Finding the Maxim Story’s Hidden Treasures

While working as a temporary contingent editor at Maxim Integrated, I quickly realized that the founding story of the company was a hidden treasure. As a frequent book author and ghost writer, my antennae are always up for great stories. After reading and viewing snippets of the founding tales of the driven, brilliant and genius founders making their mark during the company’s turbulent early days, I decided to make a book proposal.

On my last contract day before leaving Maxim, I emailed the CEO, Tunç Doluca, my thoughts about a book called “Maximum Impact.” After connecting with Tunç, it became apparent that we were on the same page. I learned that for years he had wanted to have a book written to document the company’s historic Silicon Valley tale. Serendipitously, I reached out to him at the time he was realizing that this valuable story had to be told before it was forgotten. Quickly, we agreed that the founding and growth of Maxim, along with its dynamic business principles, could provide the material for a great book.

However, to my delight, Tunç emphasized that he didn’t want just another run-of-the-mill business tome. This book would document the wild adventures of the ingenious characters that have made Maxim a significant player in Silicon Valley and the tech world. It would be a legacy project, one that would share the story of forerunners and innovators of the analog industry.

Little did I realize, with my limited knowledge of the founding, just how unforgettable the unfolding company story would become. Once Tunç and I agreed to proceed with the project, I embarked on what would become a 21-month research, writing and publishing journey. The research leg involved 18 multi-hour-long interviews with Maxim founders and those related to the early days of this groundbreaking startup. In the end, I accumulated at least a thousand pages of transcripts and research material, while learning countless significant lessons about the pioneers of Maxim.

Here are a few of them.

  • They made their mark on the industry by pursuing extreme goals. That mark came in the form of 49 percent growth for 14 years straight, prolific ingenuity that reached 500 products in one year, and widespread impact through the installation of millions of analog chips in products around the world.
  • They worked and played fiercely, as comrades on the battlefield: In the dog-eat-dog world of 1980s Silicon Valley, it took fierce loyalty to the company vision and one another to make their mark. It would take great sacrifices, like living on startup low wages and macaroni, battling a hostile Japanese marketplace, and enduring “meetings from hell.”
  • It took fearlessness to carve out business success: Whether it was launching the first tech IPO following a global recession, or taking on the giant GE Corporation, the Maxim founding team boldly ran at challenges. As one founder, Fred Beck, said, “…we were fearless, and we knew nothing could stop us.”
  • They really cared for people: Jack Gifford was genuinely proud to call Maxim “the best analog company in the world that’s owned by employees.” At the time, staff had stock options or directly owned 78 percent of the shares. Also, behind his gruff exterior, Jack and his team made Maxim a caring family with family-oriented events and hiring practices. In addition, Gifford’s acts of generosity to many Maximites in need became legendary.
  • By caring for others, they left a legacy: Yes, some of the early Maxim founders could be thick-skinned and sharp-tongued. And, yes, they passionately chased a dream of building a great company that would make great impact. However, a higher priority, that of touching the lives of people, left the greatest legacy.

The words by founding executive, Steve Combs, spoken to Jack after a large Maxim family day sum it all up: “… this is fantastic. Look at all these families that we have affected.”

About Kevin Paterson

For more than 20 years, Kevin Paterson has worked as a newspaper, magazine, and book writer and editor. He has also worked as an English teacher and professional coach. Throughout his life, Kevin has cultivated an eye for fascinating and significant stories and has learned how to unveil those stories in ways that engage, impact and influence readers.

In honor of Maxim’s founding CEO, all profits from this book will be donated to Jack Gifford’s favorite charity, East Palo Alto Tennis & Tutoring in East Palo Alto, California.
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