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Remembering Early Times at HP

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My Years in HP Corporate PR, by Dave Kirby

- Part 2 -

My HP Years


 

Part 2 - Table of Contents:

 

2. My HP Years

 

I Finally Find My Life Work at HP--1962

Packard had really liked the annual report I created back in 1957, while with L.C. Cole. This was the time that HP was becoming a public company, so that first annual report was critical and Packard really appreciated how it came out. As I did more public relations projects, I became pretty well known by the upper levels of Hewlett-Packard managers. It always seemed to me like this was the kind of project that Peter Sherrill should've done. He was in the right spot and probably had enough sophistication to prepare a publication like an annual report, but it just didn't work out that way. I continued with Cole for several more years.

Around 1962, Packard wrote a note to Bill Haberman, which stated that they wanted to hire me directly into Hewlett-Packard. Haberman showed me the note which essentially said were very impressed with Kirby and we'd like him to come down here. However we're not going to do it if it's a problem with your company. That letter shows the very thoughtful attitude, which was typical of Packard, but yet he still wanted me pretty badly. Of course with a major client like HP, Haberman could hardly say no, and away I went to Palo Alto.

Haberman obviously figured that putting one of his guys into an internal position of a client was a win for them, especially where the customer likes him. Of course I said yes. Anne and I had just married. So Packard announced that Dave Kirby was going to be the Public Relations Manager, although I don't think he quite knew what that title meant or what it entailed. He said to me that I'd do news releases from time to time. The technical PR at that time was being handled by Ross Snyder. I joined the company the same day as Chuck House, July 2, 1962. I retired in 1989.

Chuck notes that the excitement for him that day was that Personnel got our data mixed up, so his badge said he was #200, and mine said I was #135. The guard in Bldg 3U found that out, and wouldn’t let him in one day.

 

My Years of HP Public Relations

At work, I started out by sitting in the cluster of people in the middle of Bldg 3U. Of course, these HP work sites were the typical sea of desks on a wide open floor, about 1 acre floor space on each floor. These desks were not inside cubicles, which came several decades later. Only Dave, Bill and Eldred had real offices. There were marketing folks like Ron Whitburn who did marketing writing, Steve Duer who did the catalog, Don Teer on trade shows, and Ross Snyder who was technical PR. But soon I was moved over next to the executive offices, alongside John Chognard, the patent attorney, and Ed van Bronkhorst, the new financial manager assisting Frank Cavier.

As I started on this rewarding career at HP, I now remember fondly the great working conditions, the friendly people, the amazingly competent managers, who were building our legendary company. While Corporate PR is pretty repetitive, I will use the next section to describe various anecdotal events and projects that come back to mind as I reminisce for this story.

This might be a good point to mention Mike Malone. Mike later became a legend around Silicon Valley, an author, a television journalist, and well loved by the science and technology community. He helped me write the annual report and said, "I'm going to give you a little crap about the annual report." Several days later he showed up with a package of papers about a half-inch thick. Mike really loved journalism more than public relations and ultimately he made quite a name for himself in the Bay Area with a TV interview series of the key technology leaders. Plus he wrote several books that were bestsellers. He didn't work long for HP and left in 1979 to write for the San Jose Mercury News. He was also a stringer for a number of other major publications like the LA Times, the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.

 

The Care and Feeding of the Business Media

Here is a little tutorial of my PR career as it related to my part in the print publishing business. Those four parts are:

  • The readers
  • The publisher
  • The advertiser
  • The content supplier me

When a publisher creates a newspaper or magazine, his editorial department is charged with creating the most informative content they can find--every week or month. His advertising department is responsible for selling page space. And his circulation department works to expand the readership with qualified readers.

The readers are the ultimate key to a successful publication, they vote by paying a subscription for the magazine, if the news and technical content and advertising information is useful to them. These readers are called paid circulation. There are also publications that use qualified circulation. With these, the subscription is free and the advertisers bear the entire cost of publishing.

For advertisers like Hewlett-Packard, we demand that the reader circulation be qualified in detail as engineers or designers, certified in annual questionnaires. This way HP can be sure that each reader will also be a potential customer and a buyer of instruments, thereby justifying the advertising expense. Advertisers are willing to spend large sums of money for those tens of thousands of readers, who need to know the latest measurement technology and availability of new (HP) measuring products. Of course, all the other competitor instrument manufacturers are competing in the same publications for news space and advertising pages.

Content suppliers come from everywhere that a creative editor can find them. Editors look to academia and research labs and technical authors, to fill their pages. And when they went looking, that's where I came in, since the editors knew that I was ready to supply them with leads to our best Hewlett-Packard authors. I was also pro-active in supplying PR releases and executive interviews that covered new business developments as HP expanded around the world. Ross Snyder in my group was the man who supplied a regular flood of our new product introduction releases to the same editors.

