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I started at HP on the same day that Dave Yewell was hired, in June of 1966, to work at Dymec under Bob Grimm. My first real memory of "THE HP WAY" came about six weeks later in July when I was invited to Palo Alto Hills Country Club for a senior sales seminar reception. I was standing there and this big guy comes up to me and introduces himself. “Hi,” he said, "I am Dave Packard, and I know you have been with us a few weeks. I am sorry that I have not been able to come down and say hello but we seem to being growing very fast. Welcome to HP."
How do you ever forget that? I think my wife Nancy, whom I met at HP, and I both agree that what we learned of the real HP way, helped us immensely in our follow-on careers in venture capital. How lucky we all were to be there for those wonderful years. I know of no equals.
I started my career with the Colorado Springs Division of Hewlett-Packard in the late summer of 1966 and retired 34 years later, ending my career with HP at the Fort Collins Workstation Division. I started with one of HP's charter instrument divisions (later to be Agilent), ending my career with a computer division of HP.
In those earlier days, each division had an annual review in which David Packard, Bill Hewlett, Barney Oliver, and many of the other technical and financial gurus would come to meet and greet and listen to presentations about how that division was doing, and how it planned to proceed in the future. It was an important time in the life of an HP division, and its management.
One of the local activities was a lunch in which many of the division's managers and supervisors would be invited to have lunch with those visiting from Palo Alto. I happened to be invited to one of those lunches, I don't remember the year, but I think it was when David Packard had returned to HP after he had served as the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense, probably sometime after 1972.
I was running a bit late getting to the lunch and as I walked up to the short line still filing into the lunch activity room I thought I was going to be the last person into the room.
Much to my surprise I turned around and found David Packard standing behind me. I have always suspected he was off to the side waiting for that last person to show up. That day it happened to be me (I am usually the first in line). He stuck out his big hand and introduced himself. I am a large man too, but he seemed bigger than life to me. We had a few minutes to chat. He was warm and friendly and it was like talking to an old friend. He asked me a few questions and seemed genuinely interested. I will remember it always.
But, the very second we walked into the lunch room I saw a transformation take place. The group hushed, all heads turned his way. David became the company patriarch at that very moment, the icon of HP. It was like a different person stepped into the room with me. I can not explain just how, but I do remember it was an amazing transformation. He just was a different person for the group than he was when we were talking one-on-one. After all, he was the face of HP, or half of it.
An interesting and memorable experience for me.
Manitou Springs, CO
In 1979, my first year at HP, at the HP Calculator Division in Corvallis, I was one of the randomly invited engineers to the reception after the formal Division Review. Dave Packard was there, meeting people, and I was able to introduce myself to him.
The group I worked for was working on the HP 41C calculator, and had a demo of the plug-in bar code reader set up, since we worked on the same floor that they had the reception. I asked him if he wanted to see the demo, and he said 'Of Course!'
I led him out of the group, towards the area where we had the demo, and as I was looking at him, and leading him to that area, I could see my manager and several co-workers following us. The thing that impressed me most was his willingness to follow a young guy to wherever I led him.
I've always been impressed by that. Of course, it didn't hurt that my group considered me a hero afterwards. :-)
Carl Cottrell recalls that Fred Schroder and Ray Demere started GmBH in 1958 in an old brick building near the railroad station. Demere returned home about 1961, and Fred became General Manager, a post he held for some years. He knew and worked directly with Bill and Dave in establishing the new plant at Boblingen, and tried to bring in the HP work culture that he understood would be acceptable to the Founders. At some point in the 70s, Fred moved to Palo Alto. For a time he held a Corporate post as Director of Business Development.
Fred retired to Geneva, and in this letter of 1996, he wrote up some personal anecdotes of his relations with Dave, and submitted them to Karen Lewis, the Archivist at HP. Fred died in late 1998, but John Borgsteadt retained a copy of Fred's letter and writings. Devon Dawson, the Agilent Archivist, agreed that Fred intended to share these very personal stories in his life.
F. W. Schroder
Mrs. Karen Lewis
Hoping that you are fine,
/ss/ Fred Schroder
CC: John Borgsteadt
Fred W. Schroder
1. When Dave Packard was in Washington, some of us European HP'ites were able to arrange for an enroute stopover in order to visit with him and Lu Packard in Washington. They were always just delighted and we were usually included in their home life. Margaret Paull took care of hotel bookings and pick-up. One time, Dave came back late, as typically, from his Pentagon office, rather exhausted, but the first thing he did was asking me to join him for pulling weeds in his vegetable garden. Both of us cleaned up the plants while relaxing and chatting. It was there that I heard for the first time his famous assessment of the Pentagon operating environment: "It's like standing on a 3-mile rope and when you try hard to wiggle the rope at your end nothing happens on the other end."
