The Fast Track is a column focused on leadership and healthy living by Strauss Zelnick, the co-founder of ZMC, a leading media-focused investment firm; and the chairman and CEO of Take-Two Interactive Software, one of the world’s largest video game companies. Zelnick is also an avid participant in #TheProgram, a New York-based fitness group. If you have any questions for him, Tweet them at @BestLifeOnline—or send us a message on Facebook—using the hashtag #AskStrauss.
How do you cultivate good ideas and nurture creative thinking at your own company?
Our strategy is always to be the most creative, innovative, and efficient company in our industry. We convey that to the team in virtually all written and verbal communications. More importantly, when faced with tough decisions (like moving a release of an entertainment title, or making a risky investment in a project our team is passionate about), we try hard to make a decision in favor of creativity. Culture, like character, is tested in the breach. Or, said another way: while anyone can say the words, it’s the choices and actions that truly matter.
How do you ensure that your meetings are used effectively—and aren’t viewed by your employees as a waste of time?
We have as few standing meetings as possible. When we do have meetings, there’s a written agenda as well as specific decision points that are required. I try to set an example of being thoughtful and also efficient by having really short meetings. This can sometimes lead to criticism. I’ve often heard feedback like, “He was polite but the meeting only lasted 20 minutes.”
Guilty as charged, Your Honor.
What is your opinion on the current state of Apple? Do you think the company is overvalued?
At an enterprise value of over $800 billion, it’s certainly tempting to look at it that way. All grown-up companies trade at a multiple of cash flow. On that basis, Apple is trading in line. (Ed note: Apple’s currently trading at $154 a share, the highest its stock has ever been.)
That said, when we buy securities our goal is to buy a stock with a price that will eventually go up. So consider this: for Apple to be worth 10% more than it is right now, its value has to increase by $80 billion. That’s more than most big companies are worth in total.
Regardless, whatever you’re considering investing in, do me one favor: don’t invest based on advice you read or see on television—ever.
In your estimation, what’s the most important skill that ultra-successful people share?
Knowing what they want. Yes, I know that sounds vague, but it’s true. After all, to echo my friend Al Angrisani [an executive and former Secretary of Labor in the Reagan administration]: if you don’t know where you’re going, any old path will take you there.
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