In the high-tech world of the second half of the 20th Century, decades before the Internet, the 800-pound gorilla publisher was McGraw-Hill. This company dominated the publishing industry. In fact they were so large that they built a skyscraper tower for their headquarters in midtown Manhattan. They must have had 100+ publications ranging from construction to transportation, from manufacturing to aerospace, from chemicals to medicine, from fashion to food and fads. They had editorial news bureaus in every major US city and advertising salesmen everywhere. International too.

Other great publishing giants were the professional societies and scientific academies such as the IEEE Group--with its 250,000 members--and the American Medical Association and many others. They published dozens of professional journals and news publications for their business sectors. Their technical and management readers were exactly the kind of people we wanted to reach with our measurement technology and products. In the 1960s, HP depended more on technical PR, which dealt with trade magazines, and less on business publications, and Wall Street. As HP grew, so did our interest in business coverage.

electronics
McGraw-Hill coined the word "electronics" in 1930,
and rolled out a new magazine in April, 1930.

Some publishers were so influential that they could lead an industry. For example, McGraw-Hill had such editorial power that back in 1930, they invented the word "electronics," to recognize the new radio broadcasting craze sweeping the country. Then they created a brand new magazine, and named it Electronics. By the time HP launched in 1939, you can imagine the readers of such electronic magazines were almost 100% potential customers of the Hewlett-Packard instrumentation.

I think one of the reasons that I had a pretty good lifetime of success in placing corporate PR stories was that I worked hard in establishing relations with the media editors who were responsible for the key publications. My old memory fades somewhat, so the magazines and newspapers I mention will just be examples of the wide-ranging media we had available. In our later decades, the consumer products like laser printers and personal computers brought us into television advertising.

My national business news publications were the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times. Locally we used the San Francisco Chronicle and Examiner for business news. There were other national business magazines like Forbes and Business Week, as well as a number of financial publications oriented toward Wall Street. Other than McGraw-Hill, there were a number of other --much smaller--companies that competed, with excellent publications. For example Jim Mulholland created Hayden Publications, which published Electronic Design magazine, and was oriented to circuit design. Another one of his was Microwaves Magazine, which became the pre-eminent technical magazine for radio frequencies.

Bill Bazzy started Horizon House Publications, which published Microwave Journal, a very high-end prestigious magazine, although these circulations were in the 60,000 range. He moved into military electronics with a magazine called the Journal of Electronic Defense. One of the better weekly technical newspapers was called Electronic News, which was published on Long Island, NY.

Every one of these publications had local representatives. In any one of the media companies they had to separate functions. The editorial function was the one we used to place technical or business stories. We really worked hard to get to know and to help those technical editors. They were the "gatekeepers" to getting our news published for our customers. Of course the editors had many available sources for their stories, so we had to carefully cultivate them as human beings, recognizing that their job was to inform their readers. We just wanted to make sure that HP got our share of that information going out. We had to be very careful that our own material was meaningful and important to their readers, and not just fluff.

With these hundreds of publications and editors you can see that my job never lacked for something to do and someone to communicate with. All of the publications in addition to their headquarter offices had news bureaus in major cities and advertising salesman who called regularly on our advertising departments. At HP, Russ Berg was responsible for corporate advertising policy, but the individual divisions generally made the ad-buy decisions on the technical magazines.

The world was relatively simple in the 1960s, when our product line was only measurement instrumentation. But as we expanded with divisions in Loveland, CO and Germany and the acquisition of Sanborn in Waltham, MA, I had to work to establish press links with the local newspapers and city administrators. We also developed internal relationship problems, since our operating divisions were semi-autonomous. They had their own general managers, research, marketing, and even legal people if they were big enough. Part of my job was often to help keep conflicts between divisions and headquarters at a minimum. I was often able to be on the interview group looking for a divisional press manager.

But as HP moved into computers there was an entirely new group of customer engineers who had to be informed. And then came the HP-35 hand calculator in 1972, which opened up our consumer business. It got really serious when the first inkjet printer was introduced, since that put us into the office supply business in a huge way. The LaserJet reached the same customers but multiplied the numbers by hundreds of thousands. These products also pushed into the international market, which complicated our PR activities greatly.

As Hewlett-Packard Corporation became successful in the late 1960s the corporation itself became more of a news story. The top HP executives were more interesting to the business press because HP Corporation had really arrived. That was especially true as Dave Packard was appointed by President Nixon to move to the Pentagon in 1969. This was really big news because our tech industry had furnished such an important Department of Defense Under Secretary.

My usual working practice was to keep in telephone contact with the most important editors. I tried to maintain maybe a weekly call, although a lot of it was just industry gossip. But it did maintain the connections for when I might need an editor to find some editorial space for an important story.

