Thursday, May 17, 2012

Jim Sorenson -- My Speech Honoring The Man Behind the Company (Sorenson Media)

"Sorenson Media" -- a storied name in the world of online video.  Founded in 2000 -- a significant driver of the mainstreaming of internet video -- specifically, our technology first enabled video playback in QuickTime, Flash, YouTube.  Bet you didn't know that.

I have had the good fortune for the past 3+ years to be CEO for this storied name -- and to cherish that legacy, and try to make the "Sorenson" name proud.

So, who is "Sorenson"?  

Jim Sorenson is our Chairman.  He founded the company, after finding the core compression technology.  He also is a tremendous mentor.  I am honored to work side-by-side with him.  The "Sorenson" family is legendary.  Look them up.  

Yesterday, Jim Sorenson was deservedly inducted into the University of Utah's Eccles School of Business Hall of Fame (he is a grad of the U of U).  And, I was asked to represent the business community in honoring him at the ceremony.  THAT was an honor.  A HUGE honor.  Jim is a giant in business.  The attendees were business giants themselves.  This was A-list all the way.  I was humbled.  It was a big job to try to shed light on this great man.  

Here was my attempt -- here is my speech, verbatim:

Honoring Jim – University of Utah School of Business

THANK YOU DEAN RANDALL,

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN – I AM HUMBLED AND HONORED TO BE HERE TO REPRESENT THE BUSINESS COMMUNITY AS WE CELEBRATE JIM SORENSON AND HIS INTRODUCTION TO THE ECCLES SCHOOL OF BUSINESS’S HALL OF FAME.   IN THE COURSE OF JIM’S CAREER  … SO FAR …. A CAREER WHICH FOLLOWS AN AMAZING PATH OF “SUCCESS AFTER SUCCESS” – JIM HAS TOUCHED AND INFLUENCED THE LIVES OF HUNDREDS OF BUSINESSES, AND LITERALLY THOUSANDS OF ENTREPRENEURS.  I AM FORTUNATE – VERY FORTUNATE – TO BE ONE OF THEM. 

AND, I AM DOUBLY FORTUNATE TO RUN A COMPANY THAT JIM FOUNDED AND BEARS THE SORENSON NAME.  THAT IS A TREMENDOUS HONOR … IT IS ALSO A TREMENDOUS RESPONSIBILITY AND BAR TO LIVE UP TO!  THE JIM SORENSON STANDARD IS A VERY HIGH ONE –-- IT IS VERY FAIR, MIND YOU –- BUT IT IS ALSO VERY HIGH!  WE -- AT SORENSON MEDIA -- HOLD THAT VERY NEAR AND DEAR TO US.  AND, WE STRIVE TO MEET THAT STANDARD EACH AND EVERY DAY.

SINCE I AM HERE TO REPRESENT THE BUSINESS COMMUNITY, I WILL FOCUS ON THIS ONE FACET OF THIS MAN, WHOM I RESPECT INCREDIBLY.  I WILL FOCUS ON HIS BUSINESS CAREER – AND, IN PARTICULAR, THE WAY HE APPROACHES THE WORLD OF BUSINESS.  THAT IS WHAT I THINK IS MOST ENLIGHTENING AS WE GATHER HERE TODAY.  I HAVE NOW WORKED CLOSELY WITH JIM FOR OVER 3 YEARS, WHICH GIVES ME A VERY GOOD WINDOW ON THE MAN.  I HAVE SEEN HIM IN ACTION.  I HAVE SEEN HOW HE CONSIDERS.  I HAVE SEEN HOW HE DECIDES.  I HAVE SEEN HOW HE INTERACTS WITH PEOPLE – AND, MORE IMPORTANTLY, HOW HE THINKS OF PEOPLE. 

