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Keep Your Eyes on the Road

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August 27  |  Uncategorized  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . Your very important phone call forced my very important employee to crash his bike.

On Tuesday, a member of my staff was nearly hit by a car driver on Willow Street in Willow Glen.

Riding his bike to work – firmly in the bike lane – a careless driver was paying much more attention to her cell phone conversation than her driver’s ed training.

She nearly hit my colleague, which forced him into the curb where he flipped over onto the ground. The driver drove off and never even noticed. It must have been a pretty important phone call. My colleague ended up with a sore ankle and was badly shaken up. He also had to repair his front tire rim.

Let me acknowledge, many “car versus bike” crashes are the cyclists fault. Those of us on two-wheels need to be a lot more careful with our own habits.

With my colleague, however, this was not the case. She nearly hit him and she just kept on driving – never even noticing the accident she had caused.

Whether we travel primarily by four wheels or two wheels, we must all be more careful. Here’s an idea: Whether we are driving a car, or riding a bike, let’s travel as if someone’s life depended on it. On Tuesday, we were reminded just how true that is.

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Time to Refresh, Reflect, Renew

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July 23  |  Uncategorized  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . A period of rest is wise for a Valley that’s always on the run.
Silicon Valley is always on the go. Yet we can be even stronger if, on occasion, we force ourselves to stop.

Stop to rest, refresh and renew.

Here’s an old word with a new application – Sabbath. For a handful of Silicon Valley employers – venerable firms like Adobe and Intel – this concept is embraced by something called a sabbatical. A sabbatical is an extended time away from work, from stress, from our day-to-day grind. It means setting aside our 24-7-365 lifestyle, further magnified by a social network culture that may make communications more convenient, but also leads to a life that is always plugged in, always jacked up, always racing at full speed.

Five years ago, I initiated a sabbatical policy for my employees. After seven years of continuous full-time service, each employee – myself included – is eligible for a four-week, fully paid, sabbatical. Two weeks of accrued vacation time can be added on, for a total of six weeks.

After 18-plus years as CEO, it is my turn for time away. Five glorious weeks to stop, sit, relax, refresh, renew, reflect.

It means getting off the daily grind, where the only grind in my day will be grinding a daily cup of fresh, French roast coffee for my wife.

It means pancake breakfasts with my two little girls.

It means casual bike rides as a family through Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons, floating on a raft and kayak down the Russian River, building sand castles at the beach in Santa Cruz and swimming lessons from a professional coach.

It means lazy days and long evenings with no set schedule.

Here’s my question – what would a sabbatical mean for you? Are you willing to step off the treadmill to take it? To my colleague CEOs – would your culture allow it?

Come on Silicon Valley – it is time we give ourselves a break.

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Pain hurts. Quitting is worse.

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July 16  |  Uncategorized  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . Pain hurts. Quitting is worse.

I competed in a triathlon known as “Vineman” last week, a 70.3 Ironman-distance race in Sonoma County.

A half Ironman distance triathlon consists of a 1.2-mile swim, a 56-mile bike race and a 13.1-mile half marathon. Having competed in the Vineman half Ironman for 12 of the past 14 years, it has become a favorite. But even our favorites can be unforgiving, and last Sunday proved to be a tough day for several reasons:

  • First, I fractured my right foot four months ago, and was only able to resume running four weeks ago – not enough time to earn back either the endurance nor speed needed for a half marathon run at the end of a half Ironman.
  • Second, half-way through the bike ride my bottle filled with my nutrition flew out of my bottle cage while cycling down a steep descent. No nutrition in a long race can make for an even longer day.
  • Finally, by the fifth mile on the 13.1-mile run, I could feel the blood blisters forming – and then popping – on both feet. Before long, my shoes were stained crimson-colored from the bloody wounds underneath.

Decision time . . . Competing against the other racers was long over, as I suffered along the course. The only competition left was between my mind and body, my head and my heart, as the demons within raged whether I should quit – or at least slow down and walk – or keep doing my best to fight and finish.

Mental check list completed with one question . . . “Am I risking my life or serious injury?” “No.” The pain hurt – lack of nutrition, dehydration, fractured foot and blistered feet – but quitting would hurt worse.

Five hours and 37 minutes later – a long half-hour past my normal time the past four years – and the finish line, and my family, were wonderfully in sight.

Finish what you start. It might not matter to anyone else. But it will always matter to you. Pain is temporary. What we gain though tough times is permanent.

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Pro-Someone vs. Anti-Anyone-Else

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June 18  |  Uncategorized  |   Carl Guardino

(This blog post reflects only the opinions of the author, Carl Guardino)

Here’s food for thought . . . In an election, it is actually possible to be “pro-someone” rather than “anti-anyone-else.”

In the June 3 primary election, I did something quite unusual for me. I became publicly engaged in a candidate campaign – something I have rarely done due to my fairly public role as CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group.

