As spring turned to summer last year, Tektronix Inc., Beaverton, Ore., quietly announced a break-up. It had decided to create two independent companies: one for its color printing and imaging division and the other—which would keep the venerable name—for its test and measurement division.
This idea of creating two separate companies never quite materialized, though. In August, the company announced the sale of its video and networking business. Then, a month later, it announced an agreement with Xerox Corp. to sell the color printer division. Xerox completed that buy in January.
This was the state of affairs as I headed off to the Tektronix Business and Technology Conference 2000 in February. Oh, one other thing. In mid-January, Tektronix named Rick Wills its new president and CEO.
Naturally, on the first day of the conference, we all got to hear Rick speak. And I call him Rick for a reason. He asked me to. He requested that everyone at the conference call him Rick. I thought this was a bit hokey when I first heard him say it. Howard Vollum, one of the founders of Tektronix, also was a first-name kind of guy. I figured Rick was just trying to conjure up memories of those days, but I was wrong.
That night, the company invited everyone to dinner at the Oregon History Center. After touring the center, I sat down to eat with a few people. Just as we were finishing, along came Rick with two members of the German press. They sat down at our table. I was taken aback, but since he had requested it that morning, I just said, "Hi, Rick" and introduced myself. It was as simple as that.
We all talked for a while as if we were old buddies. I have to admit that I never felt so comfortable chatting with the president and CEO of a major company.
During his morning speech, Rick spoke about Tektronix as a growing, global, technology-rich company that's poised for the future. "We are focused only on test, measurement, and monitoring. We are a focused company," he said. I, for one, was glad to hear this. I never thought there was much synergy between the two divisions. The breakup can only produce a stronger test and measurement company.
As he continued speaking, you could sense his enthusiasm. At one point in his speech, he reminded the audience that test equipment is a very important part of the electronic-design equation. "Because nothing gets built, nothing gets shipped, nothing gets deployed unless it's tested first," he said.
He mentioned that the primary market for Tek-tronix scopes is telecommunications. Companies in this industry push the edge of technology and deal with the unknown. They need products from Tektronix and others to make sure their technologies work.
The company is focusing on the computer and telecommunications industries too, including their semiconductor needs. It's also focusing on industry leaders, developing relationships with companies such as Intel, Nokia, Ciena, Pirelli, and Alcatel. Rick wants Tektronix to grab on and go along for the ride.
"If they're wrong, we're wrong," he stated. "But if they're wrong, the whole world is headed in another direction. We have to work together so we have the right test products when they need them, not afterwards." Another focus for Tektronix is applications such as third-generation (3G) wireless communications, Rambus, embedded DSPs, and optical networks.
Rick's philosophy? Customer focus, have a lot of fun, be aggressive, be winners, and help customers accomplish what they're trying to achieve. I believe he has the right idea, as well as the vision to lead this fine company.