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Rick Baldridge, president and CEO of Viasat Satellite, right, and Mark Dankberg, executive chairman. Photo courtesy of Viasat
Rick Baldridge, president and CEO of Viasat Satellite, right, and Mark Dankberg, executive chairman. Photo courtesy of Viasat
ColumnsGetting Deals Done

Getting Deals Done: Baldridge and Viasat Satellite’s culture of ideas

Viasat Satellite’s CEO Rick Baldridge loves to read. He also loves to think big and avoid mistakes. When I asked Rick about his thought process, he shared a piece of his dad’s advice: 

“You listen to everybody and then you sort that content out and figure out what makes sense to you,” Rick said.

The framework of Rick’s thoughts comes from not only those in his closest circles, including his wife, children and friends, but also the books he loves to consume. Rick likes to call wisdom he gleans from various writings “little nuggets.”

For example, Jim Collins, one of the godfathers of business writing, shared one of his central precepts in his book, “Built to Last – Successful habits of visionary companies.” Collins’ book discusses the genius of the “and” versus the tyranny of the “or,” and embracing extremes without being quick to accept compromise.

Rick gives an example with one of his baseball heroes, New York Yankees’ shortstop Bucky Dent.  

“(Bucky) made more errors than any other shortstop player, more attempts, more errors, but also had more hits,” Rick said.

My conversation with Rick shifts toward thoughts from another celebrated poet, writer and thinker — Nikki Giovanni. In a previous interview with Giovanni, I asked her if women needed to achieve a 50% parity with men to achieve the aims of the women’s movement. She disagreed, observing in my book, “Dispatches from the Vanguard”:

“Well, you know, I have trouble with people who are saying it ought to be a 50% situation because some women are not nice or smart. And we know that some men are not nice or smart and what we are looking for are nice smart people. We’ve seen some black female judges who have just been terrible, and some, incredible. I am a member of Delta Sigma Theta, and we have looked at incredible women like Barbara Jordan. So, I think that what we want are more outstanding people.” 

Rick’s agrees with Giovanni’s sentiments.

“Well said! I grew up with a very strong personality — a bright, accomplished sister who was in a big position at General Dynamics,” Rick said. “She was the youngest female manager in the history of that company. She went on to work at Qualcomm, pre-IPO. So I grew up viewing the capabilities of the women who grew up next to me as unlimited.” 

We tether back to Giovanni with another quote by American icon in 2018: 

“I said the other day to a group, ‘Fortunately, God doesn’t call me.’ But if God called me and said, ‘Hey Nikki, it’s God, do you have a minute?’ And of course, you know, you would have a minute for God. If he said, ‘I am thinking about closing down planet Earth. I’m thinking about getting rid of human beings, what are your thoughts?'” 

Chuckling, Rick gives his take.

“I would say it’s mixed, just like life is,” Rick said. “I tend to want to focus on the bright spots. And there are some really bright spots in the world today. I am more optimistic than that. I am very, very frustrated when you look at the stovepipes that are created in many areas of our life and in the government. And we can’t seem to cooperate in any way. And I don’t think cooperation is a compromise. It’s working for something that is better.”  

Chris Phillips, Viasat’s corporate VP of communications, also recommended some books in his library, such as Shawn Achor’s “The Happiness Advantage,” a book about “achieving the goal,” and “Ruthless Elimination of Hurry,” by John Mark Comer. Other books include “Greatness” by David L. Cook, and “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful,” by Marshall Goldsmith.

Patrick A. Howell is the author of “Yes, We Be” as well as “Dispatches from the Vanguard – The Global International African Arts Movement” available widely from Penguin/Random House as well as a 49 Fahrenheit bookstore in downtown Carlsbad.