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.
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.