When Jim met Mike

When Jim met Mike
By Joseph Holder on 21 Jun 2011 01:06 pm EDT

The Co-CEO team at Research In Motion is a bit unusual. Very few companies try the multiple-CEO route; even fewer of them actually succeed. The two Co-CEO's of RIM, Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsille form two halves of a whole. Each of them complements the strengths of the other. As Jim characterizes, "My job is to get the money. Mike's job is to spend it. "

When Mike and Jim met, it perhaps wasn't under the best of terms. Around 1990, Research In Motion had been doing a bang-up, awesome job on making control cards for Sutherland-Schultz. The cards simulated the conditions on an assembly line and let operators see how a new machine would function before actually installing it on the line. Sutherland-Schultz bought so many of the cards that RIM's annual revenue exceeded $1 million for the first time.

That's when Sutherland-Schultz decided perhaps it would be cheaper to just buy RIM rather than the cards. Of course, Mike L. would hear none of it; but he still came in to listen to what his biggest customer had to say. Jim Balsille, a vice president with Sutherland-Schultz, was brought in to make the happen. It was during these negations that Lazaridis came to respect Balsille. Mike came to a conclusion, he wanted Balsillie join RIM as a partner. Jim said no.

Mike L. and Jim: Co-CEO's 

As you may have guessed, Sutherland-Shultz did not buy RIM, and thankfully only a short time passed before James Basillie, Chartered Accountant, graduate of the University of Toronto and the Harvard Graduate School of Business, joined the company. Investing $125,000 of his own money, Jim soon owned a third of Research In Motion.

Mike Lazaridis' role in the company is generally to make and innovate new technological products. Jim Basillie's role is generally to focus on getting the money to do so. Jim accounting background and business acumen helped RIM become the company it is today. It was Jim that found the financing needed to keep a fledgling company afloat. It was Jim who successfully took the company public, trading on the stock exchanges as RIMM.

And it all happened because Jim's company wanted to buy Mike's company.

Reader comments

When Jim met Mike


So, Mike is the one that is supposed to lead the way for RIM's innovation. Mike has been asleep over the past year or so then.

Loving the RIM articles, Joseph - I take it you have read or are reading that book available on Kobo via PlayBook by Rod McQueen on the history of RIM? Great stuff.

Those two knuckleheads need to go or RIM is finished. Their leadership was good for a while, but now new and younger blood is needed.

Always nice to see people insult complete strangers on the internet -- respected business people nonetheless. Classy.

I think they have made some mistakes recently (some due to the complacency that comes with that success) but that is on a heap of good calls. I think this two guys need each other and RIMM needs these two guys.
They were slow to respond to new and innovative competition but they got the memo now. As much as I love my Torch, I would have rather it have a bit more power. I came back to blackberry from droidland because of the Torch and I believe when the Bold Touch and Torch 2 come out many droidland users will also return to bb.
Why am I optimistic about RIMM? Think about it. If you could have a phone that has good battery life, good security, push e-mail (not just google but all e-mail), the best messaging phone, awesome keyboards AND run the very awesome android apps, would you not want one? I know I would. I believe QNX will bring that to blackberry.

Yes, all of that sounds fantastic, and we all would like to have it, more than likely, but the question is when and why has it taken this long for them to realize the changing market.

QNX won't bring "good battery lfe". Quite the contrary or you'd probably have seen a QNX phone already.

Jim and Mike may have taken RIM from nothing to being a major international corporation, but unless they stop behaving like they know everything, they'll rapidly end up where they started.

That last analyst call was hopeless. You're about to give pretty bad news and you spend 10 minutes telling each other how great you are, and all the while your stock price is crashing and burning.

Who is managing PR for these guys?

They're obviously not bright enough to manage their own.

Frankly they're starting to look like clowns. And I'm a RIM supporter!

QNX will have good battery life once they optimize the programming (their network stacks) on the os.

That's the best part. They can each point the blame at the other!

"Mike didn't innovate!"

"Jim didn't get me the funding I needed to innovate!"

Mike can't say that.... Jim made sure the money was there, and its still there. Jim saw that Mike was NOT getting the job done, so he went one step further, bought qnx, bought tat, etc etc.... now RIM is getting it done. And the two year lull we have experienced is simply because Jim was to busy trying to buy an NHL team...

They just may have the last laugh. With their recent acquisitions and the introduction and quickly maturing Playbook and the new generation phones, I doubt RIM will go the way of Palm and others.

Mike and Jim are still relevant and I truly believe will make adjustments to attract both business and general consumers. Now is the time to buy RIMM, and we will see who has the last laugh in a year or two.

the full stories goes that Sutherland-Shultz went and got brought out and Jim was let go. the 125,000$ was Jim's severance which he reinvested into RIM..........

