Entrepreneur Bob Davids Speaks His Mind on America, Leadership and What the Future Holds
Bob Davids is an outspoken and provocative American entrepreneur who has launched six highly successful companies over the course of his storied career.
His myriad business successes include building Radica Games, the third most profitable toy maker in the world which was purchased by Mattel in 2006; launching Sea Smoke, his world-class vineyard located in Central California (featured in the Academy Award-winning movie "Sideways"); and his latest venture, "Villa Keliki", a luxurious 8,000 square meter resort located on the breathtaking island of Bali.
Davids has been successfully building businesses since 1956, when he was just a 12-year old boy living in Venice Beach, California. He attributes his consistent track record of entrepreneurial success to his non-conventional leadership style.
We caught up with him recently enjoying the sun in the Bahamas.
You have enjoyed a remarkable amount of success over the years as an entrepreneur. We're talking about a level of professional and financial success most people can only dream of. Now, if you had to pinpoint just three vital ingredients that were absolutely critical to your success-three things without which you wouldn't be the person you are today-what would they be?
The three ingredients would be discipline, tenacity and luck.
A successful entrepreneur also needs a drive "to be where they ain't". In other words, it's critical to find an area without a lot of competition.
When we first spoke, you mentioned that the scarcest resource in the world today isn't anything like oil, or food-it's leadership. That stuck with me. Why do you think that is the case?
Because it's true! Because the person has to have the gift without ego. It's very rare to find that combination. Ghandi was the best. I don't know how to say it more clearly than that.
What's your take on the "Occupy Wall Street" movement? Are you sympathetic to their frustrations?
No. I am not sympathetic to their frustrations. They are the believers that competition is bad. Someone said that if you want to stop this movement, 'put a jobs-fair in the middle.'
Do you think America's best days are ahead or behind?
America's best days are behind. And there are a lot of reasons for this.
One of the turning points occurred in the early 1960s-that's when the standard of living started to decline. This was a function of the electronic boom, Japan, and when jobs started leaking out of America. This all coincided with the death of craftsmanship, all of the hand-built stuff. And at the same time, Wal-Mart came. So there was a shift away from an era of quality and craftsmanship to price. This exacerbated the decline in standard of living.
You also have this recent trend towards big government, overspending and an attack on businesses. People are being told not to compete! You can't have government attack business in a capitalistic society.
So yes, it's clear that the best is behind us.
So what about China? Do the next hundred years belong to China? Should I be encouraging my kids to learn how to speak Mandarin?
Yes, yes. It was Europe first, then the United States, then Japan. Now it's China's turn.
I lived in China for thirteen years. There's no way to explain what is going on there. People have a very difficult time understanding China. The work ethic there is unsurpassed.
And as far as communism is concerned, there's more communism in Santa Monica, California than there is in Beijing.
The Chinese support system is the family. No one looks to the government for handouts like they do here-they don't look to the government for anything. Why? Because they won't get it.
On a much lighter note, please tell me a little bit about Sea Smoke-your world class vineyard in Santa Barbara's Santa Rita Hills AVA. What prompted your move to get into the wine business?
Pinot Noir is the most difficult crop. Period!
It was an impossible challenge-success was predicated on getting the perfect site and serving the grapes `breakfast in bed'. And guess what? We did both.
Speaking of beautiful places, your latest venture "Villa Keliki", the luxury resort on the island of Bali. How is that going?
It is going just fine because I do not put pressure on the project.
When I learned about the `Triple Constraint of Business', I had a breakthrough. I could only control Time, Quality & Money. To remove stress and be successful, I threw out Time & Money. I just focus on Quality-same as Sea Smoke and my Bahamas project-making it easy because of much lower stress.
I just have to focus on quality. I learned Quality at the Art Center College of Design. Bill Harrah had it right: 'there is always space at the Top of Every Market'. I live by this.
***Follow Bob on Twitter: @DavidsBob