In the conclusion of the interview, I find it very interesting how Jerry was able to remain motivated and energized throughout the entire process, even after he had made (as Frank calls it) ridiculous amounts of money.
SM: That sounds like a great story, congratulations for being able to navigate your ship through all of these storms. I am sure you are tired! JR: Actually, I appreciate your kind words, but it has been interesting and there were parts of it that were very unpleasant. Overall it was a difficult problem and I am an engineer by training, so solving hard problems is fun for engineers.
So we have had to change our approach, but solving the problem and now achieving the success, that says we are now growing and profitable and we have set our goals higher, it has been a very satisfying process to me. I didn’t get tired during the period, I was invigorated by it, I am sure I had some frustrations along the way, but this was all about making long term changes. One of the challenges for me, frankly, was to make sure this is a very long term process.
It took five years to get all of this put together. There were clearly demands from a lot of people who said, “Tomorrow you have to lay off a lot of people. You have to lay off your engineering department, you have to quit spending operating expenses, and you have to get profitable next quarter”.
My reply was that this company would not be worth having, this is not a place anybody would want to work, and nobody would want to own our shares if we achieved profitability next quarter because we would have no company in three years. So, being able to convince people to stay the course, to convince our board of directors – it was a challenge.
In the end I was able to drag them along and convince them that yes, it was and yes, we are able to raise enough cash through convertible bond issues that we could support ourselves through the period, and we have now been generating cash for several quarters, with profitable operations, and now we have $130M cash in the bank. That part has worked out.
In terms of whether I am tired? No, I don’t feel tired at all; I am on to the next front which is, you know we now have a goal to improve our operating costs and our level of profitability and I think we can do that over the next year.
SM: Congratulations and best wishes for your next level of growth. Thank you for taking the time. JR: I have enjoyed it.
SM: And to conclude, just an little story. Jerry Rawls is 6ft 4in tall. And, he is worth several hundred million dollars. Yes, because he has made it a company policy that everybody travels Economy, Jerry himself also travels economy. This may not be something you appreciate the significance of, but if you are a very tall man, and you have to travel economy for a 14-16 hour flight to Malayasia, Singapore or Shanghai, it is really unpleasant. It’s just that, Jerry is trying to walk the talk.