robert
Robert Murphy
November 20, 2018

ConnectCentral 2018: Joe Lacob, CEO of the Golden State Warriors, on the Relentless Pursuit of Excellence

Golden State Warriors Owner and CEO Joe Lacob sat down on stage with RingCentral Founder, Chairman, and CEO Vlad Shmunis at ConnectCentral® 2018 last week.  The audience got a glimpse into the life of one of the NBA’s most successful owners, and Shmunis and Lacob also made a big announcement.

First, the announcement: RingCentral will now be the Official Enterprise Cloud Communications Partner for the Warriors and a Founding Partner of Chase Center, the state-of-the-art sports and entertainment complex being built in San Francisco’s Mission Bay neighborhood, scheduled to open in September of 2019. In addition, all Warriors business offices and Chase Center operations will exclusively use RingCentral to power their communications.

The announcement drew a hearty round of applause from the ConnectCentral audience, especially having just heard about Lacob’s life, how he got started, about his venture capitalist career at Kleiner Perkins, his interest in life sciences and technology, and his journey in transforming the Golden State Warriors into a team winning not one, but three NBA championships.

Small beginnings, big dreams

As a child growing up in New Bedford, Mass., Lacob always wanted to own a professional basketball team, and several themes arose from his life story—he didn’t always get what he wanted, he’s grown a lot of businesses, and he has passion—and a plan—for excellence. To illustrate:

  • Lacob didn’t come from wealth and was the first in his family to earn a college degree. He wanted to go to medical school, but didn’t get admitted to any of the 47 schools he applied to.
  • So, he instead went to business school at Stanford and then started a biotech firm that was funded by Kleiner Perkins. He wanted to be CEO of the company but his investors had other ideas and hired him as a young associate.
  • After 25 years at Kleiner leading investments in over 50 companies and growing several successful ones, the Warriors opportunity presented itself. On Nov. 12, 2010, he and Peter Guber took over the team and have grown its value from the $450 million they paid to well over $3 billion today. Key to this continued growth and success, as he told Shmunis, is always having a plan.

“You have to have a plan for building a company. From day one we had a plan for how we wanted to build this business, the kind of people we were going to hire, and the next generation,” Lacob explained while wearing the three sparkling NBA Championship rings he’s earned. Winning matters to him, he continued, but stressed the need to be prepared with an alternative strategy for what happens if something softens. “We’re always about having a 5-year plan,” he stressed.

When Shmunis asked about the key to growth for the Warriors, Lacob answered that it’s not just one thing that grew the team—it’s every little thing. Paying attention to every little detail with a relentless pursuit of excellence, which is not the same as micromanaging. It’s about being involved, knowing what’s going on, and staying close to the business.

Lacob emphasized words with energy—like WINNING and EXCELLENCE and EVERY LITTLE DETAIL—and clearly is living the life he always wanted. He plays basketball twice a week at Stanford to get in his “10,000 steps and 5 miles.” And he’s very involved in the Warriors Community Foundation, managed and led by his wife. The Foundation has given over $10 million to underprivileged kids in San Francisco and Oakland.

From there, Shmunis asked about Chase Center—which Lacob said is the hardest thing he’s ever done. “I’ve never cried when we won a championship, but I may cry when this arena gets done,” he said. The Warriors bought the land, got approvals from the city, have taken no public money (which Lacob said is a belief of his).  Chase Center, which will become a world-wide destination, will host over 200 events a year, including Warriors basketball, concerts, family shows and many other major events once it’s completed in 2019.

Lacob, wearing RingCentral socks, and Shmunis, wearing Warriors socks, were clearly excited about the partnership between RingCentral and the Warriors. And the audience was thrilled with the opportunity to have their photo taken with Lacob and the three championship trophies.