Here is one funny memory, a little out of sequence time-wise, but it deals with editorial relationships. In 1961, HP was just being accepted to the New York Stock Exchange. I was still with L.C. Cole, and joined the team of HP people in New York, for the celebration at the Big Board. I told Bill and Dave that I had written the press release to present the Hewlett-Packard story and its acceptance by the NYSE. I told them that the day before we go on the Exchange, that I was going to see if I can find the best editor and offer the story for the next morning. Packard approved this and told me to see what I could do. So I made the rounds by telephone, and then went to the New York Times office. It was about 4 PM, which is the worst possible time for a morning newspaper. They are closing their stories and assigning space at that time of the afternoon. It's the highlight of the day for a morning newspaper.

So I walked into the Times and didn't know a soul. I went to the reception desk and there was a young man there in a beautiful suit. I explained my mission, and he said, "Mr. Kirby, let me phone upstairs and see if I can get you some help. Meantime, have a seat and I will call you." Soon he called me over and said, "Mr. Kirby, I've got Mr. Al Zipser on the phone, who is in the electronic business section." Bingo, I thought, just the right guy. So I picked up the phone and this gruff voice says, "YEAH!" I started in, my name is Dave Kirby, from San Francisco, with L.C. Cole, an ad agency. By this time, I'm thinking this introduction is taking so long that he going to hang up on me. And since I always stuttered some, that was a further worry.

I continued, "One of our clients is Hewlett-Packard, and they're going on the Exchange tomorrow morning. I'd like to see whether you could run our story. I've got a news release that I'd like to get to you in case you're interested." I paused and he paused, then he said, "Dave, I can't seem to get much of a (expletive deleted) over your story." So I started to laugh, for this naive person, his attitude was hilarious. He did say to "leave your sh** out there at the reception desk" and he'll have somebody pick it up.

The upshot was that he gave us a quite a good story in a good position on the financial page. Here I was a real greenhorn, and I will never forget that interchange with a veteran reporter. You learn as you go in this business. And you take your wins when they come. So after the story came out in good shape, I told Packard what I went through, and eventually also told Bill Hewlett. They really loved the story. I was told later, as I gained more friends on the Times, that Al Zipser was their most hard-nosed reporter, and I happened to catch him on my first try.

The lesson of life for a PR manager is that you are at the mercy of the editor or the reporter. So although you can count on long-term friendly relationships, it doesn't always necessarily work out because they have their own deadlines and competing editorial material. You need to develop the relationship over a long time so that you can hopefully count on them when you need them.

In our HP operating divisions, Marcom (Marketing Communications) managers were presented with an additional dilemma. In most cases they bought the product advertising. They selected the magazines that were going to get their advertising dollars. But they also worked with the editorial staff on those same magazines. The best magazines have what they call an "isolating wall" between their editorial and advertising staffs.  That rule says that no matter how much advertising you buy, "Thou shalt not influence the editors with your advertising importance." This was certainly understood within HP. Ross Snyder coached all HP Marcom personnel that they will NEVER use their advertising prowess to intimidate an editor to carry their editorial content. Once in a while, an advertising salesman, with his publisher's approval, might promise additional editorial space for the purchase of extra pages of advertising. In general we deliberately ignored such promises since they were willing to degrade their editorial quality for some advertising dollars.

By those years, since we had 10-15 divisions supplying products into the same electronic markets, we often were competing with our own divisions to find editorial space among the relatively few magazines. So Ross Snyder often was the arbiter of who got the nod for a particular magazine. This could be especially important if the new product was such a blockbuster that it might deserve a cover feature. In those cases, nothing was better than a front cover glamour color shot and graphic layout, along with an internal two or three page story on the measurement breakthrough from the new HP instrument.

Ross Snyder and Walt Skowron never got along. With Ross in a corporate role and Walt in Loveland marcom, there were times when they had to work together. I never knew why, but Ross would come to me and complain that Skowron had just gone off on his own project without coordinating with corporate for some marcom project. In many ways, Walt was a loose cannon, and being in Loveland, 1000 miles away from corporate headquarters, he was often able to get away with quite a bit of independence. With an IEEE show coming up, I told Ross I wanted him to see Walt Skowron at the show and to take him out for dinner, to see if he could make any progress on their work relationship.

Of course Ross loved the fancy restaurants, he was a gourmet food expert and an excellent wine connoisseur. It served him exceptionally well in his editorial relations with most editors. I think the same could be said for Walt, even though he also had a rougher edge on his personality. So Ross picked the 21 Club, which is about as high end as you can get in New York City, and both men would have been very comfortable there. When Ross got back from the show, I asked how the dinner with Skowron went? Ross smiled and said, "I walked out within five minutes." It sounded like Skowron just said something wrong and there was no going back. Two rather head-strong individuals, both exceptionally gifted in marcom and PR.