GIVEN THE BREVITY OF TIME, I WILL NOT EVEN TRY TO ADDRESS ALL OF JIM’S OTHER PURSUITS, INCLUDING HIS INCREDIBLE GENEROSITY AS A PHILANTHROPIST.  THAT’S A WHOLE OTHER TOPIC, BUT ONE THAT ILLUMINATES THE MAN AND HOW HE APPROACHES ALL ASPECTS OF HIS LIFE.  IN THE IMMORTAL WORDS OF ONE OF MY FAVORITE PLAYS – DICKEN’S “A CHRISTMAS CAROL” – JIM LIVES THE ADAGE THAT “MANKIND IS HIS BUSINESS.”  HE LOOKS OUTSIDE OF HIMSELF, BECAUSE A CENTRAL PASSION OF HIS IS TO FIND WAYS TO IMPROVE THE LIVES AROUND HIM. 

AND, THAT GETS ME BACK TO THE CENTRAL THEME ON WHICH I WANT TO FOCUS MY REMARKS AND HOPEFULLY BRING SOME ILLUMINATION TO YOU, WHO HAVE NOT YET HAD AN OPPORTUNITY TO WORK CLOSELY WITH JIM.  THAT THEME IS THIS – WHAT DOES THE WORD “SUCCESS” MEAN IN THE BUSINESS WORLD?  AND, IN PARTICULAR, HOW DOES JIM SORENSON DEFINE BUSINESS “SUCCESS” FOR HIMSELF;  APPROACH THE WORLD OF BUSINESS;  AND LIGHT THE WAY FOR OTHERS TO DEEPEN THEIR MEANING OF “SUCCESS.”

AND, HERE’S THE FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH THAT I SEE FROM JIM.  I HEAR IT IN HIS WORDS -- AND SEE THEM IN HIS ACTIONS EVERY DAY.  AND, THAT IS THAT THE WORLD OF BUSINESS IS MORE THAN MERELY THE BLIND PURSUIT OF FINANCIAL GAIN.  AND, “SUCCESS” IS MORE THAN MERELY THE ACHIEVEMENT OF FINANCIAL GAIN.  CALLING ALL YOU READERS OF BUSINESS BOOKS  --  YOU HEARD ME RIGHT!  TRUE “SUCCESS” IN BUSINESS MEANS SO MUCH MORE.  IF YOU EVER READ ANYTHING OTHERWISE, TOSS IT AWAY. 

DON’T GET ME WRONG, FINANCIAL REWARDS ARE A SIGNIFICANT MOTIVATOR AND ARE MEANINGFUL TO US ALL.  IT HELPS ME FUND PRECIOUS JOURNEYS ABROAD WITH MY FAMILY.  BUT, IT IS THE DAY-TO-DAY JOURNEY – THE “WHY” AND “HOW” YOU DO WHAT YOU DO – THAT MATTERS MOST.  AND, BY THIS MORE ENLIGHTENED BROADER DEFINITION OF SUCCESS – WHICH IS JIM’S EXAMPLE -- FINANCIAL REWARDS AS A SCORE CARD OF “SUCCESS” ARE FAR MORE LIKELY TO FOLLOW.

JIM’S EXAMPLE IN THE BUSINESS WORLD DEMONSTRATES THAT “SUCCESS” – IN THE TRUE MEANING OF THE WORD – IS FOLLOWING YOUR “PASSION.”  PASSION IS A DEEP INTERNAL DRIVE THAT COMES FROM WITHIN.  REAL ENTREPRENEURS HAVE IT.  JIM HAS IT IN SPADES.  PASSION MEANS DEEP INTELLECTUAL CURIOUSITY.  IT  MEANS UNBRIDLED CREATIVITY.  PASSION MEANS A QUEST TO CONTINUOUSLY LEARN AND IMPROVE.  PASSION MEANS A RELENTLESS DRIVE TO REACH EVER-HIGHER GOALS (MOST OF WHICH ARE NOT FINANCIAL).  AND PASSION MEANS THAT THE UNDERLYING DRIVE IS REAL, AND GENERATES GREAT POSITIVE ENERGY THAT OTHERS CAN FEEL AND BE MOVED TO DO GREAT THINGS -- THINGS THAT ARE BIGGER THAN ANY SINGLE INDIVIDUAL.  BY THIS TRUE MEASURE, JIM IS WILDLY SUCCESSFUL.  AND, BECAUSE OF HIS PASSION FOR BUSINESS, HIS CONTINUOUS STRING OF SCORE CARD BUSINESS “WINS” IS NOT SURPRISING.