2. During Dave's Deputy Secretary of Defense service he also visited the Army base in Stuttgart, Germany. He managed to slip away for dinner in our cozy bungalow. Sitting on the mildly heated porch and sipping on a martini cocktail he went over many subjects of world politics (Vietnam) and HP's positioning for the future (these were the years when the Company got more and more involved in the computer business). He was supposed to fly out that very night. But following his relaxed mood he said, "Let's call the Army post and tell them to postpone the flight until tomorrow morning. So we did.
3. When Dave and Lu Packard came the first time to Europe after we had established ourselves in Geneva, Boblingen and Frankfurt, they were just taken by the fact that we had opened the GmbH plant (first outside Palo Alto) in the very style of the Palo Alto Garage. It was housed in the back of an old knitting mill, right next to the RR-station which facilitated receiving and shipping by rail. That same day we had received a 1-ton crate (shipped via Panama Canal), the way we got supplied with parts for assembly. Being ill equipped with hauling gear it was always an all hands on deck manoeuvre to move the huge box. But before we knew it Dave rolled up his sleeves and the heavy crate was slipped down the long staircase to the stock room in the basement faster than ever before or after! They were also impressed our wives brought in fresh rolls from the local bakery every day for coffee break, similar to Lu's catering for the people in Palo Alto.
4. Once Dave Packard was back from Washington he went on that memorable wind - swift tour to each of the divisions to remind the managers of their darned duty to regain appropriate balance sheet ratios (particularly inventory and accounts receivable to sales) so that outside corporate financing could be avoided. This was the only time I know, that he addressed in no uncertain terms the issue on hand at every meeting including the dinner speech with wives present. I assume some of the wives told their husbands to do a better job!
5. Once we traveled together to Madrid, facing some harsh though fair legal proceedings with our Spanish rep. The meeting with the lawyers was conducted in Spanish and to everybody's great surprise, Dave didn't need an interpreter, whiIe I had a tough time with my 2-year college Spanish. After the successful consummation we went back to the hotel and Dave, after careful evaluation, picked out a necktie for himself in the hotel boutique to be worn that evening for dinner. Next day we had spent in the office reviewing HP Spain's operations. In the evening he gave a wonderful humorous speech to the people with their beautiful wives in attractive dresses as is Spanish tradition, in which he urged the attending managers and supervisors not to work too hard so that the ladies were not possibly neglected! Even Lu Packard was quite astonished by so much charming; so was my wife Brigitte. During the following weekend we went out in the countryside and had great treat at Segovia's famous pub where they cut tender roast pork with a wooden axe, his vocabulary in Spanish came in handy when he praised the cook.
6. During another plant visit to Boblingen he silently left a staff meeting when a fellow from the production line came in to report that they could not get the oscillators (assembled from discrete components at that period) under test into specifications, no matter which component they had tried to change. Dave left the meeting instantly, set down in front of the roller skate conveyor line, reached into the cabinet, redressed the main wiring harness and... what do you think (?), the instruments perfectly met specs!
7. Dave loved home cooking and sauerkraut and hated restaurant eating. So he and Lu came for dinner when in town, he wanted to sit in the kitchen watching our preparations of the meal and entertaining the party. My daughter came in and ask for help in math home work. Who was getting up to give her a hand? He himself. No wonder, that my daughter finished her work quickly with his tutoring and treasures a picture of that evening till this day.
8. When HP started more actively selling in behind-iron-curtain countries, Dave came to Moscow to help us promote sales. Since East Europe belonged to my marketing responsibility I accompanied him, calling on the Minister of Technology, (who was the son-in-law of President Kosygin), the Minister of Health and a few selected institutional customers. The second morning we went to the esteemed Institute of Thermodynamics. The Russian professors did not miss a chance to serve caviar and Krim champagne to the guests and much to themselves, no matter what hour of the day. The meeting thus started with that lengthy treat and with much toasting and welcome speeches, then we worked all day without lunch or any other break. After saying good-bye, we were lastly provided a taxi cab to go to our hotel. Dave commented in the cab: "Is that always their daily routine"?
The same night we had supper with Egon Loebner of HP Labs who, at that time, served as Science Attache at the U.S. Embassy. The Loebners lived in 2 rooms in an apartment block, otherwise occupied by Moscow citizens. We were escorted by KGB agents who waited outside the apartment until we returned to the hotel. The place was obviously bugged but it didn't disturb our frank discussion.
