crossed the street. Ray, I think you’re living proof. You said that for 37 years that you woke up every day with anxiety. Now we don’t want to have anxiety running wild, so to speak, but we also don’t want to get rid of it. The trick is to harness it and make sure that we use that extra energy to actually push us towards our goal instead of getting stuck and chasing our tail. (more…)

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  • Revenue Rebound

    How companies rebound from prolonged revenue depression is not just for a post-pandemic world.

    As Silicon Valley’s longest serving CEO, Ray Zinn has led the way through major dips and explains strategies for exiting them.


    Guy Smith: Hello again, and welcome to another episode of the Tough Things First Podcast, where we absorb the wisdom of Silicon Valley’s longest serving CEO, Mr. Ray Zinn. My name is Guy Smith. Happy to be host of this podcast once again, and especially for today’s topic. We have, as of the date of this recording, just started to come out of the pandemic. And for a lot of companies, they suffered through a severe revenue depression during the pandemic. I’m curious as to Ray’s experience and views as to how companies come out of prolonged revenue depression. What are the right steps in terms of rescaling their business, refilling the bank accounts, and all that stuff? First things first, hello, Ray. I hope you’re doing well today.

    Ray Zinn: Well hello, Guy. I’m doing great. Glad to be back with you again.

    Guy Smith: Always a joy to be with you. I learn more from you per unit time than everything else I do with my day, so it’s always fantastic. Anyway, you were in the semiconductor industry for all of your leadership tenure as a CEO. And we know that the semiconductor industry has these wild cycles, and occasionally revenues are depressed for a number of years, depending on which part of the semi industry you’re in. And plus, like any other business, you took a couple of hits along the way in terms of customers checking out and losing a fair share of your income. Let’s talk about how a company goes from being flush to being really tight on cash, and how do they rebuild themselves out of a revenue depression?

    Ray Zinn: Well, that’s a good question. Actually, these cycles that we’re talking about last between a year and a half and two years, and that’s not unusual. The reason these cycles last for that length of time is that, I talk about it being Newton’s first law of economics, for one action you have in one direction. You have an equal and opposite action in the other direction. And so, the harder the economy is pushed down, the harder we work to get the economy back on its feet again. And so, if we’re not pushing real hard, it just drifts down and it takes longer to come back up. And so, we hardly even notice those, but those do happen. I mean, we have these weak cycles and they ebb and flow. They may last for two or three years, and they happened just prior to 2016. The thing was drifting down, down, down, down. It took a while for it to recover.

    The harder the pressure is to go down, the harder we push to go back up. Same thing if you have a real bad headache. You’ll tend to take more aspirin, or Tylenol, or whatever to get rid of it. If it’s a slight headache, you’ll ignore it. If it’s a big headache, you may two or three just to get rid of it. This is all nature. This is just the way we react to pain, as you would. The more the pain, the more the pain killer we put into it. Same thing when you’re running a company. If you get knocked down really hard a couple of times… I lost a fourth of my revenue a couple of times, and, I mean, instantly. I mean, like within a day lost a fourth of my revenue. And so, that made us scramble really fast to get the thing reversed. (more…)

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  • How Hornbill switched to 100% work from home

    Going 100% Work-From-Home

    The pandemic taught many companies that work-from-home was a viable option for many employees. Some companies went all the way.

    In this Tough Things First podcast, Gerry Sweeney, CEO of Hornbill, a cloud-based provider of workflow management solutions, discusses with Ray Zinn, the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley, how his company cancelled their corporate HQ office lease after a year of COVID induced working from home.


    Ray Zinn: Hello everyone, this is Ray Zinn. I’m the author and podcaster for toughthingsfirst.com. And I’m just delighted to have with me today, Gerry Sweeney, who is an entrepreneur and a CEO of a company. And so welcome Gerry.

    Gerry Sweeney: Thank you Ray, Thanks. Great to be here.

    Ray Zinn: So tell me a little bit about yourself.

    Gerry Sweeney: Okay. As you say, I’m a founder and CEO, active CEO of a software company called Hornbill. We’re based here in the UK, but have customers all over the world. We’re a SaaS software company. I founded the company back in 1995 and I continued to operate and run that company today.

