Motorola's cellphone technology enabled the "third wave" of the career of Apple icon Steve Jobs.
Bob Galvin died this month at age 89. In a sad but interesting coincidence, the much younger Steve Jobs died the week before Galvin.
The tie between these two remarkable leaders is strong. Bob Galvin and his company, Motorola, created the modern cellphone industry and brought the consumer-preferred Motorola phones to millions of users. Without the cellphone industry and the wireless networks that enable it, there is no iPod, no iPhone, no iPad ... in short, there is no "third wave" of Steve Jobs' career without the industry developed by Bob Galvin.
First, a little background. The Galvin family and Motorola over decades created the car radio, the Walkie-Talkie (which sustained our GIs in World War II), solid-state color TVs, the microchip, hearing aids and a cornucopia of other products before creating the consumer cellphone.
But Minnesotans have our tightest bonds with Bob Galvin through the pursuit of quality. In 1990, after Motorola had won the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, Roger Hale of Tennant Co. hosted Tennant's annual quality conference and invited Galvin to speak. This was in the early days of the Minnesota Council for Quality, which Hale co-chaired. Galvin's advice and encouragement helped us to establish the Minnesota Quality Award.
Later in the decade, Bob agreed to serve as co-chair with Dr. Glen Nelson of Medtronic for the Joseph M. Juran Center for Leadership in Quality at the University of Minnesota. Galvin's endowment gift will fund and encourage "Juran Fellows" (Ph.D. students) at the U of M in perpetuity.
In the 1980s, a time when U.S. quality suffered against comparisons with Japan's products, especially in autos and electronics, Galvin vowed to do better. He improved Motorola's quality by creating the "Six Sigma Quality Program" and used his influence with President Reagan to knock down trade barriers in Japan, China and elsewhere. While Motorola sold pagers and cell phones, the trade opportunities were also opened for Xerox, IBM and, yes, Steve Jobs' Apple.
During the 1990s, following Galvin's example, GE, Honeywell and eventually thousands of other companies like Apple across the world adopted "Six Sigma," a rigorous process improvement methodology. As he had done before, Galvin freely and generously spread quality ideas by trademarking "Six Sigma" and allowing its use by all.
Bob Galvin remained on the board of Motorola through the 1990s. In sales and market cap, it was the best decade of the company's existence. But the seeds of technology advantages lost, of quality advantages squandered were sown in subsequent years and the company came on very hard times in the most-recent decade, leading to its recent breakup.
It is noteworthy that Google paid $12.5 billion for the good Motorola name, the "Droid" platform, and most importantly, 17,000 patents. This vault of value is the Galvin family's legacy of invention.
As fellow entrepreneurs, Galvin and Jobs were not rivals particularly, nor did they know one another well. But they had a lot in common. They were both devoted to quality, both students of Joseph Juran, both fierce competitors for their products, both great at finding and developing talent, especially leaders.
Most importantly, they were dreamers and visionaries, always years ahead of their times; unsatisfied with only creating look-alike products, they sought to change whole industries. And they created jobs. Jobs by the scores of thousands. Jobs that sustained their people in comfort and pride. They raised living standards wherever they located business sites. They created clean, safe, quality environments.
Every day lately, we hear politicians intone the term "job creators" when in reality they are referring to the interests of financial hustlers, hedge-fund operators, credit-default-swappers, manipulators, polluters, unsafe employers, and all manner of characters who do not deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as giants like Steve Jobs and Bob Galvin.
Let us admire and treasure the real leaders in job creation among us and properly recognize them when they die.
We need all the Bob Galvins and Steve Jobs we can possibly produce.