Does Wally Hawley consider himself retired? “Absolutely not! Even though it’s been over a decade since he left the successful venture capital firm he founded, he still has a full schedule and has never found as much meaning to each day as he does now.
Alan: Welcome back, I’m here today with Wally Hawley. Wally, welcome to today’s show
Wally: Thank you, glad to be here.
Alan: So Wally we have enjoyed a friendship for several years but I like for the listeners your early career is as one of the first venture capitalists here in the valley and could you spend a few minutes going through your background? Your life timeline?
Wally: Yeah, when you’ve got to talk about education at my age I don’t know why. I went to Stanford and Harvard business school joined McKinsey, worked with them and went over to Holland for 4 years to build their operations there. While working there I met a very wealthy Dutch family working as a consultant, and when I came back here they hired me to be their US president at the ripe old age of 32. I worked with them and we started a venture firm with them in addition to making acquisitions and that’s how I really got involved with venture capital, was running a fund for them. Then in 1979 I realized that venture capital was really going to take off. I had no idea how much but I knew it was going to take off so I told my partner that we should form our own fund, which we did. So we formed a fund at that time which at that time there were very few funds, it was a club, and we built it and it was Interwest partners and it still exists today going strong. After many years I decided that I didn’t want to manage anything or be involved with running other peoples money so I stepped out and began to invest in money on my own as an Angel investor. And parallel to that, as you know I worked on charitable things because I had an interest in helping others and not just helping myself. So that’s where we are today, on 9 boards, half of them non profit, half of them for profit.
Alan: I’d like to spend a few minutes on that shift. What inspired you to shift out of venture capital to more of the philanthropic world?
Wally: Well it was a couple things first of all I began to think about that it really should be about others and not about me and when you do it for others then you’re not doing it for the money for yourself. As a parallel to that I read Bob Buford’s Halftime book, and Bob had shifted from a businessman situation to a strong Christian organization, and I had become a Christian. I had gotten to know Bob and that book helped me say wait a minute I need to make a transition in my life. I began to do more in the nonprofit and the charitable stuff and ultimately I stepped out of my firm and so I do a mix now.
Alan: So when you spend your time on the mix, what’s your biggest drive or satisfaction?
Wally: Well there’s a common denominator in all of them and that is in each one I’m involved in is run by an outstanding person. So I have no problem children, no difficulties, and really you’re just there applauding these other people and really if you look at the things that I’m doing, it’s not about me, it’s not about my name, it’s about the people I’m helping and showing the success of what they’ve been able to do and if I enlarge that success by helping them, it makes me feel great.
Alan: You know Wally as I’ve been listening to you it reminds me of the interview that I had with Ken Blanchard, the author of the “One Minute Manager”
Wally: Mmhm I know Ken.
Alan: So one of the things he talked about as he goes through life and hands out a business card he hands out “Chief Leader Servant”.
Alan: And when you’re with organization you can take your accolades, your educational background, Harvard Business School MBA but what you’ve learned is that it’s not about who I am but the role I play with others.
Wally: Very much with other people. In fact in my office now when I’m having a lot of meetings with other people many times Alan it’s with an individual who isn’t part of any of these particular organizations but I’m just helping them with his or her life direction and mentoring and so a lot of that isn’t even part of a official board of directors or anything and I get a lot of satisfaction in watching others succeed. And that’s what it’s all about. When I became a Christian I changed from it being about me to being about others.
Alan: I’m visiting here today with Wally Hawley. He is a successful venture capitalist early in his career and then turned to being a philanthropist midway through life. Wally I need take a quick break and we will be right back after these messages.
Alan: Welcome back I’m visiting here today with Wally Hawley, and we’ve been talking about your timeline as an early venture capitalist here in Silicon Valley. And at the midpoint in your life you jumped over to philanthropy and serving others. So what are some of the projects that you’re working on right now and what’s in front of you?
