November 21, 2014

Florida Icon

Icon: Steve Raymund

Chairman, former CEO, Tech Data; St. Pete Beach; age 55

Art Levy | 3/1/2011

Steve Raymund
[Photo: Michael Heape]
» My dad was alpha with a capital A and really cast a long shadow in the house and was a pretty intimidating presence for me, so I grew up, I think, quite shy and demure as a result. He was a quirky guy, my dad. Socially, quite inept, I think. All hard edges.

» I've given speeches at amphitheaters in front of thousands of people. I couldn't imagine doing that when I was younger. I would have been way too terrified. I still get nervous, but I've done it enough now that I understand the process, the importance of preparation. I can't say it's my most pleasurable experience, but I'm not bad now in front of crowds. I'm not like Obama, a born orator. I'm a born non-orator.

» It's good to have a healthy sense of paranoia in business. If you don't, you get complacent, and you will crash.

» My dad had this little distribution company that he looked after on the side and said, 'Look, we could probably use some help.' I didn't have anything better to do, so I said, 'OK, what the heck.' I started liking it and getting to know the people and playing with different parts of the business and so my dad was, 'Well, I'll sell you the business. I've got this profit-making enterprise over here that's good for me, and I don't want to screw around with Tech Data. It's too small, and it doesn't make any money, and it'll give you something to do and maybe you can make something of it.'

» I tried to be a loving and supportive parent but also one that laid down some pretty clear rules and expectations. I wouldn't say tough love, but there were clearly boundaries. They had to play an instrument. They had to go to Sunday school and be bar mitzvahed. They had to do a sport and give us good grades. That was their job. At the same time, when there was an event at school, like marching in the Halloween parade, I'd be there cheering them on. I really tried to be present as a father, particularly at the events that were important to them. It wasn't so hard. I didn't have
to ask permission to leave work. I
was the boss.

» The role of the corporation is to produce goods and services and make money for its shareholders and provide opportunity for employment for its workers. To the extent that you start deviating from that and encumbering corporations with social missions, you typically see foundering economic growth.

» I cycle. I just did my first century — 100 miles in one day. I'm a big fly fisherman, mostly saltwater, but some freshwater. I go out in a little flats boat and go after redfish. I haven't caught my first tarpon yet.

» It certainly wasn't a natural instinct or ability for me to go out and sell myself, but there wasn't anybody to do it for me. So I had to learn how to do it, and I got pretty good at it. Necessity is the mother of invention, and it's also the catalyst for personal growth.

» We're in a much more highly regulated environment than ever before. Sarbanes-Oxley, Dodd-Frank and all this other malarkey has enormously complicated the business of running a corporation. You're constantly looking over your shoulder worrying about violating this rule or that rule, getting sued by the plaintiffs bar and so on. It's to the point that it's beginning to hurt American competitiveness. We're competing with guys from Taiwan and Shanghai, tough competition, and they aren't laboring under this excessive regulatory burden.

» When you're Jewish, you don't know what's going to come next. All we're worried about is what's the right way to live now. The focus is not on the afterlife but just making the most of the here and now.

» I have a daughter, Monica, 24, and she's a Hollywood actress. She's in a show called 'Lie to Me.' My son decided he loves music and wants to be in the music world. He's at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, and we'll see what he does for a living when he finishes. The difference between my kids and me is that I didn't know what I wanted to do and they do.

» It was kind of an improbable story, me working with my dad. He and I were not the best of friends. There was always some tension and friction between us, yet we managed to make things work for quite a long time.

» I'm all for balancing the budget and being responsible, but there are some areas where you need to take a long view and make some investment for social infrastructure that will facilitate growth for future generations. I don't know if that's likely going to happen in Florida right now. I'm a big supporter of high-speed rail, but I don't know if it will survive with the kind of legislative mindset that we have now in Tallahassee.

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