Every business goes through up-and-down cycles. Companies that are deemed 'hot' today - like Apple - are not immune, and have periods when they struggle and people write them off.

All it takes is one or two brilliant products that are well executed upon, to turn around a company. Apple proved this quite well. Time will tell if RIM is such a company that recovers from its first major downturn in the company's historyl, but given the fact that they are currently generating several billion dollars a year in profit and have at least $ 3 billion cash in the bank, I give them reasonable odds at navigating through the current challenging times.

They've essentially make the 'big bet' on QNX, and if it is successful, people will be calling Mike and Jim 'brilliant' a few years down the road. If it fails, then they will likely end up selling RIM and in the process cashing out a few more billion. No one may call them 'brilliant' -- just ridiculously rich.

You know what's so obvious but im not sure why most people don't see it. RIMM put's out some of the best phones hardware wise on the market..period. The only thing that has been holding them back is their os. Do people really take into consideration what a BB will look like running QNX ??? the answer is SIMPLE it will become one of the best phones on the market. With all the negative talk this one move will change the way people view BB. So while many predict death let's just wait until next year and get one in our hands to see if the rumor of their dimise is really true.

RIM has gone from being "best smartphone" to being the "best messaging phone" to being "the best phone for email" to being "a phone with good battery-life and a keyboard"

Honestly...if "good battery life" is the only thing that blackberry has left to hang its hat on...they should just hang it up for good.

The playbook was a fiasco, the fact that they let it go out the door without native email is a testament to how thoroughly disconnected RIM execs are from their customer base. Blackberry 7 is doomed with QNX coming out...no developer is going to touch a RIM device until 2012...

These guys should be fired. Yesterday.

wow could not have agreed more with your post. I Really dont understand even why they had to rush to the tablet market. Isnt it better to have your phones firmly on the ground wit hthe new os first and then the tablet? Look at android , the tablet version still arent propper ,but they will be in time . There just playing around with it ,it's a new market anyway so it doesnt matter.

They should have put in the resources that went into that failed playbook , into their phones. To first and formost keep up with ios and android. If they had done that. Then we would have seen QNX with the new phoens this year and the 9900 last year. Then they could have skipped the torch and the 9780. Get soem new form factors etc.

Because what they dont seem to understand with their , wait till next year mentality is that next year the landscape can be totally different again. So apps can be the thing right now , but next year some other ting (cloud?). And they you will be running behind again. Want you should want is to become the leader, to become the company that the others look to and copy. And while apple copies the hell out of BBos they market it like it's a new feature. Rimm needs t ostep it up.

If I buy a 9900 this year and it wont be able to run qnx , next year why to F... would I waste my tiem and money ? Better get me the Iphone 4S. I already have a Ipodtouch with alot of great paid apps. Everything o nmy bb are free apss and small insignificant apps wich I dont care at all for to loose...

Hope RIM comes back with some g8 QNX phones and when it does, Kevin, please repost these comment so the loud mouth a-holes on here can eat humble pie.

RIM will continue to trail Google and Apple because its management is unable to think outside the current box they've built. The Playbook release was terrible, the product was rushed (though I don't know why given they pre-announced it a year before its release) and the user experience clearly lacking from its design. I believe this is why sales performance has been lackluster. I bought one and returned it within 24 hours.

What RIM forgets is that most business people using Blackberry smartphones are now in their 40s and want simplicity in their devices. Small screens requiring 18 point font to read emails just make us feel old. Customers also want a coolness factor, which RIM once offered but can no longer provide.

To catch up in the phone wars, RIM next phone needs to be equipped with 4' HD screen, a fast processor (1.5 GHz) and at least 1 GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, an hdmi connection for presentations, as well as a larger battery. Personally, I also think they need a slider keyboard, which needs to be at least as wide as the Bold 9700 keyboard and not the tiny Curve like keypad they put in the Torch. In short, replace my laptop. Apple and Google are close, but if you want to leapfrog them, make it happen.

As for software, less clutter is better. Run the software past real users (and not just your programmers) before releasing it. All the latest RIM products seem to have been tested by their CEOs and not by real customers. If they had been, maybe RIM stock would be sitting above $100 and not on life support below $30 today.

If RIM is to survive, the next device must be cutting edge. If it's just more of the same, expect RIM to follow PALM down the path to oblivion.