For me, sitting at the center of the enormous flow of written content about HP and its products, through my retirement in 1989, was a truly satisfying life experience. It was not just the people who came and went the editors around the country, the HP design engineers I met in preparing stories but seeing all those stories in print. I loved the smell of printer's ink, from my high school journalism class onward. Publishing was my entre to all that joy.

 

Measure Magazine--1963

One of my proudest accomplishments was the
creation of the employee magazine, Measure, in 1963.
This was the first issue. Packard loved the issue, but hated
the color. We intended to change color with every issue.

My contact with the media and employee communications formed the core of what I planned to do as I joined HP. In my interviews for hiring at HP, I talked with both Eldred and Packard. I felt good about both, and they resulted in the job offer. I remember Packard said to me, "Dave, on your job you're going to have a lot of constituencies financial, business, media. But I want you to remember that in my view, your two most important categories at HP are employees and customers." To fulfill the employee part, I started Measure Magazine and I'm really proud of that.

The employee newspaper which came before that was called Watt's Current, a play on several electrical words. It was a tabloid format and a relatively unsophisticated newsletter that took the view that they should try to mention by name as many employees of our relatively small company as they could. You could tell because the employee names were in bold font. That was fine because the employees found it a newsletter that related to them. I viewed Watt's Current as a high school grade publication.  Bill Bigler, the editor, was not very sophisticated. He also served as the company's unofficial photographer and had huge photo files from years back.

But one of the problems I foresaw was that Watt's Current was written strictly for Palo Alto. By this time, HP divisions were sprouting in Germany and Loveland, plus we had acquired all the Sales Rep companies, and that added hundreds of new employees dispersed around the country. Bill Bigler, who had written Watt's Current for years, added me as associate editor of the new publication.

Once the concept of Measure got approved, I said to myself "I can't do all this by myself". So I got Eldred to approve me hiring a couple of other people. I ran an ad and the first man I selected was an excellent candidate who accepted our job offer. But then he called up and changed his mind. So I went back to my list, and my number two candidate was Meryl Moss. Meryl had been working in the Washington state for some big company, which had a contract with the nuclear facility there. So Meryl joined us and was a real winner for Measure. He was delighted. I used an outside firm for the graphic design and printing which got a lot more sophisticated as time went on. Other editors who served for various times were Gordon Brown, Brad Whitworth, Jean Burke-Hoppe and Jay Coleman.

HP was up to several thousand people by that time and I think our first issue was just 12 pages but it grew quickly, and became a real winner. I convinced Packard that it would be important to have a message from him in every issue. He agreed, and was really good about that commitment. I almost never ghostwrote his messages. He knew what he wanted to say. In fact he would even take care of the task when he was traveling. We chose for our first cover shot, an astronaut, which we used to give the impression that we were involved with the global events, which of course, we were. It was great for employees to understand that their company was in the middle of big technological things happening in the world. Tom Martin who had been the account executive for the outside graphics operation, ultimately hired in so he could do the graphic design. We started off fairly early with another column that reported on movement of people, getting promotions, and getting new jobs, which was quite popular.

The entire 37 years of published Measure Magazines through the year 2000, are available for reading and downloading on the HP.com website. Google HP Measure Magazine or use this URL: HP Measure Magazine

The last issue in June, 2000, recognized the spin-off of Agilent from parent Hewlett-Packard. Since each new company would have its own distinctive work culture, it was decided to call an end to Measure. The last issue was a 74-page gem that reviewed in considerable detail those 4 decades of Measure news coverage, with some wonderful memories of the great history of HP employees.

So from my high school newsletter editor job, through sports editing the Daily Californian, and my Army company clerk office, which was a kind of information center, then the SF News, I did newsletters for Bechtel, the Wine Institute and finally, Measure. Newsletters were clearly my destiny, and probably written into my genome.

 

The Monterey Management Roast

As the company grew in the 1950s, management was centralized in Palo Alto. But then in 1962, Dave & Bill decided to divisionalize the company. They set up the four Charter Divisions; Microwave, Frequency & Time, Audio-Video, and Oscilloscopes. This made the management communications more difficult. There were several years of offsite annual management meetings, one I recall in Sonoma. These served as opportunities to get 50-100 top managers together in a relaxed environment, to discuss the previous year results, and look forward in product and business and organizational strategies. Divisions were moving to other cities, the Field Sales Force had been acquired by HP, and these new entities all needed planning information. These meetings then settled on Monterey as the venue, at the Del Monte Inn as I recall.

Speakers included all the most important; Dave and Bill and Barney, plus financial and marketing and HR. Even patent attorney John Chognard would sometimes get a spot, to present a clever & humorous speech on outrageous patents that he would have discovered in the past year. These were not particularly electronic or technical breakthroughs, but often included various personal products of the more intimate variety to the enjoyment of the all-male audience. Don't ask.