However, with the support of my executive board, I exercised my First Amendment right to personally campaign – on my own time as a private citizen – in support of San Jose City Councilman Sam Liccardo’s race for mayor of San Jose.

I have often been asked, after 18 years in my role as CEO, why? For me, it came down to issues, energy and ethics:

On issues, Sam Liccardo is a great choice for mayor of San Jose.

  • Concerned about traffic? Sam was a pivotal leader in our two successful campaigns to bring BART to San Jose, both in 2000 and 2008. The 10-mile BART extension to Berryessa is running $100 million under budget and a full year ahead of calendar.
  • Concerned about homes that working families can afford? Sam has championed numerous affordable home and market-rate developments that don’t just provide homes, but build better communities and neighborhoods, from high-rises in downtown San Jose to infill developments in appropriate pockets throughout the city.
  • Concerned about innovation and entrepreneurship? Sam partnered shoulder-to-shoulder with San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and the Leadership Group to help secure the regional U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in San Jose, which will open in April of 2015.
  • Concerned about public schools? Sam stands for kids and parents, along with great teachers, in supporting public schools; both traditional and charter public schools, to make sure every child has access to a quality education.

On energy, I have met few leaders as dedicated, determined and disciplined in working tirelessly for the residents of San Jose. I first met Sam in the year 2000, when he walked in – literally off the street – to volunteer on our BART campaign. Four months of 90-hour weeks, setting his own successful law career aside, simply because he had a vision of what San Jose could be by connecting our city with BART.

On ethics, Sam is outstanding. A former deputy district attorney who prosecuted crimes against kids and our most vulnerable citizens, he and his wife Jessica Garcia Kohl have committed their lives to public service.

It is so refreshing to participate in an election in which we can enthusiastically support a candidate. All too often we hear of contests where people believe they are picking from “the lesser of two evils.” With Sam Liccardo, I can proudly say I am “pro-Sam,” not “anti-anyone-else.”

Comcast Op-Ed Headline on Forbes.com Misleading

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April 17  |  Uncategorized  |   Carl Guardino

The headline on an op-ed I authored that appeared on Forbes.com on Tuesday was misleading because the views expressed were my personal opinion. The headline implied I was writing on behalf of the point of view of Silicon Valley CEOs. That was not the case

“The op-ed did not make any reference to a decision on the merger by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group or a reference to Silicon Valley CEO’s opinion on the subject,” Guardino said. “It was strictly my opinion and a request has been made to have the headline corrected.”

Downtown San Jose, Spur to Action

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March 19  |  Uncategorized  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . When it comes to strengthening downtown San Jose, it is time we are spurred to action.

And thanks to a recent report by the civic group appropriately named SPUR, we have renewed reasons to focus on the future of downtown San Jose.

As the report shows, the key is to get more people into downtown San Jose to fill it with vibrancy and life. Downtown streets are packed episodically – for the Jazz Festival, our Silicon Valley Turkey Trot or Sharks games, for example – but on a day-to-day basis it still lacks the density of other downtowns, including regional neighbors like Oakland and San Francisco:

  • With roughly 36,000 jobs, downtown San Jose has less than half the employment of downtown Oakland – with more than 80,000 jobs – and less than one-eighth that of downtown San Francisco – with more than 300,000 jobs.
  • Downtown San Jose is home to less than 14,000 residents, just over half the number in downtown Oakland – with 23,000 residents – and about one-fourth of the residents in downtown San Francisco – with nearly 56,000 residents.

So what should we do about it?

  • First, focus on high-quality urban design and dense development of all kinds in downtown. This will not only result in a more connected, attractive place, it also encourages walking, biking and transit.
  • Second, maximize regional transit investments by holding sites adjacent to BART and Caltrain stations for job-generating uses. This is the best way to ensure high transit ridership and allow for the vibrancy and density downtown San Jose needs without causing gridlock.
  • Third, downtown San Jose is already the cultural, entertainment and creative urban center of the South Bay. Build on this strength by making it easier to start creative businesses and activate the streets and other public spaces.

Reports are great. Eliciting action is even better. Let’s use this report to spur action. Let’s build a downtown worthy of Silicon Valley.

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The Leadership Group’s Top Five Priorities for 2014

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December 18  |  Education, Federal Issues, Government Relations, Tax Policy, Transportation, Uncategorized  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . Make your goals transparent and accountable.

Each year, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group creates a three-year rolling business plan. Designed by our 392 members, it sets priorities in 10 distinct areas in which we can add value to the Valley, state and nation: education, energy, environment, federal issues, local government, health care, housing, tax policy, transportation and the community. All told, we have 62 distinct deliverables in our rolling business plan.

Each initiative is selected, and each effort must be measurable.

For 2014, our top five priorities were set last week at our Annual Shareholders Meeting.

