Learning From Experience

My father once said “Always try to learn from other people’s mistakes. It saves you a bunch of time.”

But he could have also said “Learn from other people’s success. It saves you a bunch of pain.”

zinn-cover-front_v6When looking for mentorship, finding someone who has proven themselves and whose advice goes against conventional thinking is a good tactic.

My friend Ray Zinn is that mentor.

It is hard to understate what Ray has accomplished in business … and in life.

  • He founded a semiconductor company in Silicon Valley without venture capital.
  • He ran that company as the visionary founder for 37 years.
  • He was profitable the very first year, and for every year thereafter (except for one year during the dot-com era meltdown, and the one “unprofitable” year was due largely to a write-down for shuttering an extra fabrication facility).
  • His company had the lowest employee turn-over rate in his industry, and likely in all of Silicon Valley.
  • His rate of boomerang employees (ones who left and came back) was off-the-charts.

Now that Ray has sold off Micrel, the company he founded and took public, he is actively mentoring startups. He started the process a bit differently, by writing a book titled Tough Things First, which you can now order. I read the manuscript before it was bought by McGraw Hill and can attest that the wisdom Ray imparts in this book will save many entrepreneurs from self-inflicted failure.

What will shock many people is that the core of this 77 year old’s management philosophy will be welcome by millennial entrepreneurs. Ray is a people person, which makes him a great leader of people. He ran Micrel on humanist principles that included:

  • Assuring the dignity of every employee
  • Helping everyone find and understand the value they possessed
  • Practicing servant management, whereby managers and executives served their employees

Perhaps this is another case of old school style coming back into vogue. Or perhaps Ray practiced enduring truths that Silicon Valley forgot in the dot-com gold rush. Either way, executives struggling to be great leaders, entrepreneurs struggling to build lasting teams, anyone trying to create enduring businesses will learn from a true master when they read Tough Things First.


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