Two other humorous events took place. In the evening entertainment, several of the top managers like Dave and Bill for sure, and often others, were forced to take their places up on stage and read from pre-prepared scripts in skits that revealed some personal foibles or styles. The authors of these highly entertaining skits were downright clever in finding the words and situations to embarrass their top leaders in a friendly fashion.

The second humor event was the poster viewing, which took place as the attendees entered the banquet hall, from a reception cocktail venue, with most attendees modestly oiled. All around the walls were 2.5 x 3 foot posters, which featured candid photos blown up to the full poster size. Accompanying these pictures were cartoon-like caption balloons that roasted that manager to the delight of the crowds heading for dinner. Loud laughter came from all corners before dinner.

The brains behind these roast scripts and posters were an assortment of clever mid-managers. I must admit to some culpability, and generally I was responsible for the poster graphic preparations, but I will hereby indict many others, like Al Bagley, probably the most inventive, Cort Van Rensselaer, John Chognard, Bob Grimm, Carl Cottrell and others as needed or offered.

I'm including a few of these posters below, to give the reader some idea of the very human-scale of the top HP management. They were all great managers, who built an extraordinary company. And yet they could laugh at themselves and engage the entire enterprise in a team effort that recognized the contributions of each and every one of them. The posters were a real hit with all the manager/attendees, but at times got pretty hard on Bill and Dave, lampooning them. I once asked Packard, "Is this getting too tough on you and Bill?" He replied, "No, the tougher the better."

I would tell my counterparts at other industrial companies about our skits and posters; General Motors, General Electric, Motorola, Coca Cola, etc. They could hardly believe that we could do such a thing, because it would never be permitted within their companies.

Click on the pictures below for a larger display, and to read the humorous captions.

poster1 poster2 poster3 poster4 poster5
poster6 poster7 poster8 poster9 poster10

HP's Twenty Fifth Anniversary--1964

Measure Magazine celebrated HP's 25th
Anniversary with a commemorative issue in 1964.

I was impressed with Packard in 1964, as we planned to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the company, having started in 1939. Dave was enthusiastic about sharing with the employees the pride in their accomplishments. I published a special edition of Measure, which included quotes and messages by various people who were part of their grand venture. They recalled their best memories of those early years and various events in the company history.

I got a lengthy quote from Norm Neely, who actually had been in the Sales Rep business from the 1920s, a full 10 years before Bill and Dave got started. Norm's California sales rep organization was certainly the leader in terms of sophistication and a well-run sales operation. One of Norm's sales people took Packard on the first visit to see the Chief Engineer of Walt Disney Co., who had asked for a demonstration of Bill's 200A audio oscillator. Disney was just ready to release Fantasia, and the Chief Engineer had the task of checking out the audio performance of sound systems in theatres all over the country. He bought 7 units, launching HP on their way in 1939.

I found another lengthy quote from Jud Crary. When Bill and Dave were getting started, they needed $1000, so Dave went to the Bank of America and got turned down. Next he went to the local bank and Jud Crary and his committee gave them the money. So Jud's comments on that early loan to Bill and David went into the 25th anniversary issue. Dave told me that his wife Lu just loved the 25th commemorative issue. She liked the historical approach, because it talked about their starting out with nothing but a garage and her kitchen oven that they used to bake the paint on instrument panels. That's a pretty good recommendation, if you can get the founder's wife to admire what you've done.

Remembrance of the Palo Alto Banker

"When you're 83, your memory begins to play tricks on you, but I can recall quite well the circumstances surrounding HP's first bank loan. It was in 1940 and I was president of Palo Alto National, which has since become a branch of Crocker-Citizens. We were located on the corner of University and Ramona in downtown Palo Alto, and at that time had about ten employees.

Anyway, Dave Packard came in one day on a "cold call." I didn't know him at the time, although I'd seen him perform as a track man at Stanford. He was an imposing fellow, and also a well-prepared salesman. He explained in considerable detail what he and Bill Hewlett were up to, pointing out that they'd had some initial success and now needed a thousand dollars to expand the business. That was a pretty good-sized loan in those days, but I told Dave I'd see what I could do.

The next day I wrote to a couple of HP's customers to get a reference on the young company. Both replied promptly and favorably, so then I took the matter up with our loan committee. This consisted of three or four officers of the bank, and we had a policy that if any one officer objected to a loan it wouldn't go through.

Fortunately--and I'm sure this saved us considerable embarrassment in future years--everybody O.K.'d the deal. So Dave and Bill got their money and we picked up a new customer that has been doing business with the bank ever since."

