Joe E. Kiani Featured

7:00pm EDT December 31, 2006

For many people, the perfect job is one that provides them with security and the means to a comfortable lifestyle, and actually enjoying what they do doesn’t always come with the package. But for Joe E. Kiani and the approximately 1,000 worldwide employees of Masimo Corp., an Irvine-based medical technology developer, loving their work goes without saying. Kiani and his workers — whom he calls “purists” for their love of the job — have ridden a wave of passion in their purpose to great success, with revenue expected to top $150 million in 2006. Smart Business spoke with Kiani about the importance of integrity, maintaining the right culture and keeping all your doors open.

Keep your focus.
We have unpretentious leadership focused on our guiding principles, great products and great people. Unpretentious leadership means not pretending to act a certain way you think someone in my role should act, but rather staying focused on what matters, which is great principles, great products and great people.

I see sometimes when I meet other executives that there is an air about them as though they’re playing some part out of a movie. If you are playing that role, you’re spending more time wondering how people perceive you rather than just doing what you’re supposed to do and trying to fulfill expectations.

Whether you’re making ice cream or, in our case, noninvasive blood monitors, you have to stay focused on good principles, making a good product and hiring the best people you can. We’re here to exceed our customers’ expectations by making great products and services.

The dangers of growing too fast are that, No. 1, you could disappoint your customers if you can’t maintain the quality of both the product and the people. No. 2, you might bring on people too fast that might not be a great fit for the culture.

We’re very worried about that, so we’re watching those things very closely, and I spend a lot of time with operations and with the teams to make sure everyone knows how important it is to not lose sight of those things. You have to keep making sure the new people that come are acclimated to the culture, but it hasn’t been difficult and we’ve been able to do it because we made sure the core of the people we had were cut from the same cloth.

Since we’ve gotten bigger, it’s those people — not me — that are teaching the new people what matters and why we’re all here.

Be available to your staff.
That saying, ‘open-door policy,’ is a good way to say it because your door has to be open. If you close that door too often, people will ... just stop coming by because they know you don’t want to see them.

When someone does sneak their head in, unless you’re doing something that’s very, very important that’s got to be done in a timely basis, you’ve really got to put it down, put a big smile on your face and react to whatever issues people are bringing to you.

I have a lot of things I want to get done during a day, and I find I get very few of them done during the day. I do them after my kids go to sleep and I do them until about midnight, because I don’t want to take away that time for anyone to walk in and talk to me.

As I go around my executive team, if I see people don’t have that, in a friendly way I try to remind them to open their doors and remind them that their job is to be a leader more than getting a particular job done. The most important thing is to make sure ... each level agrees on the same values and has the same culture, because they’re going to be the ones who are going to touch the next level the most.

We’ve grown by 50 percent in the last year, so even if I wanted to, there’s no way I could meet with everybody and spend time with everybody as much as I need to.

Guide your company by your own principles.
Business principles should be no different than an individual’s highest principles. Before I started Masimo, I was involved in a company when I was 22 or 23 years old, and it was the first time I was at a high level in a company.

The businesspeople there were about to sell the company to another company, and they were making false statements about how far the product was. I had to really think about it, because at that point, I was wondering if maybe that was how business was done.

It was a very painful process for me to step up and say no, and I wrote a letter to the CEO and the chairman of the board and told them where the product actually was. It wasn’t pretty, but at that moment I realized that your personal principles — hopefully they’re good ones — have to be the company’s. The entity does not take on some ruthless, whatever-it-takes kind of principle; it’s got to be yours.

Integrity is the most important trait a business leader can have. I hope, whatever happens, to not lose sight of our principles. I say that because our human nature sometimes goes against what we should be doing, so it’s a constant fight.

I hope I’m close enough to the customer and the technology that I can maintain the vision for the company and keep an appreciation for the talent, the people, because at the end of the day, you can have great vision and integrity, but if you don’t have the people to execute, you’re not going to make it.

Success is being happy most of the time, which can only be attained if you live up to your own principles. Success for the company is the same; building a successful company based on principles and integrity, not greed and power.

HOW TO REACH: Masimo Corp., www.masimo.com or (949) 297-7000