After 15 years as a standalone distributor, RFMW was recently acquired by TTI, and the company is now part of TTI’s semiconductor group. What motivated the decision to sell to TTI, and what benefits will your customers and the companies you represent see?
Our growth over the past 15 years has been impressive. But with that comes the reality of needing to fund our continued growth. As we looked towards the future through our strategic planning process, my business partner, Steve Takaki, and I knew we needed more resources, so we reviewed our options. One of those options was to look for partners who understand our strategy and invest in the future.
TTI has a long history and has maintained a similar, focused and consistent strategy. Their company culture, focus and reputation for superior customer service and technical expertise complements RFMW extremely well. They are a perfect fit for our specialty distribution model.
The benefit to customers and the companies we represent is that there will be no change. Our strategy remains consistent, and we will have more resources in the form of quality people, our usual but larger profiled inventory and advanced IT systems.
Now that you are part of TTI, how will your business strategy change?
RFMW will continue to operate as RFMW. We will continue to be the distributor and partner that we have always been. Our tagline is It's Who We Are, It's What We Do, and we live that every day.
Being a focused specialist themselves, TTI understands the value of what works and the benefit of sticking to what you know.
RF and microwave is in our DNA; it's how we support and provide value to our suppliers and our customers. We will remain who we are and continue to do what we do, which is focus on RF and microwave technology and solutions.
Looking back over the 15 years since you formed RFMW, how has the distribution business changed?
Distribution has become an even more integral part of the supply chain for the suppliers, becoming the intermediary that allows for an uninterrupted flow of goods and knowledge. More than simply having parts on the shelf when engineers need them, it’s understanding the product, the technology, the applications and the short- and long-term goals of both customers.
That’s a tremendous responsibility that requires continuous communication and a high level of trust from all parties.
What market trends are providing the greatest opportunities for RFMW?
We’ve seen an uptick in mil/aero requirements as the government funds crucial programs. Industrial applications are growing. 5G and IoT technology and rollout are a current trend, as companies scramble to capture a portion of the dollars generated for mobile devices from both entertainment and infotainment. Accordingly, test and measurement continues to grow, as those RF and microwave systems get more complex.
You have added quite a few companies to your line card during the past year or two. What’s the story behind that expansion?
Our goal has always been to support the RF portion of a customer’s block diagram with as much product as possible. We’ve been filling in some areas that were underrepresented and, as technology advances, finding suppliers with leading-edge solutions that our customers need to stay competitive.
Consolidations and mergers have affected our line card as well. Most of the time, it’s a benefit for our product offering.
You’ve also expanded your geographic presence. What are your plans for global coverage?
It’s a global economy and RFMW has pursued our goal to be a global company. We have operations throughout the Americas, Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Wherever it makes sense to support customers and suppliers, we’ve expanded into those areas.
Our operating system allows us to manage inventory worldwide and transition between currencies, making us a truly, global organization. Watch for more expansion in the near future.
Because your business is so broad — both customers and products — you have a unique view of the technology industry and economy. Are you bullish about the industry’s outlook over the next three to five years?
I am extremely bullish — of course keeping an eye on the macro economy and global political environment.
During your tenure in the industry, you’ve observed the dramatic change in China’s role in the technology supply chain, from a low cost yet low tech manufacturer to an increasingly capable creator of technology. Looking out 10 years, how do you see China impacting the RF/microwave industry? Will your line card shift to Chinese companies at some point?
Time will tell. We will keep an eye out based upon what our customers will need, and we will take into consideration what our current suppliers will be doing, also keeping in mind competitive, quality, and political perspectives.
How did you end up starting a distribution company? What career path led you to this role?
Scary enough, I’ve been in the distribution business for 50 years now, starting with a part-time job with a distributor, then selling electron tubes out of my bedroom in high school, evolving through bipolar RF power transistors to RF MOSFETs, then to GaAs and to GaN.
I’ve always been interested in the technology and have seen the changes over the years. Never claiming to be an engineer, but with the osmosis from a family of engineers and having been involved with ham radio, add in some curiosity and, eventually, experience, I ended up knowing a lot about the technology and its development.
Tell us one or two of the most formative lessons you’ve learned running a business.
Create win-win situations: be fair and honest in your dealings with people, and they’ll reciprocate.
Reward and take care of the people who are taking care of you.
Stay out of jail.