By Liz Warren-Pederson
Jim Muzzy grew up in Tucson. After graduating from high school in 1957, he joined the Air National Guard and spent a year of active duty, which helped him focus on the importance of going to college. “I enrolled in the Engineering College at the UA, but after nearly three years in the program, I decided I wouldn’t make a good engineer.” He transferred to business, where he majored in economics and minored in math. “My future wife had a year to complete her business degree,” he said, so Muzzy stayed on and completed his MBA on an accelerated schedule.
After graduation, Muzzy and his wife, Pam, moved to California, where Muzzy initially worked as an industrial engineer. He eventually gravitated toward a career in finance, which culminated in 1971, when he co-founded Pacific Investment Management Company (PIMCO) with Bill Gross and Bill Podlich.
At the time, Muzzy hadn’t thought of himself as an entrepreneur. “I didn’t know it was in me,” he said. “I had two small sons and one on the way. Pam was very supportive, but her only request was, ‘Make sure we have insurance.’”
Creating and building PIMCO into a brand name was an entrepreneurial experience. “Failure was never a part of the discussion,” he said. “When we started PIMCO, we had no idea how difficult it would be. We didn’t have a well thought-out road map for those first five years, but by the eighth year, we knew PIMCO was going to be a strong, competitive force in institutional money management.” PIMCO set itself apart from other money managers with a philosophy of actively managing bond portfolios, as opposed to a “buy and hold” strategy, which was common at that time. The company focused on institutional investors such as pension plans, endowments, and foundations.
“A great idea is only the beginning,” Muzzy said. Looking back, he said the three founders were all driven to succeed and didn’t accept the idea of defeat, which contributed to the entrepreneurial culture they built within PIMCO. He explained the company’s success in five words – “focused, solutions-oriented, and results-driven.” All employees were asked to focus on “being best of class” in carrying out their job responsibilities, and to be solutions-oriented in addressing problems and seeking opportunities. “Once the opportunity or problem was identified, one needed to be results driven by picking up the baton and taking it to the finish line, instead of expecting someone else to do it,” Muzzy explained.
In the mid-80s, he developed an interest in the newly-formed entrepreneurship program at Eller, then under the leadership of Gary Libecap. “One thing that struck me was that grades were not at the top of the list for being selected to enter the program – I related to that,” he said. The Muzzys also established a chair in entrepreneurship, which is now held by McGuire Center director Bob Lusch. “Long story short,” he said, “we felt it was important to support a program helping students understand what it takes to be an entrepreneur in creating and building a company.”
Several years ago, McGuire leadership approached Muzzy about supporting the new Entrepreneurship and Innovation Initiative (EI Initiative), which aimed to create a required class in entrepreneurship for undergraduate students. He was hesitant at first. “You don’t teach someone to be an entrepreneur, for it is in one’s DNA,” Muzzy said. But the team of then-director Sherry Hoskinson and Lusch made a compelling case. “I decided we would fund the project on a year-to-year basis, much like an angel investor funding a startup company.” Muzzy also asked the team to develop metrics of success for the program.
The EI Initiative launched four years ago. “In hindsight, it was too broad because it included pre-business students,” Muzzy said. “So, like any new endeavor, we learned from our mistakes and the class is now only offered to Eller seniors.”
The class focuses on building critical thinking skills – which, along with many of the attributes that Muzzy and his colleagues built into the entrepreneurial culture of PIMCO, is giving students an advantage whether they graduate into positions with start-ups, small businesses, established corporations, or even their own ventures.
In addition to funding the curriculum development for the EI Initiative, the Muzzys have also funded the remodel of a classroom in McClelland Hall that will be the hub of entrepreneurial activity in the College. Construction is underway now and will be complete in September.
Top image of construction on the EI classroom by YA Leyva.