Zviki Govrin: A Kibbutz State of Mind
By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter
MILL VALLEY — Originally from Israel, Zviki Govrin spent many years running a kibbutz (a self-sufficient community where everything is shared collectively), which gave him a unique perspective later when he took over his father-in-law’s home improvement business. “I married the daughter of one of the founders of Goodman Building Supply, so I’m part of the family,” he explains. “After Dove and I got married, we continued to live in Israel for 16 years, where I was a chicken farmer and ran a kibbutz. In the early ’90s, my father-in-law bought his partner’s share of the business, and in 1995, we came to the United States to help run things. By 1999, I was running the entire business, and I’m still doing it today.”
Today, as owner of Goodman Building Supply, Zviki says he likes being in an industry that’s so vital to everyday life. “If you own a house, there’s always something that has to be done, which is where we come in. Owning a home is a big part of the American Dream, so I like the fact that we’re connected to such an important part of life here. It’s a lot more rewarding than selling chocolate or something.”
A resident of Terra Linda, Zviki expresses his appreciation for life in the Bay Area. “First of all, the weather is wonderful. Everywhere else in the world, the weather is either too hot or too cold, but here it’s perfect. Also, I love basketball, and with the Warriors doing so well these past few years, it has been an exciting time to be a fan in the Bay Area.”
Basketball is just one of many pastimes that Zviki enjoys in his free time. “My wife and I do a lot of traveling—not just to Israel, but all over the world,” he says. “We usually travel with my brother and his wife, and during the last few years we’ve been everywhere from South Africa to Iceland to China.” Zviki also enjoys reading and goes dancing with his wife every week. Furthermore, he likes to stay in touch with his three grown children, two of whom live in Israel and one of whom lives in Austin, Texas.
In regard to a professional philosophy, Zviki says his experience of running a kibbutz has informed his management style. “In a kibbutz, everything is shared and everyone is equal, whereas in a typical business setting, there’s a hierarchy and the employees are kept in the dark about things. When I took over ownership of Goodman Building Supply, I wanted to incorporate a bit of the kibbutz spirit by bringing what I call ‘open book management.’ Basically, this consists of creating a transparent environment where employees are more directly involved in company matters and share the rewards if the company does well. Since taking this approach, I’ve found our employees are happier and more invested in our success. In short, our business feels more like a family—like a kibbutz, even.”
When asked what he would do if he were to retire tomorrow, Zviki says he’d spend more time doing the things he currently enjoys. “I would travel more, read more—whatever I like to do, I’d continue doing it as long as my health allows. I’d also ask my kids to make more grandchildren. As of now, I have one, while my brother has 17. I know I’m never going to beat him, but if I can get at least five, I’ll be happy.”
Ask Me Anything!
Q: What’s your favorite sports team?
A: I’ve been a Los Angeles Lakers fan most of my life, but at some point they stopped being fun to watch, so I’ve defected to the Golden State Warriors.
Q: Coffee or tea?
A: Coffee. I’m a coffee junkie. I have all kinds of coffee makers—I even have a portable one in my car so I can make an espresso on the road if I have to!
Q: What kinds of books do you like to read?
A: Mainly comedies and thrillers. On the comedy side, my favorite author is Dave Barry. On the thriller side, I like Michael Connelly and Harlan Coben.
Q: Do you collect anything?
A: I used to collect stamps when I was a kid, but nowadays I collect gadgets, especially new things that come onto the market. I like going to trade shows and browsing crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter to find the latest innovative products.
Q: What’s your favorite thing to eat for breakfast?
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A: Fruit salad with fruit yogurt on top and a sandwich.