So basically, what you're trying to say is that you want RIM to become Google. You say that's the things you want, but its not what everyone else wants. You say Blackberry's should have overly large 4inch HD screens that suck battries dry? A non-reliable place to make spelling errors and have slow responses to messages be it important or not, you want 16GB memory when that's already an option for most people, and an HDMI port so your phone can be tied to some sort of display, not beside you where it should be; then get yourself an Android. Like every PR rep from RIM has said before and after the release of the Playbook. Its an ACCESSORY to one's smartphone. Its not to replace the responsiveness and reliability that is a Blackberry Smartphone. I'm not saying that Blackberry should be everyones Smartphone of choice; but the reason why we have so many different kinds of Smartphones on the market is for that exact reason.

I do love it when a zealot gets upset.

I'm sure you feel you flamed me good! However, the point of my post was that RIM needs to innovate and not just continue to produce the same-old same-old.

The Holy Grail for smartphone makers is to replace the laptop. If you have ever listened to Mike Lazaridis, then you would know that this is his primary focus. Unfortunately, he can't seem to translate that vision into products that deliver. AND THAT WAS THE POINT OF MY POST.

RIM has slipped from market leader just 24 months ago into third place in the smartphone race. True, Nokia and Microsoft are in worse shape, but that's like Commodore taking solace in the fact that Timex and Texas Instruments were forced out of the computer game before they eventually disappeared.

While I appreciate your loyalty, trust me, I think Jim and Mike would rather be sitting on Android product these days than the tired old product like they keep pumping out.

I'm enjoying the shorts or in this case the abridged version of M&J's beginning. I met Rod McQueen in Toronto shortly after picking up his book! Great and interesting read for those looking for more insight on our favorite gadget of choice!

If Mike continues to be in charge on Innovation, then RIM is in trouble. I love Blackberry and never owned a Iphone or any Android phone. When RIM made the Storm I knew they were heading for trouble. They had a chance to turn it around, but then came the storm 2. Now its the Playbook, which has loads of potential, but is missing too much to be relevant. Developers don't even want to touch it. So Mike has to know his time is gone and he can step back or down. This week I ordered my first Android phone to test a new OS. I am not ready to give up my 9780, but OS7 does nothing for me so i will try out Android. This is the problem with RIM, too slow to react to the competition and have two leaders always in denial. I was in shock to read that RIM was going to put slower chips in the new phones to come out this year. WHAT THE F! Even more shocking is the fact that HP's new tablet will have Skype and Kindle out the box. Come on its time for some fresh minds at the top. Mike and Jim seriously have to let go and get a new CEO and someone to innovate.

i think if the ceos keep up with the same attitude they've had for the past two or three years they will be in trouble end of story there wont be any qnx phones because the company will be dead by then if this keeps up. someone has to kick these guys and get their head in the game before its to late

Everybody is an expert..................what did you all do today? drag your sorry ass into work and slack off until quitting time.....you bunch of clowns

This is hilariously funny. I did, and I received a paycheck, and I got rid of my VZW 9650 and upgraded to a Droid Charge so I can use LTE on an unlimited plan before I get screwed into a specs upgrade and a sub-par software upgrade(OS7) and a tiered data plan. It's nice being my own expert, and a consumer.

Every company has its slump. I don't think the co-ceo's have to step down. As many problems as there has been lately, to want them to step down is to also say that the recent acquisitions were also mistakes.

I'm a RIM supporter but I've come to the conclusion that the Co-CEO structure isn't working.

Over a year ago on a quarterly conference call, Jim B. was "giggling like a schoolgirl" over the product road-map. "I can't show it to you, but I've seen it, it's fantastic and will raise the bar for the industry, I can't wait for it to unfold".

So, here we are one year later and it's simply failed to appear. Yes, we've seen the Torch, Style and Playbook, but none of these products are exactly industry movers. So, you can guess my reaction to "the new products are just around the corner" sentiment expressed on the last earnings call. Either they are caught up in their own marketing or they are covering up an inconvenient truth.

In any case, there is something fundamentally wrong with the way RIM is currently managed and I can't help but think it's the Co-CEO structure.

If Jim has an accounting background, then why is he handling marketing? I know they have lost their marketing head, but they really need to bring someone in soon.

To keep harping on security as a feature misses that the average consumer has little to no concern about security. Obviously it is important, but it is no longer a sales feature when many iPhone users want to jail-break their phones, and some Android users want to root their phones. Numerous studies about computers show people don't care much about security. BlackBerry Protect and backing up your phone on your computer are two things most consumers would find more interesting.

Heading into Q3 there is a shareholder challenge to the co-CEOs. It is tough to predict how that will turn out, but I will be voting against they guys. They brought the company a long way, but the Conference Call made it glaringly obvious they are sitting on their laurels and history. Nostalgia will not sell smartphones.