Politics will not determine your company’s success or failure in 2017, notwithstanding all the extraordinary events of the last year. As important as the ballot box is, it has significant limitations in the business world. Information about your company, its industry segment, the competitive landscape, market opportunities and challenges and how you harness these will be more critical in determining how your enterprise performs this year and beyond.
Brexit or Remain; Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton; Angela Merkel or someone else; China or the United States. The business of electronics goes on. Through war and peace, earthquakes, hurricanes and tornadoes, famines, drought and flooding, global warming, melting polar ice and desertification, high or low interest rates, weak and strong currencies. Whatever. The business of electronics goes on.
On Tuesday, November 8, 2016 – the day of the recent U.S. elections – I stayed up till the wee hours of the next day, monitoring U.S. TV networks and waiting for a presumptive winner to be declared. I finally fell asleep around 4 a.m. but was back on the road a couple of hours later, driving to my first meetings at the biennial Electronica Trade Exhibition in Munich, Germany.
The event grounds were packed much like they had been in the previous day. Nobody at my meetings brought up the U.S. elections. Lindsley Ruth, group CEO of Electrocomponents PLC, chatted briefly about the direction of the market, his 3-pronged strategy for boosting growth at the distributor and plans for the next year. The company had achieved or exceeded many of the goals Ruth outlined when he joined the company in April 2015. However, it can do better and it will, he says, before hurrying off to his other meetings. I didn’t bring up the U.S. elections and neither did he. I don’t recall even thinking about it and Ruth didn’t jog my memory either. He had other things on his mind.
At Arrow Electronics’ Electronica booth, I spoke briefly with Martin Bielesch, president EMEA components, Jörg Strughold, VP, sales components, EMEA, John Drabik, VP global PEMCO supplier marketing and Andrew Bickley, technology marketing director, IoT & Connectivity, EMEA region. They all had a few words to say about their businesses and departments. But all of them were also hurrying to appointments. Nobody had time for politics. Donald Trump didn’t feature in our discussions. It was all about bits and bytes, logistics, customer satisfaction, strategic operational alignments, management initiatives, market opportunities, obstacles and potential solutions.
If any bit of politics came up at all during my discussions with these executives it centered on the politics of mergers and acquisitions in the electronics industry and how companies are positioning themselves for growth and tapping opportunities opening up as 5G, IoT and automation begin to explode across the landscape.
My meeting with America II Electronics Inc. founder and CEO Michael Galinski and president Brian Ellison followed the same trajectory. The Florida-based components distributor is expanding and adding engineering resources to better serve customers and suppliers, they said. Merkel, Vladmir Putin and Chinese president Xi Jinping didn’t feature in our discussion.
I later met executives at Future Electronics Inc. Their conference rooms were packed. Suppliers streamed in and the mood was upbeat. The Canadian component distributor was on a roll, adding new suppliers and forging tighter relations with existing ones. A senior executive at Future Electronics popped out of a meeting briefly to tell me “We are doing fine, we are doing fine.” Hillary Clinton didn’t come up in the discussions.
TE Electronics, NXP Semiconductors, STMicroelectronics, Infineon Technologies, Qualcomm and dozens of other companies were high on my list. I succeeded in visiting their booths but getting face time with the executives was difficult. They were all so busy. Hans Adlkofer, VP and head of automotive systems group at Infineon, was engrossed in answering questions about how to secure networked systems in vehicles, thwart hackers and assure customers the next-generation products would live up to expectations.
At Electronica, the last thing on Adlkofer’s mind was politics, American, British, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Russian or whoever else. I cornered him briefly, one of a clutch of people waiting to speak with him. Finally, I grabbed a couple of minutes of Adlkofer’s time. Not a nanosecond of that was spent on politics. I couldn’t afford to use my allotted time discussing current events. It was all business. He agreed to answer questions on the phone. Not a minute will be spent on politics except perhaps on the regulation of airwaves and how this might impact connectivity in automobiles.
Politics is important. It plays a major role in everything we do and political leaders can influence events in electronics and other economic segments. But electronics industry executives also know, perhaps better than many others, that the success of their operations will not be determined by politicians. Governments are needed to help create a stable environment and provide the infrastructure that companies need to be successful.
There’s a place where business and politics mix but nobody wins at the individual enterprise level by basing future success on closely aligning with who is in power today or who will succeed them tomorrow. Winning in this highly competitive marketplace comes from innovations in products and processes. It does not come from politicking.
Bolaji Ojo is editor-at-large at EPSNews. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author alone who promises to base his sometimes biased, possibly ignorant, occasionally irrelevant but absolutely stimulating thoughts on the subjective interpretation of verifiable facts alone. Any comments should be sent to the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.