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Businessweek Archives

High Hurdles Are Jerry Rogers' Specialty

Science & Technology


When Gerald D. Rogers decided to co-found Cyrix Corp. and take on Intel Corp. at its own game, he knew what he would be facing. While at Texas Instruments Inc., Rogers had bumped heads with Intel only occasionally, but it was often enough to teach him some hard lessons--such as the importance of building customer relationships.

Rogers learned that when Intel clobbered him to win a chip order from Ford Motor Co. While Rogers struggled to get the business as part of a TI twosome, Intel outgunned him by assembling a large team that worked simultaneously with various levels of Ford decision-makers to satisfy their needs. The next time he faced Intel, Rogers used similar tactics--and clinched a hefty contract for TI with General Motors Corp.'s Delco Electronics Corp. "I learned from Intel--and beat 'em," he gloats.

Such grit has taken Jerry Rogers--that's how his business card reads--a long way. Now 48, Rogers grew up dirt-poor in Sidney, Neb., a small farm community. His parents divorced when he was 10, and he never saw his alcoholic father again. Left alone to raise four children, Rogers' mother worked in a dry-cleaning plant and took other odd jobs to make ends meet. When young Jerry broke a tooth while swimming, Anna Rogers paid the dentist's bill by cleaning the dental office for two years. Jerry and his siblings also pitched in. During high school, he held down two jobs: grocery-store bagger and theater clerk.

NO FRILLS. His upbringing couldn't help but shape his values. For example, though Rogers now drives a 1992 Mercury Cougar, that's only because his wife recently talked him into getting rid of a 1983 Thunderbird. "The thing was falling apart," says Ann Rogers, his high school sweetheart and wife of 30 years. Cyrix' offices also reflect Rogers' frugal tastes. The company is housed in a nondescript two-story building, and the executive suite is a 12-by-12 office.

More than anything else, though, Rogers' days in Nebraska planted an irrepressible yearning for success. "I'm frightened of failure," he admits. A self-proclaimed workaholic who enjoys running three miles or more whenever he gets a break, Rogers escaped Nebraska by enlisting in the Navy and serving seven years as an electrician. He rejoined civilian life in 1969, starting work at TI as an electronics technician but quickly bounding up the ladder. He became TI's first nondegreed engineer, then earned a computer-science diploma in night school at the University of Houston. In 1981, capping his career at TI, Rogers was picked to head the microprocessor division. Recalls TI Executive Vice-President Walden C. Rhines: "Jerry was the most demanding manager in my group. He was also the most outspoken. He didn't sugarcoat his ideas."

He hasn't changed. Last fall, Cyrix faced a potential delay in development of its 486 design. Rogers told Cyrix co-founder and former TI colleague Thomas B. Brightman to deal with the problem. Brightman stammered something about returning to Japan, where he had relocated to establish a Cyrix presence. "I was ordered to drop everything else" and get back to the U.S.--permanently, says Brightman, Cyrix' chief technical officer. "In 72 hours, I had retrieved my family and was back in Texas."

Rogers makes no apologies for such actions. "There's only one thing important to me: making Cyrix a success. Whatever it takes, that's what I'll do."Stephanie Anderson Forest in Richardson, Tex.

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