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If you like Craig McCaw's story, you might also like:
Timothy Berners-Lee,
Jeff Bezos,
Susan Butcher,
Steve Case,
Michael Dell,
Lawrence Ellison,
Bill Gates,
Jeong Kim,
Pierre Omidyar,
Larry Page,
George Rathmann,
Carlos Slim
and Ted Turner

Craig McCaw's recommended reading: Oliver Twist

Craig McCaw also appears in the videos:
Education in the 21st Century

Making a Better World: What is Your Responsibility to the Community?

Entrepreneurs and the Information Age

Teachers can find prepared lesson plans featuring Craig McCaw in the Achievement Curriculum section:
The Information Age

Related Links:
Wireless Wizard
12 Lessons

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Craig McCaw
Craig McCaw
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Craig McCaw Interview (page: 2 / 5)

Pioneer of Telecommunications

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  Craig McCaw

You started your business at your own personal financial risk, is that correct?

Craig McCaw: In starting my business, there was no one event. We really went from one step to another, to another, and gathered people. Debt for us was merely a tool that we used. The fundamental thing we had was people. Finding people who were very talented, it's not necessarily easy to get them to work together. It's very easy to find someone who will salute and follow your every order, but it's very difficult to take people who sit down when you walk in the room -- as a matter of irreverence -- and get them to respond.

Craig McCaw Interview Photo
Borrowing money was a tool for us because of the businesses we were in --cable television, cellular telephone, paging -- all were very capital intensive. In a perfect world, you don't have that. It's easier if you don't have it, but it's the leverage to make a lot happen, either pro or con. As long as you believe in the pro, and you've thought out how not to run out of money if things don't go as you expect, then indebtedness, as it were, ups the ante and makes everybody work harder, because you know the consequences of failing to deliver on your promises.

Was there a level of fear involved the first time you realized you had to spend to gain?

Craig McCaw: We never exactly had fear at the beginning of borrowing money. It usually came along the way. When you borrow tremendous amounts of money, there are always times of adversity, external factors, a change in the economy, or a liquidity crisis, driven by the government.

Those are the times when you really have to become good because you're scared to death and you know what can happen. It's like walking on a tightrope. In the good times you can only fall six inches, in the bad times you can fall 100 feet. So you know that, at those times, you can't fail.

How does that feel, to have to walk through your fear?

Craig McCaw: If you're very committed to something, you're not afraid, because you're willing to pay the price. You just have to decide the price you're willing to pay to get something done.

If I want the wall to fall down and I'm willing to pay the price and push on it long enough, it will fall down. By some circumstance, I can get that wall to fall down. The question is, was it worth it in the total context of my own personal morality, right and wrong, the amount of effort it took, and as it were, the value of that contribution? Was it significant enough for all the effort?

[ Key to Success ] Perseverance

Courage is merely a matter of being committed and being prepared to pay the price, whatever it is, for what you want to have happen. And when you're really committed and when you love what you do, you will pay that price. I always want to say that for my company, I would probably stand in front of a truck and start shooting at it to stop it because I wanted to defend the company. I viewed it as my responsibility to the people and the mission and the goals. And if my personal price was too high, I was prepared to pay it nevertheless, on behalf of the whole concept about what I was about.

[ Key to Success ] Passion

When you started the business, what was your vision and mission?

Craig McCaw: I began my career in cable television at 16, selling door to door, climbing poles and helping to construct a system in a small town in Washington. I'm not sure I had a vision of what I was going to do at all.

I was profoundly affected by the experience, because it was a very blue collar, relatively poor community, and I learned the relationship of the technology to the people, and their attitude toward it. Maybe my whole attitude toward life comes from being forced, as a relatively shy person, to confront people and ask them to do something, and try to explain why it might be in their interest.

If you give something to people in their interest, they will eventually realize it. If they don't know it on day one, it really isn't important. It's your job to think almost anthropologically about humanity and say, "What would be in their best interest?" And then try to get there first, and know that eventually they'll learn that what you have is worth their while. If I ever got a vision in business it was that, the Field of Dreams mentality, and that's how I've really operated in my career. I've never worried whether somebody else thought it was the right thing. If I believed it was the right thing, then I was prepared to build it and hoped that "they would come," based upon if I were that person and I were in their circumstances, that I would appreciate what product was being created and it was worthwhile.

[ Key to Success ] Vision

What preparation did you have for going in this direction?

Craig McCaw: It almost doesn't matter what direction you're going in. You learn and you see an opportunity, a gap between what is and what should be. If one thinks in anthropological terms, if you go towards what should be, then eventually things will get there and you just have to work out the timing.

With cellular telephony, in particular, we saw an enormous gap between what was and what should be. The idea that people went to a small cubicle, a six-by-ten office, and sat there all day at the end of a six-foot cord, was anathema to me. I mean, it makes absolutely no sense. It is machines dominating human beings. If one thing is obvious, people will pay, people will contribute something for control of their lives, the right to choose. And I think if anything we saw in cellular telephone it was that people were being subjugated needlessly to 1890's technology.

[ Key to Success ] Vision

No need existed for that to continue. Over the long term, for another 20 years, we'll see people detach themselves from being confined in small places, only to communicate far distances. I believe that people go to the office today to socialize with others in the building, not to have the benefits of a PBX with a telephone. It's not efficient with the technology we have today. It doesn't make any sense and it's a lousy way to use people, to commute in traffic in the morning just to sit in an office and talk to anyone, except to others who are far away.

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This page last revised on Mar 28, 2011 09:34 EDT
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