    Ray Zinn: You must be across the pond from us?

    Gerry Sweeney: I bet I am. Yeah, I’m just outside London.

    Ray Zinn: Okay. So how big is your company?

    Gerry Sweeney: In terms of people?

    Ray Zinn: Yes.

    Gerry Sweeney: About 70 people currently.

    Ray Zinn: Okay, 70 people. And what kind of software do you offer?

    Gerry Sweeney: Well, the software is service management software, business, workflow automation, and collaboration, communication software. So if you combine those three things it’s, work management for businesses, typically used primarily in mid to enterprise size companies. We start to have relevance and offer value when an organization is sort of 3 or 4,000 people and above.

    Ray Zinn: So how can anyone find out about your company? Where can they go to find out about Hornbill?

    Gerry Sweeney: Oh they can just go to hornbill.com. We’re there, we’ve been there since 1995, so.

    Ray Zinn: Okay, so you do workflow. So that’s efficiency, production, efficiency, performance efficiency, so forth?

    Gerry Sweeney: Exactly. Business efficiency, business optimization, digital transformation. That whole area, service management and so on.

    Ray Zinn: And you know, this is a perfect segue into our discussion today. What we’re going to talk about is working from remotely as opposed to working at an office. So, that’s the subject of our podcast today. And tell us Gerry pandemic caused you to kind of shift gears a little bit pivot. So tell us about that.

    Gerry Sweeney: Yeah, absolutely. I think it was pretty much a foregone conclusion. So it was simply one day back in the early part of 2020 and around March, I think it was March 18, actually. We decided based on what the UK government were telling us. To actually just send everyone home and work from home. So we did that. So that was on a, I think, a Tuesday or something like that. I can’t remember now, to be honest with you. It might be a different day, but let’s just say Tuesdays for want of a better day. And everyone went home that day and we have actually been remote working ever since. So, for us and that sounds very sort of chaotic, but actually in reality we’re a software company and our business is in the cloud. Our services are operating out numerous data centers around the world. So we remote manage everything anyway. There was of course challenges, logistical challenges, but actually the transition was pretty smooth. We were back up and running the next day. I would say our customers didn’t notice anything at all actually. (more…)

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  • Cheap Money

    When should businesses borrow? That question is prime in their era of very cheap money.

    Ray Zinn, Silicon Valley’s longest serving CEO, knows and tells you now.


    Guy Smith: Hello again, and welcome to another episode of the Tough Things First Podcast. I’m your guest host for today, Guy Smith. And as always, we’re picking the brain, the wisdom, the experience of Silicon Valley’s longest serving CEO, Mr. Ray Zinn.

    Today, we’re going to be talking about cheap money and borrowing. Every business has a temptation to borrow money. I think every human being in a capitalist society has a temptation to borrow money. We are, at least as of the date of this recording, still in a period of exceedingly low interest rate, cheap money. This brings forward the questions that I think our audience is interested in. When is debt the right thing to do? When do you know that the cheap rates are as good as they’re going to get? How should you balance your borrowing against your cashflow, et cetera, et cetera.

    So with that, Ray, hello. Good to talk to you again.

    Ray Zinn: Well thanks, Guy. Good to be with you this morning.

    Guy Smith: Always a joy to be with you.

    Now, we have cheap, cheap, cheap, cheap money. I get to say that because I just closed a refinancing of my house yesterday and I’m just still stunned at how little I’m paying for cash right now.

    Ray Zinn: You mean for interest, the interest rate?

    Guy Smith: Yeah.

    Ray Zinn: Okay, cash. Right.

    Guy Smith: When it comes to business, there’s always a temptation to borrow money. I think some companies borrow money because they’re not frugal internally, and they think they have to get excess capital from the outside.

    Let’s first start off by talking about when do you think it’s right to borrow. What are the key elements that say borrowing is really the only thing that we should consider for this particular situation in our business?