CHARLES "JUD" CRARY
Retired Banker, Palo Alto

When I look back from the 21st century, and a Hewlett-Packard company that has revenues of 120+ billion dollars, it is pretty hard to remember what the business was like in 1964. I do remember that at that time, we were pretty pleased with ourselves. HP products were top of the line and, new innovations were rolling out every year. Coming out of WWII, some economists had predicted a recession, which was pretty common after earlier wars. But that didn't happen in the late 1940s. For a number of reasons, business picked up and the world economy grew strongly. But the technology business grew even faster, driven by the technical innovations of the war, and the brand new communications and electronics inroads that came into our daily lives.

Our HP business statistics of 1964 are shown in this table, with sales revenues at $125 million. Just imagine, to get from there to the $120 billion HP sales figures of the 2000s years, you would need to multiply by almost 1000 times. But of course everything gets multiplied with advancing decades. It is just that thinking back to 1964, we were so proud of those achievements that came with 25 years, but to be very honest, we had NO CLUE as to what the next 50 years would bring. This year, 2014, will be the 75th Anniversary of HP, I don't think there is any announcement yet of a celebration?

THE 1964 FISCAL YEAR STATISTICS

NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES 7,100
ANNUAL PAYROLL $47,700,000
NUMBER OF PLANTS 14
NUMBER OF SALES OFFICES 135
NUMBER OF PRODUCTS 1,475
ANNUAL SALES $125,000,000
NET WORTH $65,000,000
TAXES PAID $13,000,000
NUMBER OF STOCKHOLDERS 18,000

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My British Roots and a Visit by the Queen--1983

the_queen
HP had royalty visit our California production operations
several times. Packard did this tour hosting for Queen Elizabeth,
even though he had an injured leg, caused by an accident
with the Wave Machine at his Monterey Bay Aquarium.

There was a ceremony of another sort at HP's plant in Cupertino in 1983. Queen Elizabeth II visited the Bay Area and the company was part of her itinerary. It was a big event for the company, and I was tasked with coordinating protocol arrangements with the White House and the British consulate in San Francisco. Parking and security were among the serious details to be ironed out.

The British consulate was great, they were wonderfully cooperative. We had a Union Jack, the British flag, and I asked them where it should be placed. "Anywhere you please," they replied. The White House was different. I would talk with someone there and three hours later I would get a call from someone else at the White House, who told me something opposite. There were some jealousy issues there and I got caught in the middle.

The actual visit went off without a hitch, and I was overjoyed, considering all the things that might have gone wrong. During the tour, Prince Philip walked two steps behind the queen, with me and the head of the British Consulate. I found Prince Philip to be quite charming. In fact, he made a little joke about having to walk behind the queen.

Unrelated to the queen's visit, I had developed an affinity for Great Britain, probably because my family originated there. I visited London while taking a couple of business trips there. I became friends with David Reed, HP's public relations manager in the United Kingdom. Reed had previously been a member of their House of Commons, in fact its second youngest member when he served. So when Anne and I visited England, we dropped in on Reed. He was able, during separate visits, to get us into the House of Commons for the 15-minute question-and-answer period which the prime minister traditionally holds every week.

Those sessions are famous for being unscripted and lively. We saw Margaret Thatcher and John Major respond to questions during those visits. One question for Maggie Thatcher was about hedges in Scotland being trimmed a certain way, and why can't they be trimmed the same way in England? Thatcher replied, "That's the second time you've asked me that, and the answer is no." She was almost shaking a finger at him, scolding him like she was a schoolteacher. You could tell she enjoyed it.

I was taken by the pomp and ceremony of the opening of the House of Commons sessions, when the Speaker would enter the storied chamber wearing a white wig and a long robe with a uniformed guard holding its train. The ceremonial large, gold mace was then placed at the front of the House of the Commons, signifying the elected representatives were in session. David Reed told me that while he was in the House, and I think it is still true, it is against tradition to speak from notes. And when he made his inaugural speech, he was terrified. He served one term, and that was enough for him.

Reed was also part of one of my favorite stories from my visits to London. HP-UK invited a few journalists to dinner along with the public relations head of a British defense company. It was at Rule's restaurant, which is quite famous. The public relations guy we invited looked exactly like an actor from a well-known British TV show from the 1960s. This guy, who was in his 60s, smoked cigars and was very, very conservative. So during the course of the dinner, one of the journalists asked me if my name, Kirby, was English or Irish. I said in my case it's English as my ancestor came from England in 1635.

"That long ago?" the journalist marveled. And the public relations guy broke in by saying, "I know why he left England. It was because of the bloody creeping socialism!" In 1635! It absolutely fractured me because he was deadly serious.

 

HP's Fiftieth Anniversary--1989

Measure Magazine kicked off HP's 50th
Anniversary Year with a full-issue Photo Essay,
A Day in
the Life of HP, Jan 1989.