Wally: Well they come from a common denominator and it comes back to that I’m a very close friend with Walt Gerber who is a pastor at Menlo church and I said to Walt I think I want to be doing something different. I hope God will open a door for me and Walt said, “He won’t”. I thought “uh-oh”. He said, “you’re a portfolio guy, he’ll open up a bunch of doors”. So it proceeded from there. What are the doors open right now? I’m involved with two major projects for Fullers’ Seminary; I’m on their family youth institute board. The first project is called Sticky Faith. Sticky Faith involves kids that have been in church youth groups and go off to college, and you and I know that when they go to college the faith is lost sometimes when they go to college. So the point is to make the faith sticky when they go to college. So they start groups on college where have a whole series of universities where they’re having a sticky faith club, and in fact the woman who runs it is outstanding, going back to the point that we talked about before, and in fact recently she spoke to a group of 13,000 in Germany on Sticky Faith so this thing is taking off like crazy. So I’m really enjoying that, and in fact she is doing a thing on a book, and it’s very gratifying and very helpful. And I’m also working on another project with that same group called Growing Young, and Growing Young is involved with the situation where church demographics in general are getting older and older an so the question is how do you get younger members in the church and active to the church. So they are now coming out with a project and a book on Growing Young, what you should do as a church to try and capture more young people. So that’s the second Fuller group that I’m working on. And I’m working with a fellow named Reggie McNeal who has written a lot of books, a strong Christian, very well known, and he is working on city projects where they’ll go into a city and while they are Christian based, they’ll find out what the cities want and need and they determine it. Often times it’s literacy and then we help them work with that particular project to build it in their city. And Reggie has done terrific work and has been very successful and I have to laugh because one of his latest books he dedicated to me and his whole thing was here’s a guy who is mission oriented. So that’s another one I’m working on. Young Life, I was on the board and chairman of the board of Young Life, I’m not on that but I’m on another one that I helped to create and that’s a Hispanic initiative. If you look at that and if you look at the demographics of our country you’ll see that the Hispanics are growing enormously. And so based on that we have a separate board because if you look at the different ethnic groups they aren’t the same in terms of the their cultures, and so we are capturing for Young Life, their whole Hispanic populations which is very large and so that’s another one I’m working on. And I’m still on a couple of Stanford boards and I’m active with them so I get up in the morning and there’s a lot of directions that I can go
Alan: When you look at these younger generations it must be fulfilling to see the difference you are making in their lives. It seems like today in society, the next generation, trying to hold faith in their life is more difficult.
Wally: It is, it is. This is why if we can do things like Sticky Faith or Growing Young, we can keep people in the faith, active in their church, and not losing it because so many of the institutions that they are going to Alan are out and secular, so you have to get around that and put them in touch with adults that can help them to retain it. That’s where we win or lose the next generation.
Alan: I’m visiting here today with Wally Hawley, Wally we need to take a quick break and we will be right back after these messages.
Alan: Welcome back I’m visiting here today with Wally Hawley, one of the early venture capitalists here in Silicon Valley, and when you were midlife in your 50s you decided to retire and do philanthropy and more service oriented causes. Wally when we talked in the last causes and a lot of them focused on the youth. Do you view yourself as retired?
Wally: Absolutely not. I use the term redeployed. You can retire from your firm, but that’s not retiring. Retiring for many people has an image of playing golf or watching TV or just hanging out. For me you can be just as active and part of an organization. That’s why I’m redeployed. That’s why the 9 boards. You aren’t retired if you’re on 9 boards. So what it is is that it’s a series of things that I’m working on instead of one thing in a corporation. So Alan, I am not retired, I am redeployed.
Alan: Was it difficult making that transition? I know some people look at the word retirement in terms of “will I have enough?” And this thing about the golf and the lifestyle but when you look back at the decisions that you made with a full 20 20 vision. Were you immediately where you wanted to be? Or did this kind of evolve.
Wally: Well it evolved because starting to do things other than just be the head of my firm involved other things like getting involved with Young Life and some other things. So I would call it more of a gradual transition rather than something where you give the keys back and you don’t come in on Monday. So really I was transitioning in part in to nonprofit and charitable things, even while I was at Interwest. And the more I did that the more I realized that this had much greater satisfaction than doing another deal.
Alan: So we went through a number of projects that you’ve been a part of, Young Life, Sticky Faith, Growing Young. What moved you into the projects? Why did you say, “I’m going to spend time with Young Life? There are so many causes out there today, what helped you focus on getting involved in different causes?
Wally: Well, I think God was at work here because if you see many of these things it was a continuum from one to another with another door opening. And so for example: I started with Young Life when someone put me in touch with them and I saw what was going on and went on a regional board and it just went from there, ultimately becoming the chairman of the whole thing. But through that I was then introduced at Fuller’s seminary who told me about Reggie McNeal, so I didn’t have an objective to go out and find Reggie McNeal, but Reggie McNeal was there and I saw him and got to know him and began to work with him closely. Reggie was a part of Fuller so here comes the Fuller Sticky Faith and other things. So this has become a series of just meeting people who know I’m available and I’m not saying “alright I have to find another thing or a specific thing”, but I’ve come back to my point earlier that it’s people and great leaders. SO I’m looking for someone that is a great leader. Sometimes it’s Christian oriented and sometimes it isn’t and I want to work with that person. So I can almost track back on every one of these that it was a continuum of what I had started earlier.
