Santa Cruz Leadership Lessons
Andy Van Valer, Founding Partner, Slingshot, Scotts Valley, California @ slingshotsv.com
“I am convinced you must have good people around you in order to accomplish great things in business and life, however good people are not always fully equipped for the task. That’s where I come in – My passion is to lead, mentor and advise good people, allowing them to achieve their goals and dreams through great businesses. I have had a vibrant career spanning over 30 years in the business, technology and sales sectors. I have been a startup team member, founder, leader and key contributor to several highly successful, high growth Silicon Valley startups. I have been fortunate enough to have had influential roles in numerous worldwide groundbreaking technology releases, including computer software, internet services, digital photography, and cell phones. I have set up international operations for several market-leading corporations in Germany, Italy, France and Ireland and also acted as an adviser and liaison for International Government Agencies in some of these countries.”
How do you see stress in your business life?
“I look for the positive out my experiences not the negative. I see every difficulty as an opportunity and something that can be solved. Some people take stress into their core and it becomes family and or personal stress. I believe “This too shall pass. If you realize the wisdom of living life you know that this is not tomorrow“.
Please share one event that impacted your life.
“When I lived in Germany I joined the German American Society. It was a great group of wealthy men who ran international corporations. They all had money, expensive cars, and houses around the globe. When I asked them what they would do differently what came out of it was life changing for me: sure in the late 60’s running a business making lots of $ was exciting but the one thing they did not have was their family. They strived so hard to get the awesome lifestyle of their dreams that they missed a deep connection with their family. I realized I wanted a different outcome.
“My spouse and I loved to travel and were not planning on having kids. However, that experience in Europe affected me strongly. We ended up having kids at a later age, in my early 30’s. I feel I was more prepared, engaged and passionate about having them.”
How do you deal with things when times are tough?
“I believe in this too shall pass and it will all work out. I experienced homelessness when I was a teenager. Due to my parents attitude I saw it as monetary stress not family stress. We got through it.
“Tough” is all in one’s perception. I realized that someone’s personal situation changes ones perception of what “tough” is. Tough was different for my parents then for me.
I learned that I was willing to push the envelope more when I was single with little or no responsibilities. Once I got married I had another person to be responsible for, pushed the envelope less and it changed what “tough” meant. When I had kids it changed even more. When you have lots of things and people you are responsible for, what is tough changes more and depends on your perception.
Today I realize “things” are to be used for joy and they can quickly turn into boat anchors. The less I have, the more I have. The more good people around, the less times are tough. Reserve more time for joy, and less time for tough times.
What is your support system?
“Life = people + spirituality. A lot of people cannot release their stress if they do not have trustful relationships with whom they can talk. Social upbringing has a lot to do with it. Being told that you must only act a certain way limits people’s development. You need to be able to say to your support community “I have a problem this is how I am feeling”. It is the non-judgmental part that people need to find in their families or community so that they can talk openly. I think judgment and compassion co-exist but it is where the boundaries are set that is important. We see it in society: many are loving to their family and judgmental to their neighbors or the community next door. Let’s be passionate about the human race and stop judging other people on this planet.”
Talk about Leadership.
“Leaders have a passion for what they do and their cause. People who support their passion seem to achieve much more in life. Passion makes it worth putting your head down to work hard and be excited when you get up in the morning. Passion also draws the right people in to support you and work with you. ”
How did you develop confidence?
“Confidence comes from our experiences – negative or positive. We are our past. For example I went through a bankruptcy with my parents at a young age and I saw it as a chance for us to support each other. I had taken some legal classes at Cabrillo College and used that knowledge to help guide my mom. What could be considered a negative experience really became a situation that built my confidence. How you ask the question and how you listen to the answer is critical.”
Who needs our support?
There are two groups who really need our support:
(1) Kids going through school who want some guidance and are coming out of an education system that is not working. Many kids feel there is no reason to get up and go to school. They don’t know how to overcome the obstacles to get where they want. They see a life that is full of possibilities but don’t understand how school will help them get there.”
(2) People 55+ and older have a hard time getting jobs. They wanted technology and efficiency. The focus on efficiency creating low cost goods has created a demand for labor but they don’t get paid a lot of $. Technology moves so fast that people are getting laid off because they can be replaced with young people who want to work 16 hours a day and are continually learning and have no other responsibilities. What do we do to help them?” It is important to acknowledge what this group is facing: if you are 55+ it is difficult to get a job so you either fight that battle, start your own company out of passion, or retire. If you are going to live a life of challenge why would you not follow your passion?
What message do you have for us?
“If I were to be a young entrepreneur today, and focus on one technology, it would be education. The ability to learn from the best teachers no matter where they are in the world is exciting and powerful.
Older individuals can have a huge influence on the youth by sharing all their experience and knowledge. However, there is not a place where the young can meet the old based upon passion, receive mentoring and learn by doing.
For example Slingshot, Scotts Valley is collaborating with the Digital Nest and other groups to teach entrepreneurship. “
One single message: “You never know who sees you as a leader. Be the model you want others to be.”