To kick off HP's 50th-year anniversary, Editor Jay Coleman devoted most of the Jan, 1989, 46-page issue to a creative Photo Essay entitled, "A Day in the Life of HP." His plan was set up to get photo submissions from Measure correspondents all over the world for one specific date. On October 18, 1988, as the new day dawned at the International Date Line, pictures which typified every kind of company activity were sent to headquarters by the hundreds. The selection process is the reason that editors and their staffs earn their keep, looking for the essence of our distinctive Hewlett-Packard work and play culture. And the result was heartwarming, as we looked at how our giant corporation affects the lives of our workers, our customers, and the world that gets the advantage of our products' features.

The photos were taken by talented student photographersfrom universities in seven countries. They purposely broadened their focus beyond the eight-hour work day because many of the things that make HP people special occur outside HP facilities. HP people are civic leaders, students, parents, volunteers, artists, musicians, inventors and athletes.

John Young's President's Message for the issue summed up the things that made him most proud of HP people. With 87,000 employees in 70 nations, we were linked with shared values. He noted that though our workforce was very diverse, it always struck him that wherever he went, HP people were the same. He told visitors that he could take an HP employee from one location and drop them into another HP site, and aside from obvious differences of race and language, they would have a difficult time knowing just where they were. He listed the strengths of HP people under these headings; 1) They're winners, 2) They respect each other, 3) They're open to change, 4) They're technically excellent, 5) They're creative risk takers, 6) They're committed, and, 7) They're unpretentious. His final verdict on the Photo Essay; Pride in being with HP. You can look at the full issue by downloading it from the HP Measure archive.

At the Palo Alto occasion of the 50th anniversary, the company decided to have a gathering at the Addison Garage. That would have been 1989, and I was about to retire. So we set up an ice cream social at the house even though the house and garage were privately owned. The owners agreed to open their home and grounds for the gathering. We invited the media and some of the civic personalities. It was kind of interesting having it in the afternoon on site. I convinced Dave and Bill to participate, in fact I drove over there with Dave. As we parked and walked to the house, I couldn’t believe it when Dave said to me, "I've never been back here since 1939." Say what? I found that almost impossible to believe, but that's what he said. Packard was totally unsentimental about old things.

birthplace
The year 1989 was full of celebrations as Hewlett-Packard turned 50.
Dedication of "The Garage" as a California Historic Landmark.

So we went back to the garage and we arranged Bill and Dave in front of the media to have them talk about when they worked in the garage. Bill pointed one way and said to Dave, "Your equipment was over here and I was over here." Dave then said, "No you were here and I was there." Naturally the media just loved the personal touch.

With regard to Packard being unsympathetic about old HP history, John Minck tells me of a proposal he wrote to Packard back about 1985. John was involved with orientation lectures for all of the newly hired Field Sales Engineers, dozens and dozens of them, year after year, coming from all over the world. After being hired, they would come to Palo Alto for a three-week intensive "Neophyte" seminar. The objective was to learn the entire product line, partake in a plant tour to see the manufacturing strengths, and included a lecture on California wines by wine gourmet, Fred Waldron. This lecture was late in the day, followed immediately by a wine tasting.

Manager Carl Mahurin would invite a few of the top HP execs to the wine tasting, which was quite a treat to these brand new sales employees. Inevitably a number of them wanted to get a map to the Addison address, to see the original legendary garage, especially the international engineers. So John would often get a company station wagon and take over a small group who were interested in looking at the old garage. Of course it was privately owned so they couldn't go inside, but you could stand in the street and look at the house and the garage.

At that time the garage had not yet been designated as a state historical landmark site, with zero remodeling allowed. So John proposed to Dave and Bill that the Addison garage and the Tinkerbell garage, over on Page Mill & El Camino, and the Quonset hut behind the Redwood building be moved up to the back lot of the Bldg 5 complex on Page Mill Rd. There was plenty of room there beside the parking lot and it would be a sort of a historical museum display of several of the old buildings. In fact, he thought some small displays could be structured inside.

After Packard got the simple written proposal, Margaret called John over to the office. Dave stated very clearly that he had no interest whatsoever in those broken down buildings. But he did note that if John wanted to organize a little fundraising and arrange moving those old classic buildings, he would not oppose it. Needless to say, John never went any further with that idea.

 

Writing Packard's book, The HP Way

I retired in 1989. By then John Young was in the last few years of his CEO period of 1978 to 1992. Dave Packard had lost Lucile in 1987, and he was spending more time looking into HP corporate management. His own health was failing, and he died in 1996. He had spent the early 1980s very personally involved in building the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and it opened in late 1984. He continued his work there, as it became a legendary oceanographic institution and a massively successful attraction and learning experience for children.