OKAY, I CAN IMAGINE SOME OF YOU PERHAPS THINKING, “WELL, WHAT DOES THAT REALLY MEAN?  COME ON – WE WANT TO HEAR YOU TICK OFF CERTAIN ACHIEVEMENTS FROM HIS LENGTHY SCORE-CARD!”  TO THAT I SAY, I UNDERSTAND THAT.  AND, I WILL RATTLE OFF A FEW SUCH VICTORIES – BUT THE LIST IS LONG, AND THE “HOW” AND THE “WHY” -- TO ME -- ARE MUCH MORE INTERESTING.

HERE’S WHAT I MEAN.

JIM OVERSEES VERY SIGNIFICANT BUSINESS PURSUITS AS YOU KNOW.  LESS THAN TWO MONTHS AGO, HE HAD YET ANOTHER BIG SCORE CARD “WIN” WHEN MEDICONNECT WAS ACQUIRED FOR $370 MILLION.  ANOTHER ONE OF HIS MANY BIG FINANCIAL “WINS” WAS ANCESTRY.COM’S $100 MILLION IPO IN 2009, WHICH WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN POSSIBLE UNLESS JIM BELIEVED IN IT AND LED THE COMPANY’S EARLIER INVESTMENT.  EVEN FROM MY COMPANY, SORENSON MEDIA, JIM ALREADY HAS SCORED A LANDMARK “WIN” WITH THE SPIN-OUT OF NOW-INDEPENDENT SORENSON COMMUNICATIONS. 

HUGE WINS, BY ANY STANDARD MEASURE OF BUSINESS SUCCESS.  BUT, WHAT MAKES THEM TRULY MEANINGFUL AS MEASURES OF SUCCESS, ARE THAT EACH OF THEM REFLECTS JIM’S DEEP-SEEDED PASSION TO DEVELOP AND HARNESS REVOLUTIONARY TECHNOLOGY, TO IMPROVE LIVES IN FUNDAMENTAL WAYS.  MEDICONNECT IS TRANSFORMING THE HEALTHCARE INDUSTRY BY GIVING PATIENTS REVOLUTIONARY ACCESS TO THEIR MEDICAL RECORDS SO THAT THEY AND THEIR FAMILIES CAN LIVE BETTER, HEALTHIER LIVES.  ANCESTRY.COM GIVES EACH OF US A NEVER-BEFORE-POSSIBLE WINDOW – AND CONNECTION -- TO OUR FAMILIES AND OUR PAST.  TO WHO WE ARE.  SORENSON COMMUNICATIONS, VIA ITS REVOLUTIONARY VIDEO TECHNOLOGY, GIVES THE DEAF COMMUNITY AN EAR AND VOICE TO PARTICIPATE IN EVERYDAY MOMENTS IN LIFE -- IN FUNDAMENTAL WAYS THAT MANY OF US TAKE FOR GRANTED.  THESE BUSINESSES – JIM’S BUSINESSES -- DEVELOPED EMPOWERING TECHNOLOGY.  THEY MAKE LIFE BETTER – FOR MILLIONS OF PEOPLE.

AND, WHILE MY COMPANY, SORENSON MEDIA, HAS AN EXTREMELY STORIED PAST, IT IS STILL RELATIVELY SMALL COMPARED TO THOSE AND MANY OF JIM’S OTHER BUSINESS PURSUITS.   AND, LET’S FACE IT, JIM IS A BUSY GUY!

