Profits or Politics: Where’s Your Company’s Focus?

On paper, Bryce was a rock star.

In person, Bryce was a costly mistake.

When Bryce strolled through his company’s headquarters sipping his gourmet triple latte and waving to the little people (as he dubbed them), every front line employee noticed. They snickered at his confident strut leftover from his days fronting a band. They recognized his disdain for real work. And they were appalled by his self-serving power plays. Sure, Bryce flashed plenty of smiles. He slapped high fives and offered up empty promises like a candidate running for mayor. But poor follow-through was Bryce’s legacy. He seldom kept his word. In short, Bryce was a leadership disaster!

How does one spot an emerging “Bryce” before his decisions crater your company?

Here are five ways to detect a political player like Bryce in the making.

1. Political players fixate on the wrong numbers.

Take our buddy Bryce for instance. Bryce kept “real-time stats” on the total number of employees who reported into his organization. Bryce frequently boasted that a significant portion of the operation reported to him or one of his people. That’s how Bryce boosted his shaky self-esteem. He added people while he talked a great game and tried hard not to mess up in front of his boss. Bryce figured as long as he had an adequate number of people to throw under the bus at the opportune moment, he would be too big to fail. Bryce fixated on employee count, not profitability.

2. Political players recruit, hire and promote people like themselves.

It’s true. Birds of a feather flock together. Self-absorbed power junkies are obsessed with protecting their titles at all costs. Consequently they try to hire people who are singularly loyal to them. Often they find themselves at odds with an underling more loyal to the company. When they do, they will quickly take any measure imaginable to rid their team of those who are looking out for the good of the whole.

Fortunately, oil and water don’t mix. Employees and leaders who are truly concerned about the welfare of the whole are turned off by those who seek to play the system. Case in point. Bryce’s demise began when his peers became as disillusioned with him as his front line employees were. Bryce’s hiring and promoting of other politically minded employees initially went unchecked because his colleagues were immersed in their own immediate concerns.

3. Political players manage up and cover up.

After all, the Bryces of the world tend to perform for an audience of one. Their boss! Political players will often freely (and unnecessarily) sacrifice their team’s welfare for the sake of keeping the boss happy or shielded from the truth. This is not always a reflection on their boss. He or she may have been misled about the details two or three levels down. The political player likes vagueness and fuzzy business practice. Transparency is not typically part of their game plan. They operate in the shadows where almost no one has insight to their treatment of the people.

4. Political players encourage a zero sum mentality.

Some got to win, some got to lose. That’s the chorus to every song for a corporate politician. In their world, there is no such thing as a win-win outcome. And their department heads also propagate this win-lose mindset. The political player seldom takes the time to seriously evaluate a balanced option. They want to win at all cost.  And their politically-motivated direct reports know instinctively not to cross the boss. It wouldn’t be prudent. Political players win by short-changing the organization.

5. Political players come with plenty of hidden costs.

As I later met with the CEO’s management team, we inventoried the true cost of having Bryce in power. It became apparent that he had made dozens of unnecessarily costly decisions. Bryce built a division that could never reach profitability. He pushed technology that he preferred versus exploring for new IT solutions that would best serve the company. Bryce delegated all authority to managers who were either asleep at the switch or pandered for his favor. As a result, the company was paying extraordinary sums for expensive logistics initiatives that delivered a poor customer experience. Bryce’s salary and benefits were only a tiny fraction of his real cost to the company.

Sooner or later the results speak for themselves. The results of Bryce’s self aggrandizing moves were draining the company’s balance sheet and delaying success. Once realized, Bryce was given a fair severance package and hustled out the door.

Avoid the heartache, headache and howling that political players bring to their companies. Ask yourself these five questions about each member of your management team:

  1. Does _____ fixate on the wrong numbers?
  2. Does _____ overlook or ignore loyal company employees who do good work?
  3. Does _____ recruit, hire and promote individuals who pander to them?
  4. Does _____ quickly adopt the easy solution that best serves their self-interest?
  5. Does _____ make costly decisions because s/he is self-absorbed?

If any of your leaders (or employees for that matter) cause you to answer “yes” to three or more statements, you have an opportunity to lower your operating cost substantially. Consider replacing that person with a competent leader who really cares about your company. If you must, look outside your company. Remember… hire for character and train for skills.

Ironically, Bryce’s follow-up gig gave him the spotlight to swagger like an actual rock star. You can catch Bryce and his new band playing weekends on the Jersey Shore. At least now the only cost for watching Bryce perform is the cover charge.

Don’t let a political player on your payroll. Today is the day to shine the spotlight on each of your leaders and objectively evaluate their performance.