    Ray Zinn: Well as you pointed out, money’s really cheap now. I’ve never seen it any cheaper than it is right now. It is about as cheap as it’s going to get. Any of you who have your money in money market or in treasuries, you’re getting less than a percent back on your money. Obviously, if you’ve got cash, you’re not going to benefit from that by borrowing because if you put your cash to work, you’re not going to get much for it. You might as well use your cash, unless of course you don’t have the cash. And then, of course you don’t have much of an option other than to go out and borrow. (more…)

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  • Business Disaster Planning

    Disaster Planning for Business

    Ray Zinn, the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley has seen business disasters come and go, and dodged many of them.

    In this episode of the Tough Things First podcast, Ray discusses how to plan for unplannable disasters, and even the common ones.


    Guy Smith: Hello again, and welcome to another episode of the Tough Things First Podcast. I’m your host for today, Guy Smith, and as always, I’m really excited to have a chat with Ray Zinn about a topic which I think is on everyone’s mind. 2020 has been a heck of a year with the pandemic. Businesses have had to react to a disaster which is normally not on their books, normally not in their planning. Ray has been through many up and down cycles, many disasters in business, and we’re going to have a chat with Ray, the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley, about how somebody in business, how a business leader can plan for disasters in general, but also for these whopper disasters that come around maybe once in a lifetime. So hello, Ray. Great to be with you again.

    Ray Zinn: Well, thanks, Guy. Yes, it’s great to have you on the podcast with us.

    Guy Smith: Always enjoy doing it. It’s exciting, it’s intellectually stimulating, and I learn more about practical business working on this podcast than anything else I get to do during the week. So let’s dive right into it. 2020 has been a disaster. Pandemic has really racked a lot of businesses, from the small to the large, so why don’t you give us first your perspective about what is the difference between a normal disaster, a run of the mill business disaster, and something exceptional about an event like a pandemic, and why this changes the way the business leader might do their disaster planning?

    Ray Zinn: Well, Guy, I like to think of, all disasters are disasters. I mean, there’s no good disaster. And you could say that depending upon the kind of business you run, one kind of a disaster could impact you more than another kind of a disaster. So for example, if your company was a clothing company and you could switch to making face masks and other protective clothing, this disaster is actually a boom or an advantage. A disaster for one person can be a boon for another. For example, when you get a cavity or you break a tooth, that may be a disaster for you but it was a great thing for your dentist. Or if your heart goes bad, that’s a disaster for you but it’s a great thing for the heart surgeon. (more…)

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  • Sales and Expansion

    Sales drives revenue. But selling has changed when the internet and technology made mass marketing available to everyone.

    In this Tough Things First podcast episode, Ray Zinn is in conversation with Aleks Gollu, CEO of 11Sight, to discuss sales effectiveness in the 21st century.


    Ray Zinn: Hello, everyone. Welcome to another fantastic Tough Things First podcast, it’s great to be here with you today. And I have a very special guest that I’d like to introduce and let you know a little more about him. This is a friend of mine, Aleks Gollu, I’m so delighted Alex to have you on the program with me today. So let’s hear a little bit about yourself please.

    Aleks Gollu: Thanks Ray, and it’s definitely an honor to be here with you talking. My career has evolved as that of a serial entrepreneur. I did my undergrad at MIT, then I did a PhD at UC Berkeley. Those were all in electrical engineering, computer science. And back at the university, we were working on automated cars, automated highways, this is late ’90s. But one of the other PhD students, Farokh Eskafi and I, we were more entrepreneurially oriented than just academically. So we had it in our head that we wanted to do a startup, and this was like the dot-com era just about to begin.

    So right after the PhD, [inaudible 00:01:49] and I did a startup, this is a time where Motorola StarTAC is the most advanced form, Netscape is new. So we told people, “Hey, come to our website, tell us what you’re interested in, and we’ll send you SMS messages with your stock prices, your sports results and so forth.”

    So that company we sold to a competitor, then both Farokh and I, we saw RFID emerging. He being more technical, he built in a new RFID chip that did location tracking, and he ultimately sold that company to Maxim Integrated. And I used RFID readers off the shelf to build a yard management solution that made transportation aspect of supply chain more efficient. In today’s language, we were an IOT company in the Cloud. Back then, we were a SaaS based yard management company that combined RFID and user input to improve trailer life cycles in yards.