Alan: When you move into the organizations, and it would be very easy for you with all of your accolades and credentials, Harvard MBA and Stanford educated, started a number of successful companies, to say “I’m in charge now”, but you don’t. And when you look at the leadership of how you influence people, what are some of the most important attributes that you find people will respond to in giving you the respect.
Wally: First, let me correct you. When you’re 78 years old and you have to go back and tell people where you went to school you have a problem Alan. So the schools happened so long ago I’m not even sure I can find them. Actually what’s happening here is that you’re being available to help other people, and I’m not in charge, I’m a helper I’m an advisor. So really the in charge part of it is the head of the group I’m working with. I’m not telling these people what to do. I’m working with them to find out where they can use me and I’ll be helpful in that regard but there is not such a thing as Wally being in charge. There’s not such a thing as Wally having his name on a building. I’ve helped finance professors; it’s them, not me.
Alan: How important is honesty in business and dealing with others?
Wally: Well if you don’t have it, basically I don’t think you have anything. It’s a matter of trust. Basically you’re working with someone and as long as you have the trust and they have the trust in you it’s all-important. In fact if you begin to lose it, and over my career I have seen leaders do things that I’m not very happy with, and at that point I’m out of there. There’s no reason to tolerate anything other than someone who you can trust that what they say is what they are going to do. So it’s all-important Alan.
Alan: What role does respect play in business?
Wally: It’s somewhat intertwined with the early question. You do have respect if you are someone people trust and have integrity. The other part of respect is that you honor what people can do and their capabilities and their missions. So a lot of respect comes from what is your mission and what is their mission. As long as they are in tune or you can agree with the mission or they agree with your mission that’s when respect happens.
Alan: So Wally final question. What advice do you have for the younger generation today?
Wally: Well it sure helps if you are involved in faith. It doesn’t matter what denomination. I didn’t become a Christian until I was 40, and I wish that I had become involved earlier but better late than never. So I would hope that they would have faith to start with. Other than that take advantages in good ways of the talents and the abilities that other people have together collegially. So I think that you need to make sure that it’s not about yourself, it’s about others. You work together in a team environment, it can be different teams like I do. I just get great joy in watching other people succeed.
Alan: Wally we are up against the break and out of time with the interview, but I appreciate you being with us today.
Wally: Thank you Alan I enjoyed it too.
Alan: We’ve been visiting with Wally Hawley, early venture capitalist in Silicon Valley who transitioned over to philanthropy midway. So Wally thank you again.
Wally: Thank you
Alan: And we will be right back after these messages.
Alan: Welcome back, Wally and I were visiting over the break and he agreed to stay on for this last segment. Wally I want to spend a few moments on leadership attributes. When you hear the word integrity, what do you think of?
Wally: Well integrity and honesty are sort of the same thing, but if a person is described as a “man of integrity” it means that you can trust what he says and what he does. So you’ll find people when they say “he’s a man of integrity” people say I know that I can use anything he says in a good way. So they’re really trying to help you and I think trying to use integrity is helping others.
Alan: How do leaders gain respect of their employees?
Wally: Well they demonstrate whether they really care about the person or not, many leaders will spend time mentoring people and the good leaders will take on younger people and newer people and help them. While some of the other leaders that only care about themselves will try and get publicity or their kudos and not caring about what’s happening at my organization. People at the organization know whether you are really caring about them or not. Those are the popular leaders and really comes across. When people talk about a leader, they talk about how good he is, how they like him, how they respect him. That’s what really good leadership is in my opinion.
Alan: Why is service important in today’s world?
Wally: The Lord knows we have enough problems in the world today and so making it about yourself doesn’t really cut it. I think that the problem is that you have different two types of people if you want to take it to extremes. Those that are about themselves they are acquiring assets and wealth and those that want to see that our society is better. I think there are plenty of ways to help society better. There are so many ways that you can serve, in an educational setting, a religious setting or in a business setting. As I’ve said before the satisfaction of serving rather than acquiring is very satisfying.
Alan: What is the most important aspect of leadership to you?
Wally: Setting the example for other people. When people look at you and they say, “I see what he does or what he says and I respect that” that’s what leadership is really about.
Alan: Wally I appreciate you being on today’s show.
Wally: Thank you Alan nice to be here.