  • Number 1: Work for comprehensive U.S. tax reform that is fair to taxpayers at home and keeps us competitive abroad.
  • Number 2: Strengthen California’s higher education systems
  • Number 3: Advance the BART extension from Berryessa to Downtown San Jose and Santa Clara
  • Number 4: Fight for meaningful immigration reform
  • Number 5: Enhance California’s economic competitiveness through our 14-member Silicon Valley Caucus serving in our state Legislature.

By making our goals public – both to our members and to the broader community of citizens and stakeholders – we make ourselves accountable to everyone in our community.

To view our complete set of priorities in each of our ten priority areas, please visit the Silicon Valley Leadership Group’s website. We would welcome the opportunity to engage you and your company in our work.

We face tremendous challenges in 2014, with plenty of opportunities to work together to forge our future success. We do this by setting clear goals that make us both transparent and accountable.

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Is the South Bay or San Francisco the Innovation Capitol?

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September 27  |  Uncategorized  |   Carl Guardino

In the “great debate” as to whether the South Bay or San Francisco has become the epicenter of innovation, I would like to declare a clear winner … both!

When you step off a plane at San Francisco International Airport, signs from Mayor Ed Lee proclaim “Welcome to San Francisco, the Innovation Capitol of the World.” At Mineta San Jose International Airport, advertisements abound from high-tech companies that make it clear you have arrived in Silicon Valley.

While competition is good, and is certainly what makes our Innovation Economy the envy of the earth, it’s kind of silly to see some in the media constantly compare San Jose and San Francisco. As my friend Emmett Carson of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation recently stated at our Game Changers 2014, we should think of Silicon Valley as “Market Street to Market Street,” from Market Street in San Jose to Market Street in San Francisco. These bookends include all the incredible companies innovating in every community in between.

Is this definition of Silicon Valley too expansive for some? It was Bill Hewlett himself, co-founder of Hewlett Packard, who told the media 25 years ago that his vision of Silicon Valley was even bolder – running from Napa to Monterey.

Clearly, when a company in Santa Clara County prospers – or a start-up in San Francisco succeeds – our whole region benefits. Let’s compete, but let’s compete together against the rest of the world.

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Four-story office complex will not impact the Town of Los Gatos’ downtown character

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May 8  |  Uncategorized  |   Carl Guardino

Location.  Location.  Location.

That’s the familiar mantra we hear when discussing how to value real estate.  The same can be applied to a land use debate currently underway in the Town of  Los Gatos.

The issue:  On an existing, mostly empty and outmoded office park at the edge of the Town, a local developer is proposing to build four new office buildings at four stories each.  The prospective main tenant for the buildings is Netflix, a locally grown company headquartered in Los Gatos that wants to deepen its roots and add 900 plus high quality, high-tech jobs.

This is the second iteration of a project that was approved by the Town in 2011 but then stopped due to a challenge filed under the California Environmental Quality Act, a good law that is often abused, as is the case here.

Why the opposition to the project?  A small but vocal minority of Los Gatos residents are very concerned it will erode the “Town character.”

Let’s pause for a moment.  Yes, the Town of Los Gatos is a wonderful place.  I moved there 10 years ago, attracted by many of the elements we all hold dear.  The downtown is a gem, one that draws people from all over the region.

That said, the argument that we should only allow office buildings no higher than 35 feet in order to preserve the “town character” is a one size shoe fits all approach.  It ignores the fact that the site backs up against Highway 85, is nowhere near the Town center and is near the end of a planned light rail line.  In recognition of these site attributes, the Town’s general plan has long designated this location for more intensive job growth.

“Town character” is critical, but should not replace critical thinking. This revitalization of an old office complex does not threaten the Town character and will bring with it many benefits like increased property tax revenues for our schools, a stronger argument to complete the light rail expansion and 900 high skilled jobs.

If you live in Los Gatos or Monte Sereno, please join me at the May 20 Council hearing to support good jobs in the right location in a wonderful Town.  I hope to see you there.

 

 

 

Blessed are the Peacemakers

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May 1  |  Uncategorized  |   Carl Guardino

State Senate President Darrell Steinberg may not be a household name in Silicon Valley, but the work that he does and the leadership he provides impacts every household in California.

His work has led to meaningful workers compensation reform, the curtailment of
frivolous lawsuits against small businesses and a host of other legislative successes.

He is thoughtful and tenacious; and a master of bringing all sides together to forge consensus over seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

Which brings us to today. Senator Steinberg is now working to champion meaningful reform to the California Environmental Quality Act, also known as CEQA.

CEQA – a great law often greatly abused for non-environmental purposes – is the Holy Grail to many advocates on all sides of the issue.

Senator Steinberg’s legislation – SB 731 – is up for its first committee vote. The legislation is not perfect, but neither is my marriage . . . Or my house . . . Or anything else in life. It is, however, a significant starting point.

More importantly, we have the right leader who is “walking point,” willing to be attacked by all sides while working to find meaningful reform that will still protect our environment, strengthen our economy, and end the frivolous lawsuits that are filed for reasons based more on greed than the common good.

Thank you, Senator Steinberg. Your leadership is appreciated.