But meantime, he kept in touch with me. At one point we talked about maybe writing his biography, although those discussions were pretty tentative. But since he wanted to continue our contacts, I was thinking that a biography would be great, because no one had done any story of his personal life up until that time. I had in mind a book that would inquire into his inner thinking as he and Hewlett started and built this enormously successful enterprise. What ideas led to the work culture they inspired? What values led to important decision points? This was about 1991.

the_hp_way
The book became a national best seller.

But then he changed his mind, he got off the idea of a book about himself and instead was thinking of a book about the company. I think it had to do with his impressions that the HP company work culture had changed significantly. Even though John Young had been CEO for over 12 years, Dave said they had a lot of new employees and he wanted to make sure they were getting the right information about how he wanted the company to run. He wanted to impress upon them some of the values that he and Bill started with. So his interest in a new book about the company became a perfect way to impart those principles and values.

When I said that Dave wanted to keep in touch with me, this did not mean any personal lunches or contacts, it was all with regard to the book. I had already figured out that I could take the content of many of his old speeches and writings to get some basic starting points for the book. About this time, Karen Lewis came along. Karen was very smart and capable, and she came on board to help with the book.

She was in charge of creating the original corporate archives at HP. Karen moved with the Agilent spinoff. She was a great addition to our work on the book, and had great knowledge of the company history and the files of Bill and Dave.

By that time, Packard was not interested in having a regular autobiography. He did talk for a while about his childhood and his education, but I don't think his heart was in it. He was quite a private person, Lucile had died in 1987, which tended to make him even more private. But he liked the idea of writing about his and Bill's enlightened management processes.

The Defense Department content presented a real challenge in our writing. Because his job as Undersecretary of Defense was a really important job and although it was only three years it was a very important part of his life according to him. We decided to handle that period by only writing material that didn't contain any potential national secrets that would require a DOD review. For example, he talked about once inviting a whole bunch of general officers out for a conference at his San Jose ranch. The stated purpose was to do some hunting. That experience turned out to comprise a big part of one chapter and it gave us an insight into the way he handled personnel matters. By getting these important officers into an informal situation, which offered a lot of time for candid personal conversations, he was able to do some serious team building. And from the officer standpoint, to get invited by the Under Secretary--and notable wealthy industrialist, to his personal ranch, was quite unique, quite an ego booster.

That was about the extent of what he wanted to do to describe his DOD effort. This was kind of surprising because in his office, he made some extremely serious accomplishments in his three years. One example was his massive reorganization of the DOD procurement process. Since WWII, it was well known that the military-industrial complex was able to manipulate DOD contracts. They would often begin production on some new aircraft or weapons systems, without having met any reliability requirements or even performance requirements. Out of these failings, he created the procurement process called "Fly before Buy." The program managers would have to demonstrate with successful performance tests and reliability tests that their new program was ready to go into production, thus saving hundreds of millions of dollars in rework and false starts. It's surprising to me that he didn't want to talk about such a major accomplishment like that.

Karen and I were at this job for about two years. She was still actively working at HP. Karen was my principle cheerleader to get me to take on the book. She created the structure of the book--contents to chapter to paragraph level. She fed me all the documents I needed to write, chapter by chapter. She was there all the way to also edit the resulting content. Karen, now retired, spends half of her time in Peacham, Vermont and also lives in San Francisco. It has been said that Peacham is the most photographed town in all of New England. We didn't put the draft out for review to any great extent, although I believe that Packard asked Bill to take a look at it and we probably acted on a few of his comments. Packard contributed more and more as the project progressed. As the book took shape, he became engaged and thoughtful and reactive to the drafts, actively adding more and more stories and facts. We were pleased that his interest increased and he worked with our drafts to improve them.

The book finally came together, with HarperCollins as the publisher. Neither Karen nor I was really satisfied with the book, in spite of the fact that it became a national bestseller. It was ultimately published in 11 languages. I've got the Japanese version somewhere in my things. The funny observation of the Japanese book is that of course, it starts at our back page, and just reads backwards. We tried to approach the book by building on material that we knew about his life and adding in other material from what was in the mind of Bill and Dave as they started their company. Why did they make the decisions they did. How did they think up the crucial management processes that developed into the HP way?

The San Francisco Chronicle panned the book. One review on Amazon claimed the book was dull. The funny thing is that I agree with them both. That was because I thought this book should deal more with Packard's personal approach, his dealings with Bill. And yet those were the kind of thoughts that never came out of our interviews, he was just that private a person. So it turned out to be more his recounting of how the company operated. In a real sense, Karen and I had to infer some parts about his personal thoughts. But looking back, I think we know that Packard was always more of an impersonal presence, certainly more than Bill. Nor at that stage of his life, within a few years of his dying, was he ready to open up and tell the world his innermost thoughts. He just pulled up his walls of privacy.

 


My Years in HP Corporate PR, by Dave Kirby

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