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00:00:00 - Introduction

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Partial Transcript: Today is Novembr 9th, 2011, and I'm here with [Wendy Cross. Today we'll be talking about her experience at Chroma Technology.

Segment Synopsis: Wendy is a retired founder. Coming back to Chroma's facility is "really fascinating" for her. Memories flood back to her as she's in the building.

00:01:36 - Wendy' Contribution

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Partial Transcript: If you want to go back to the beginning and talk a little bit about Omega and how Chroma was started--feel free.

Segment Synopsis: Wendy was not one of the original founders to discuss starting Chroma, but go on board very soon. Her experience was greatly needed, being a "jack-of-all-trades", between purchasing, finance, and more.

00:04:45 - Comparing Two Worlds: Omega, Chroma

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Partial Transcript: If you wand to talk a little bit about the actual founding, maybe about the relationship with Omega to Chroma--

Segment Synopsis: Frustrations between founder, customers and employees; hired as a salesperson; employees at Omega were not feeling rightly valued. In starting Chroma, some things in the beginning were fast-paced, some too slow; employee-ownership fit the bill of who would own Chroma and how it would be paid for. At Omega, there was encouragement to act like owners, to act for the company, but the company never gave back to them; the owner, no mater what, kept tight control on all operations, shutting down projects and initiatives that didn't fit his vision.

00:10:21 - Transparency

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Partial Transcript: "I hate the word transparent": Why?

Segment Synopsis: The word is used so much, it loses its meaning. Wendy wanted to see the word used to its true meaning, where viewpoints and decisions were put out in the open in honesty. Such has to be met equally by listening to each make a growing company successful.

00:12:54 - Early Communication

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Partial Transcript: With the lines of communication, when the company was smaller, was it easier to orchestrate decisions?

Segment Synopsis: Chroma tried many schemes: small meetings, all company meetings. Sometimes more talk happened than decisions made. Some arguments became more personal than the Chroma issue dealt with. When navigating these processes, the face-to-face aspect was very important

00:15:03 - Self interest and the interest of Chroma

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Partial Transcript: How did Chroma develop its internal communication over time as it grew? How was the interest of the individual and the company communicated?

Segment Synopsis: Learning the differences between being and owner and an employee, how these roles apply to working at Chroma; contrasting the interest of being an 'employee' and being an 'owner'--finding the balance for Chroma's interests. Normal stockholders act differently that employee-owners, making the defining of what it means to be an employee-owner more complicated.

00:19:14 - Chroma's Early Culture

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Partial Transcript: How did the culture of employee-ownership inform hiring for different positions? the development of the company?

Segment Synopsis: In the beginning, the founders hired friends that bought into employee-ownership, paid a lot, job security; the work was easy enough to train people regardless of their educational level, enabling new employees to use a variety of their own, different skills. Now, Chroma's needs are more specific, due to external competition.

00:22:02 - The Lawsuit with Omega

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Partial Transcript: Can you briefly state what the first lawsuit was?

Segment Synopsis: The owner of Omega first wished everyone luck, but after realizing Chroma was truly competitive, sued Chroma for a patent (that Chroma ended up owning) and intellectual property (which was claimed on false claims). His claims were reactionary, unsubstantial.

00:24:18 - Deciding Who Decides

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Partial Transcript: What was it like growing through the 90's and meeting challenges to grow the company?

Segment Synopsis: Challenges constantly changed: company decision making practices, organization of work;loud personalities tended to have more impact;major difficulty in identifying who in what position had decision making power on what.

Subjects: Challenges constantly changed: company decision making practices, organization of work; loud personalities tended to have more impact; major difficulty in identifying who in what position had decision making power on what.

00:27:50 - Challenges of a Growing and Competing Company

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Partial Transcript: Let's move forward the the years around when you retired and what it was like then.

Segment Synopsis: Wendy recounts how the company was constantly changing: positions, job descriptions, trying to hire out, compensation schemes, benefits, increasing tenure of employees; influence of political economic theory on what people think they should be paid, how a company staves off competition, and how Chroma fights those pressures.

00:33:24 - Internal Relationships, Customers, and Science

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Partial Transcript: What might the future hold for Chroma?

Segment Synopsis: Chroma's future may depend on its own internal relationships;international examples of Wendy's observations at Chroma highlight the importance of internal synchronicity;customers are important and the science drives those relationships, keeping Chroma and scientists at the forefront of research and application.

00:38:15 - Retirement and Chroma Moving Forward

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Partial Transcript: When did you retire? [What pressures do you remember were on the company around then]

Segment Synopsis: About early- to mid- 2013/14. Paul has been talking about retiring for years. Wendy felt that the company was evolving beyond her capabilities; Chroma currently updating different systems in the company (finance, HR, engineering); the board is writing its charter, identified 5 chief positions; different requirements from customers, partners, different work groups in the company.

00:45:50 - Comparing Chroma's Model

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Partial Transcript: I'm comparing Chroma to this etheric, non-existent perfect corporation that is hierarchical... take from Frank, there's this magic that exists, it's, it's etherical: it's not tangible, that it can't be defined; there is some, something that's informing this, the longevity of the company, its continual growth....

Segment Synopsis: Chroma interviewed other employee owned manufacturing companies in the area; ESOPs seem to also follow by different rules than Chroma because of their own model; how democracy isn't deeply integrated with the ESOP model; critical decisions being made with many people.

00:50:19 - Chroma, Mondragon, and Other Models of Participation in Decision-Making and Ownership

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Partial Transcript: Have you heard the Mondragon Cooperatives in Spain?

Segment Synopsis: Wendy has read a lot about Mondragon; other high-tech companies that are employee owned; differences between Mondragon and Chroma; company culture, homo- and heterogeneity; plywood coops of the Pacific Northwest; ESOPs and do they require management to incorporate democratic participation.

01:01:28 - Planning for the Future

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Partial Transcript: How has Chroma in the past, around forward thinking, how has the company thought forward, you know, five to ten years? Has there been attempts to plan forward and set goals and attempts to achieve them periodically?

Segment Synopsis: There have been meetings for 5 and 10 year meetings; physical and literal constraints of growth; internal documentation, responsibilities; involvement of other work groups;

01:04:16 - Historical Moments in Chroma

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Partial Transcript: In your tenure were there other significant historical changes in the company?

Segment Synopsis: Pay structure; growth; Chroma's business; technological change; 89 North; working with scientists.

01:11:30 - Closing Comments

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Partial Transcript: So we're now at an hour and 11 minutes, is there anything else you wanted to talk about it?

Segment Synopsis: Not much more from Wendy; these interviews have helped build upon the themes of employee experiences, company history, organizational structure, and employee-ownership culture.