Years later, many of this Thermodynamics Institute's academicians came as a group to Palo Alto, Dave treated them hospitably, but in California style, with coffee breaks, salad lunch, and a BBQ evening at San Felipe Ranch. The night was very long and the piano player led the group in its relentless singing of Russian tunes. Don Hammond and his wife with whom I rode knew the road very well. The Russians never got the desired semiconductor (LEDs) plant equipment with HP technology.
9. As it is still today, every year management meetings take place in January near Palo Alto, with a follow-up meeting in Europe. Dave and Bill came to many of them, reviewing the operations at the same time. Dave usually opened the meeting with a speech highlighting the future of HP. One year the European meeting was held in the very old-fashioned Palace Hotel at Ouchy/Lausanne. When John Young entered the place for the relaxed starting evening it caused him to exclaim: "Oh, ...just like the Holiday Inn." Next morning Dave got up to deliver his opening address and he started with a funny observation: "This morning I ventured to peek out of my hotel room window and recognized two HP managers jogging around the building. I advise the crowd that I much rather prefer a healthy manager sound asleep at that ungodly hour so he can do a good day's work on the job," which earned big applause and certainly woke up the the last soul if it needed to; the following speech, however, was dead serious and centered around the manager's capacity for compassion, the attribute Dave and Bill valued and lived so much by setting the example.
10. Every division had a regular review. One part of it focused on new product development. How Dave and Bill managed became especially evident when it came to decision making, e.g. at the point of whether or not a new product idea should be pursued. A typical saying of Dave or Bill was this: "Fred, now you have heard 1001 reasons against the project but don't you want to do it anyway?" That happened frequently and often with a real pat on the back.
11. One always knew what he was after. Dave offered the tremendous advantage to be predictable in dealing with people. One time we were on a trip to South Bavaria to see a potential recreation site for the employees. I was driving and he took a nap sitting next to me. In the morning we had briefed him about our project but we wondered when he would ask us about financing it. When he woke up before arrival, the first alert question was: "Let alone all the propaganda about recreation facilities, how are you going to pay for it?" It came after giving everybody a chance to pursue the matter or to back off, and, like the Amen in the church. Of course, we had a non-cash, i.e. for the Company, plan with the local bankers involving temporary title by the bank. He approved of it.
In the early 1960s before I joined HP, I had a roommate who worked for Dymec. I was acquainted with a number of hp employees and recognized Bill Hewlett.
One weekend I went skiing at Sugar Bowl, and on Saturday night there was a snowfall of about a foot and a half of light, fluffy powder snow, the kind we seldom get in the Sierras. Next day, people were having the time of their lives skiing in this wonderful stuff. I saw Bill and several hp employees in the lift line who were joking with Bill and saying, "Hey, Boss, how about a day off tomorrow. This is just too good to pass up."
Bill just grinned and didn't say anything.
On Tuesday morning, back in Palo Alto, my roommate was grumbling that Bill didn't show up for a meeting he was scheduled to attend at Dymec on Monday...
In the 1979-80s, I was working in the Accounting Dept at HP Labs. There was a beer bust for the Lab engineers, and I was down in the serving line for the barbeque in the courtyard by the cafeteria. Special black T-shirts were handed out with some kind of event slogan.
Along comes Bill Hewlett, who was wearing his T-shirt, and asked the server next to me for two hamburgers, probably intending to take one back to his secretary, Maddie. The server, a young woman who had just joined HP, told Bill that she was instructed to serve only ONE hamburger or ONE hot dog per person. Naturally I was stunned, but before I could say anything, Bill just said, "Well, that's OK." I immediately told her that this was Bill Hewlett, and so she quickly offered to serve whatever he wanted. But he just was so nice to her embarrassment, and told her he understood and would be pleased to just follow the rules.
It was the Bill Hewlett we all knew and loved.
As recounted to me by Peter Nelson, a former HP public relations staffer, Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard were distressed when the national media began to identify them as among the richest men in America. About that time an attempt was made to kidnap Hewlett's son Jim, presumably in an effort to get ransom money.
Peter told me of a later incident when he escorted a Fortune Magazine reporter to Hewlett's office for an interview, being sure to warn her not to mention their wealth. She had a tape recorder with her, but needed some help in turning it on.
Hewlett, ever the engineer, got it working and plugged it in. Her first question was, "How does it feel to be one of the richest men in America?"
Hewlett got up, pulled the tape recorder from the wall, and escorted her out of the room. Interview ended.