Keith Martino has a passion for helping engineering executives achieve stellar results. Martino authored the book Expect Leadership in Engineering. In addition, the team at Keith Martino has designed and launched Leadership Institutes at multiple engineering firms across the US. Martino is quoted in Young Upstarts, Entrepreneur Magazine, NewsMax Financial, the FedEx Worldwide Manager’s Pak, and several metropolitan business and industry trade journals. For more information visit keithmartino.com.

New Podcast with Marc Benowitz of iNEMI

Our latest podcast features Marc Benowitz, the new CEO of iNEMI. Before joininh the electronics consortium, he spent nearly 40 years at AT&T, Lucent, Alcatel-Lucent and Nokia Bell Labs, where he began as a member of the technical staff in the interconnect technology lab, and ultimately worked his way up to senior director of the reliability, hardware test and eco-environmental engineering organization.

He speaks with me about the transition from the private sector to fulltime consortia work, and his goals and priorities for iNEMI at pcbchat.com.

Shocker at Sanmina

Jure Sola spent 26 years atop Sanmina as chairman, president and eventually CEO. His replacement lasted less than 12 months.

In a stunning announcement, Sanmina today announced the resignation of Bob Eulau as chief executive. The move is effective immediately.

Eulau was handpicked to replace Sola as chief executive of Sanmina, a move that took effect last October. At the time, Sola gushed over his successor’s abilities, stating “Bob has a deep understanding of Sanmina’s strategy, customer focus, technology offerings and day-to-day execution. I am confident we’ve selected a strong leader. Bob’s wealth of experience and strong leadership are invaluable to the strategic direction of Sanmina and are precisely what Sanmina needs for a successful future.”

What changed in a year? Often, quick changes like this are tied to financial issues or disagreements with the board over direction. Sanmina was quick to reaffirm financial guidance for its current quarter, and is on pace to surpass last fiscal year’s revenue total. At the low end of guidance, the EMS firm will top $7.1 billion, about 3% more than the prior fiscal year. In its most recent earnings call, Eulau forecast increasing margins and yield improvements.

Michael Clarke, another Sanmina alum and a current board member, will take over come Oct. 1.

PCB Chat: California Prop 65, RoHS, and REACH with Brenda Baney

Brenda Baney has been addressing product environmental regulations for over 20 years.  She began with General Motors as a materials engineer, where she was at the forefront of the automotive industries material compliance reporting.  Brenda has led internal company projects on elimination of CFCs, lead solder, hexavalent chromium, and a myriad of other substances of concern. She has been a leader within both automotive and electronics industry groups covering topics like ionic cleanliness of printed circuit boards, lead-free solder, End-of-Life Vehicle, RoHS and REACH compliance, and is considered a supply chain expert for material content reporting.

Baney was the Product Stewardship Manager for Delphi, where she led the reporting of complex material compliance data on hundreds of thousands of parts successfully. She also created an internal Conflict Minerals cross-functional team leading Delphi to be named as the Number One automotive component supplier in the 2015 Assent Conflict Minerals rating.

In March 2016, Baney founded B Cubed Consulting, where she works with automotive & other durable goods suppliers to keep strategies on course and stay up-to-date on the latest negotiations between industry and global government enforcement bodies.

She speaks about the new latest amendment to California Prop 65, plus REACH, RoHS and other related regulation issues with Mike Buetow on our latest edition of PCB Chat.

Will US Tariffs Accelerate ‘One China?’

Asian media are reporting that major Taiwanese ODMs are looking into relocating some production to the island as means to sidestep the US tariffs on imports from China.

DigiTimes reported today that Quanta Computer and Wiwynn are among those looking to avoid new duties on server-use motherboards, which represent a major product line for both ODMs.

Quanta builds server motherboards in Shanghai, then performs final assembly in Nashville, TN, and Fremont, CA, and Wurselen, Germany. Executives say the company might expand production outside China to make up for any domestic reduction.

Wiwynn, which is part of Wistron, also has production in China. It performs performs final assembly in Mexico.

Question: With China increasingly flexing its authority over Taiwan, will moves by companies in the critical technology space accelerate or exacerbate Chinese claims to Taiwan?

Tariffs are Taxing the Supply Chain

The breaking tariff situation in the electronics industry is equal parts fascinating and chilling because of its lack of near-term precedence and unpredictability. We’ve spoken with several EMS companies (read the article here) to gauge the extent of the disarray and get a sense of how they are (attempting to) resolve the issue.

Our reporting is ongoing, so be sure to check back occasionally for updates.

 

 

Think Like the Owner (and One Day You Will Be!)

How to Maximize Your Value to the Boss

Jerry wasn’t your average engineer.

While his college classmates fascinated on academics, Jerry raced down the sidelines snagging sizzling passes for the Baylor Bears. Soon he scored a much sought after intern offer from NASA and bought an acoustic guitar to serenade the boot scooters. What could have been more thrilling than to see an inspired young man from Shreveport, LA reaching for the stars and achieving success?

But, ultimately talent is finite, youth is fleeting and good looks are quite common.