NEVERTHELESS, HE ALWAYS – ALWAYS! – TAKES THE TIME WITH ME.  TO ADVISE ME.  TO BE RESPONSIVE TO MY REQUESTS -- AND MY COUNTLESS EMAILS, FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO KNOW METO MENTOR ME.   AND, THIS IS NO MATTER WHERE HE IS AND NO MATTER WHAT HOUR OF THE DAY – LITERALLY, I AM NOT SURE WHEN HE SLEEPS!

AND, WHY DOES JIM DO THESE THINGS?  BECAUSE HE IS PASSIONATE ABOUT OUR BUSINESS.  HE IS PASSIONATE THAT OUR COMPANY PLAYS AN IMPORTANT ROLE IN THE EXPLOSIVE AND REVOLUTIONARY WORLD OF ONLINE VIDEO -- WE WERE, AFTERALL, THE CORE TECHNOLOGY THAT BROUGHT VIDEO TO APPLE, TO FLASH, TO YOUTUBE.  TO EACH OF YOU.  THAT VIDEO YOU WANT TO WATCH RIGHT NOW ON YOUR SMARTPHONE?  THAT IS MADE POSSIBLE BY OUR TECHNOLOGY. 

JIM IS PASSIONATE THAT OUR COMPANY CAN BENEFIT MILLIONS OF LIVES – TO ENRICH, EDUCATE, ENTERTAIN, AND ENGAGE IN WAYS NEVER BEFORE POSSIBLE.  AND, HE – LIKE ME – BELIEVES THAT WE ARE STILL ONLY IN THE EARLY INNINGS OF ONLINE VIDEO.  IN A WORD, HE FINDS ONLINE VIDEO “EMPOWERING.”  WE ARE VISUAL CREATURES AFTER ALL.

SO, HOW HAVE I DIRECTLY SEEN JIM’S BUSINESS PASSION MANIFEST ITSELF?  HERE ARE A FEW CONCRETE EXAMPLES, FROM THE TOP DOWN – JUST A FEW.  I COULD GO ON … AND ON … BUT THEY WON’T LET ME.

EXAMPLE #1 – OUR COMPANY HAS AN OPPORTUNITY TO WIN THE SIGNIFICANT BUSINESS OF SHUTTERFLY – THE LEADER IN DIGITAL PHOTOS ONLINE – AND TRANSFORM THAT SERVICE INTO A VIDEO SERVICE AS WELL, SO THAT WE CAN SHARE AND ARCHIVE LIFE’S MOST PRECIOUS MOMENTS.  YET, WE ARE UP AGAINST LITERALLY A DOZEN OTHER COMPANIES, INCLUDING THE INDUSTRY HEAVYWEIGHT (A COMPANY THAT JUST RECENTLY WENT PUBLIC WITH AN OVER $500 MILLION MARKET CAP).  I ASK JIM IF HE WOULD BE WILLING TO MEET WITH SENIOR EXECUTIVES AT SHUTTERFLY TO HELP CLOSE THE DEAL.  AND, MIND YOU, THEY ARE IN THE BAY AREA – THEY AREN’T LOCAL.  AND, WITHOUT HESITATION, JIM CHANGES HIS SCHEDULE AND GENEROUSLY OFFERS HIS ENERGY, HIS TIME, AND, MOST IMPORTANTLY, HIS PASSION FOR WHAT OUR TECHNOLOGY CAN ENABLE SHUTTERFLY USERS TO DO.  AS A RESULT, JIM IS SIGNIFICANTLY RESPONSIBLE FOR SEALING THE DEAL.  AND, AS A RESULT, MILLIONS OF SHUTTERFLY USERS NOW HAVE THE POWER TO WATCH  -- AND SHARE -- THEIR BABY’S FIRST STEPS. FOREVER.  THAT IS EMPOWERING!

