It Goes 'PING' - George Snively
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"It Goes PING"

About 1953, as the Supervisor of Accounting for General Electric's Electronics Laboratory, I was reviewing invoices for payment when I came across an invoice from our Advanced Electronics Center at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York for "dynamic balancing" equipment. This purchase struck me as unusual for an operation involved in infrared ray research so I called Walt House, the laboratory manager, to inquire about it. He said that he'd check into it and get back to me.

1 week or ten days later I get a call from Bob Wooley asking "Are you the guy who called about these invoices?" When I assured him that I was, he responded, "I've got a clown down here who's designing a golf putter. It's the damndest thing you ever saw. You hit the ball with it and it goes PING!!" Bob Wooley decided that he didn't need a putter designer on his staff so he suggested to Karsten Solheim that he look elsewhere for employment. He was subsequently hired by Bob Shaw to move to Syracuse to work in GE's television business where he invented the "rabbit ears" antenna.

In the fall of 1956 I joined the newly formed GE Computer Department as the Manager-Budgets and Measurements and moved to Phoenix, Arizona. In 1957 we initiated a computer laboratory in Mountain View, California. Bud Crutchley, the Manager-General Accounting, would often consult with me on how to book some of the laboratory's purchases as he knew that I had experience in this area. One day he came to me with some invoices for "dynamic balancing" equipment. This rang a bell with me and I called Dr. Robert Johnson the laboratory manager and asked "You don't by any chance have a Karsten Solheim up there do you?" He answered, "Yes I do. Why do you ask?" I replied, "Check into it. I think you'll find that he's spending time and money developing a putter" .

Bob Johnson also decided that he didn't need a putter designer and again Karsten received a suggestion to look elsewhere! Meanwhile, Bob Shaw had joined the Computer Department and moved to Phoenix and again learning of Karsten's availability, hired him to move to Phoenix.

Sometime later the Computer Department got a new General Manager, Harrison Van Aken, and Karsten couldn't wait to demonstrate his putter to Van who was an avid golfer. This turned out to be a sizeable mistake!

Van came in one Monday morning after having watched a golf tournament (I believe the Augusta National) on TV on Sunday and had seen Karsten there demonstrating his putter. Van requested to see Karsten's expense accounts for the prior six months and the correlation of "business?" trips with golf tournaments was too much for Van who was an ex auditor - and Karsten was asked to leave the GE Company.

Karsten then came to see me to ask about acquiring some $18,000 worth of "surplus" machine tools which the Computer Department had. (The now familiar "dynamic balancing" equipment, etc.) I set up a meeting for him with a Valley Bank lending officer to see if he could borrow the funds. When several days after the meeting I asked how it went Karsten said "they want my personal guarantee and I won't give it to them". I told him that any lender would require a personal guarantee and that his other alternative might be to sell some stock in his company and that he would probably have to give up 20% to 30% of the company for $25,000. "I won't do that either!" Somehow he got the tools. I suspect that they were moved to the loading dock, declared surplus, and as the only bidder he obtained them for pennies on the dollar.

To this day Karsten, whose Karsten's Manufacturing Company is valued at over a billion dollars, has never borrowed a nickel, sold a share of stock (although he has spread some of it to his relatives) or built a golf club that he hasn't already been paid for! ! FABULOUS non B School financial planning.

I SUSPECT THAT HE HAS LITTLE REGARD FOR MY FINANCIAL EXPERTISE!

 

 

 
 
 

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