    Now, after that, we both saw video as a communication means of the future. And that brought us, Farokh and me back doing a new company which is 11Sight. And what we do at the 11Sight is we bring businesses and customers closer together. We provide the fastest way to connect, the simplest way to engage. And the net result is increased revenues and improve customer satisfaction.

    So that’s basically me in a nutshell from ’83 arriving in US, to sitting in north of Berkeley in El Cerrito today talking to you. (more…)

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  • Choosing Board of Directors members

    Board Members

    Board Members come and go, but navigating a working relationship with board members good and bad is a constant.

    In this Tough Things First Podcast, Ray Zinn, who has experienced everything when it comes to boards, provides some profitable insights.


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

    Ray Zinn: Doing great, Rob, good to be with you again.

    Rob Artigo: I think I have a good subject here, something that you are definitely familiar with, and that is a board of directors that you might have for your corporation, your company. In business, we have these board members that tend to come and go. I mean, they don’t stick around forever. If you’re fortunate enough to be like you, running Micrel and being around almost four decades… And so you have a board that, I’m assuming, was fluid. It changed over that time, because that’s just the nature of these boards. But sometimes you have people who leave, and you don’t really necessarily want them to leave, because you appreciate their input, advice, and their professionalism on the board. But then they go on and do something else, and they’ve got another board they join, or they just get tired, or they retire, because it’s just that time. They just leave the board.

    Sometimes, you have other board members who are a thorn in your side. I’m assuming you’ve had that experience, where you’ve had board members who you kind of wish they weren’t around the board anymore, but yet they never go away. Give me some thoughts to start off here about your experience with boards, whether you’re sitting on a board or whether you’re dealing with it as a CEO of a company. Dealing with board members, because not all personalities are going to gel well together. And some people, they find out that they’re maybe not meant to be a board member in the first place.

    Ray Zinn: Well, there are boards, and there are boards. I mean, a rose by any other name is still a rose. It depends upon how your board is formed. If you’re a private company and you have control of the company because of your shareholder capability or majority, you can get rid of a board member very easily. You just fire them, because you’re a majority shareholder. If however you’re a minority shareholder, whether you’re public or private, then you have to get the agreement of the majority shareholders to dispose of a board member. Now, in the case of a public company, there are elections that are done periodically, depending upon the bylaws of the company, and you get to put your slate of shareholders up for vote. And so if you have a shareholder that is not performing well, you can only do it at a specific time when that election takes place, but you can change your board of directors base. (more…)

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  • Consultants - when time is money

    Consultants

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

    Rob Artigo: Vultures, not like vultures?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Ray Zinn: Thanks, Rob. Appreciate it.

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  • Competing Shareholder Priorities

    Stakeholders and Priorities

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • Signs of individual and organizational burnout

    Burnout

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

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


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

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

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

    Ray Zinn: Yeah, yes, yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • Exporting Silicon Valley Culture

    Exporting Silicon Valley Culture

    There are good aspects to Silicon Valley culture.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Ray Zinn: Thanks, Guy.

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  • Silicon Valley History - Part 12

    Silicon Valley History – Part XII

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

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

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


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

    Guy Smith: Always great to be here.

    Peter Marchetti: Likewise, Ray.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • Silicon Valley History - Part 11

    Silicon Valley History – Part XI

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

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

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


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

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

    Guy Smith: Hidey, ho.

    Peter Marchetti: Hey, Ray, good morning.

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

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

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

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  • History of Silicon valley - Episode 10

    Silicon Valley History – Part X

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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  • History of Silicon Valley - Episode 9

    Silicon Valley History – Part IX

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

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

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


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

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

    Guy Smith: Great to be here.

    Peter Marchetti: Morning Ray.

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

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

    Peter Marchetti: Research in motion. RIM.

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

    Guy Smith: Code Division Multiple Access

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

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  • Silicon Valley History - Part 8

    Silicon Valley History – Part VIII

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

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

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


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

    Guy Smith: Great to be back.

    Peter Marchetti: Likewise, Ray.

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

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

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

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

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  • Silicon Valley History - Part 7

    Silicon Valley History – Part VII

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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