As he rose through the corporate ranks, the traits that made Jerry his company’s most valuable player year after year had little to do with his athletic prowess or his love for a catchy tune. Jerry’s secret formula was his priceless perspective. His worldview.

Jerry thought like a business leader. Every day. In every situation. And when the opportunity presented itself, Jerry overcame all the challenges of an economically distressed childhood to buy majority ownership in his company. Jerry thought like an owner and became one.

Could you do the same? Could you propel yourself into another universe by changing the way you approach your job. We believe you can. We hope you will. But, hope is not a strategy.

As it turns out, there is no average engineer. There are only engineers who think like employees and engineers who think “like a boss.” The daily choices you make are indicative of the path you’re on. So test yourself while there’s time to adjust and ramp up your game.

Here are 12 questions you can quietly ask yourself to predict your outcome.

True or False:

_____ I do what is right for my customer, company, and team regardless of personal sacrifice.

_____ I press forward with good ideas, even if they are unpopular.

_____ I aim for goals higher than any manager will set for me.

_____ I do not give in to group pressures simply to avoid confrontation.

_____ I consistently give truthful feedback to customers, superiors, and teammates.

_____ I adhere firmly to a code of business ethics and moral values.

_____ Change always brings opportunity. Stagnation limits opportunity.

_____ I practice a disciplined approach to self-improvement.

_____ I have a method for prioritizing my opportunities today.

_____ I successfully make others enthusiastic about opportunities that require extra effort.

_____ I transmit a sense of purpose about all that I do.

_____ I am accountable for my actions and accept responsibility for my mistakes.

If you answered true to nine or more of these statements, you are on the right road to wind up steering your own endeavor. If you answered false to three or more of these statements, you’ll likely always report to someone else. It’s all a matter of your objectives.

Jerry knew from early in life that he wanted to reach his full potential, whatever that might be. I have no doubt that if you asked him today, he’d tell you that he’s still in the relentless pursuit of excellence. In other words, he isn’t done! He’s still streaking for the goal line.

Baylor University recently built a stunning new stadium in Waco, TX, with world-class amenities. On any given Saturday night, you’ll find Jerry up in the stands. His heart is always in the game. And if you wander up to Jerry, ask him if you should aspire to own your own company. He will likely chuckle, wish you much success and suggest that you will have to make that decision for yourself. But regardless of your goals, Jerry will say, “be the best YOU that you can be.”

 

Keith Martino has a passion for helping engineering executives achieve stellar results. Martino authored the book Expect Leadership in Engineering. In addition, the team at Keith Martino has designed and launched Leadership Institutes at multiple engineering firms across the US. Martino is quoted in Young Upstarts, Entrepreneur Magazine, NewsMax Financial, the FedEx Worldwide Manager’s Pak, and several metropolitan business and industry trade journals. For more information visit keithmartino.com.

 

 

 

 

What’s In a Brand? In EMS, Apparently Everything

The evolution of the EMS company as a “brand” is nearly complete.

Since a group of industry folks (including our columnist Sue Mucha) came up with the term at an industry meeting more than 25 years ago, the once common jargon of “board stuffers” has been vacated. In its place, the industry substituted CEM (contract electronics manufacturer) or EMS (electronics manufacturing services). Contract assembler, while still commonplace in conversation, is less preferred in writing, especially on corporate websites.

Now, the self-branding of EMS companies has taken over. No longer content with being grouped as an industry, EMS firms are taking matters into their own hands, outsourcing (get it?) their marketing to high-profile branding firms and adding a heavy dose of pizzazz along the way.

One well-known makeover is the company formerly known as Flextronics. Its style experts gave a haircut to its name (“Flex”), and added a sleek tagline: From Sketch to Scale.

Not to be outdone, Jabil is “A Trusted Product Solutions Partner+.” I’m not sure what the “+” means, exactly, but maybe it has something to do with Jabil’s alternate slogan: “Empowering Brands / Empowering the World.” That sounds exhausting.

Asia is getting in on the act. Wistron will serve you “Cradle to Cradle.” (That refers to the lifespan of electronics, but if my kids’ habits are any indicator, it could extend much further.)

Compal‘s catchphrase leans toward the esoteric: “From Vision to Reality.” If that’s too vague, the rest of it (“Innovation Empowered”) won’t help.

Taking its cue from the intelligent factory, Sanmina is now Sanmina 4.0. Plexus is “The Product Realization Company.”

Tier 2 companies are also jumping on the bandwagon. Neways is now “Your EMS Lifecycle Partner.”

Of course, not every firm has caught the branding wave. For instance, AsteelFlash is Electronics Manufacturing  Services, Mastered,” while NeoTech is taking a more traditional approach with its slogan, “Providing Electronics Manufacturing Services That Deliver Value.” Someone better clue them in, stat.