HERE’S ANOTHER ONE.  WE HAVE A BONUS PLAN THAT – IN ITSELF – IS GENEROUS FOR A PRIVATELY HELD COMPANY SUCH AS OURS.  BUT, THAT ISN’T THE STORY.  THIS IS.  SO, IT IS TIME TO FINALIZE BONUS CALCULATIONS AND PAY OUT EMPLOYEES WHO, UNDERSTANDABLY, WOULD APPRECIATE IT.  I NATURALLY SEEK JIM’S APPROVAL TO THE BONUS PAYOUTS, BECAUSE HE IS MY CHAIRMAN.  BUT, JIM IS TRAVELING OUTSIDE THE COUNTRY.  NEVERTHELESS, IN MY INIMITABLE FASHION, I ASK FOR AN EXPEDITIOUS RESPONSE SO THAT I CAN EXPEDITE PAY-OUT.  AND, JIM RESPONDS IN RECORD TIME.  AS ALWAYS!  HE ALWAYS RESPONDS IMMEDIATELY TO EMPLOYEE ISSUES.  WHY?  BECAUSE HE CARES ABOUT PEOPLE.  HE UNDERSTANDS THAT THESE THINGS MATTER.  HE “GETS” IT.  HOW MANY OUT THERE DO NOT?

HERE’S A FINAL EXAMPLE – OUR INTERACTIONS.  JIM IS GENEROUS WITH HIS TIME.  ANYTIME I SEEK OUT HIS COUNSEL, I RECEIVE IT.  AND, HE DOES IT WITH ENTHUSIASM;  HE DOES IT WITH FOCUS;  AND HE DOES IT WITH RESPECT.  THAT DOESN’T MEAN THAT JIM ALWAYS AGREES WITH ME OR OTHERS.  OF COURSE NOT!  THE MAN DOES HAVE STRONG OPINIONS!  BUT, HIS REASONING AND EXPERIENCES ARE ALWAYS ROCK SOLID.   I ALWAYS RESPECT THEM.  I ALWAYS LEARN FROM THEM.

JIM LEADS BY PASSION.  JIM LEADS WITH HONOR AND INTEGRITY.  JIM LEADS FAIRLY … AND WITH HUMILITY.  HE LEADS BY SUBSTANCE -- NOT ARTIFICE.  JIM LEADS BY EXAMPLE.  AND, JIM RESPECTS OTHERS.  I HAVE BEEN AROUND THE BLOCK ENOUGH TO SEE WHEN LEADERSHIP – IF YOU CAN CALL IT THAT – IS DONE WRONG.  JIM DOES IT RIGHT.  THAT’S WHY JIM IS PRECISELY THE KIND OF MAN WITH WHOM I WANT TO SPEND MY BUSINESS DAYS AND CAREER.  JIM IS A TRUE MENTOR.  AND, BEING A MENTOR – AND HAVING THAT FLOW NATURALLY FROM PASSION --  AIN’T A BAD MEASURE OF SUCCESS.

NOT EVERY BUSINESS CAN SUCCEED BY THE STRICT FINANCIAL DEFINITION.  NOT EVERY BUSINESS “WINS” THAT WAY.  AND, TOUGH DECISIONS FREQUENTLY MUST BE MADE – DECISIONS THAT IMPACT THE LIVES OF MANY.  THIS IS THE NATURE OF BUSINESS AND THE “REAL” WORLD, AFTER ALL.  ALL TRUE ENTREPRENEURS UNDERSTAND AND INTERNALIZE THIS. 

BUT EVERY BUSINESS HAS A FAR BETTER CHANCE TO SUCCEED IN A TRADITIONAL SCORE CARD “MEASURE” IF IT IS FIRMLY ROOTED IN PASSION.  AND EVERY BUSINESS – EVERY ENTREPRENEUR -- CAN BE A SUCCESS IN THE TRUE MEANING OF THE WORD BY FOLLOWING HOW JIM LIVES HIS BUSINESS LIFE EACH DAY -- EVERY DAY.  JIM IS A MODEL OF BUSINESS DONE RIGHT.   THAT’S WHY HE IS – MOST DESERVEDLY -- A HALL-OF-FAMER!

CONGRATULATIONS JIM – I AM HONORED TO KNOW YOU  -- AND WORK WITH YOU!

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