Steve Bakos, senior vice president for worldwide sales and marketing for Exar, talks to Steve Rogerson in our series of interviews for CIEonline. Bakos was appointed senior vice president for worldwide sales and marketing for Exar in July 2012. He has nearly 25 years of experience in analogue and mixed signal sales and marketing, including over ten years of executive management experience.
Bakos began his sales career at National Semiconductor. He then spent the next 11 years at Linear Technology where he held various sales and marketing management positions. In 2002, he joined Xicor as vice president of worldwide sales until the company was acquired by Intersil in July 2004. At Intersil, he was appointed vice president of sales for the Americas and global distribution, a role he held from 2004 until 2006. Bakos spent the next several years as vice president of sales and senior vice president of marketing and sales for Sitime and Active-Semi, respectively. Prior to joining Exar, he served as vice president of worldwide sales at Conexant Systems.
He holds a bachelor of science in engineering degree from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. He is married with three children, played on a baseball team at university, is a multi-engine instrument rated private pilot, an avid fisherman (bass fishing and fly fishing), a 4.0 rated tennis player and a certified scuba diver. He also likes to read quantum physics books.
1. Louis DiNardo became Exar’s CEO 18 months ago. How has he changed the way the company is run?
He changed virtually everything. If you look back at our history – we have been around since the 1970s – we have gone through varying degrees of success. The last decade was the low point. It was losing money consistently, it had lost its focus, had given up its legacy on analogue products. So when Lou joined the company it was not performing. He found a company that was bloated, lacked discipline and lacked focus.
He changed the whole management team and cut the number of employees by 40 per cent. We are now back in the black and we are doing more with fewer people. We are focussing on analogue product again. He changed just about everything.
2. Why do you find quantum physics interesting?
Quantum physics is fascinating. I’ve always had a like for science. The rules that govern the extremely small are completely different to what governs the world at our scale. Mind-boggling things happen at that scale. It blows Newtonian physics out of the water. It is a world governed by probability and small vibrating pieces of energy. Quirky things happen and I find it fascinating.
The maths though are way over my head. I have an engineering degree but with this I’m happy to be a spectator. A great author called Brian Greene does a great job in making it understandable.
3. What are the main differences you’ve seen in sales and marketing techniques in different parts of the world?
I’ve seen companies try to segregate and segment marketing and customers with different sales teams, and it depends on the products you are selling. We had to break up our sales team with different people for the data compression and storage side, which is a different sell to our other products. It requires its own dedicated sales team.
When it comes to channel partners, they are looking more similar round the world, but there are regional differences. The distributor model in Europe is starting to become similar to the USA, but in Europe the distributor channel is still very technically rooted, but is consolidating with the larger players taking hold. There are fewer regional distributors.
The US is very rep heavy. These are manufacturers’ representatives. They are not stocking products but are a dedicated sales force. Distributors have many lines and competing lines, and they do stock product. The rep is more prevalent in the US but Europe has fewer of them. But in Europe, global distributors have purchased a lot of small regionals.
Asia has virtually no reps, but is dominated by distributors. The large ones are beginning to move in but the regional and local distributors are still prevalent.
4. How do you respond to people who say fishing is a cruel sport?
I am a catch-and-release fisher, so hopefully that makes me a little less cruel. Some say there are not as many nerves in a fish’s mouth as in other parts. But this is my hobby. I don’t see it as a cruel hobby or I wouldn’t do it. You are hunting. You are trying to figure out what they are doing and how to get them to eat an artificial lure. I try to fool them and then throw them back and try again.
5. Exar has recently acquired Altior and Cadeka Microcircuits. What was the idea behind that?
Altior was a really nice technical acquisition for our data compression and storage arm. Their expertise is in their plug-and-play software. They can plug in and that offloads the compression, and the customer does not have to do a lot of software code to evaluate that. We are now putting that plug-and-play software onto our existing products and we will continue that into our next generation. It was a small company with a niche software advantage that was vital to us.
Cadeka Microcircuits was a tremendous pick-up for our components business. It is a nice complement to our existing product lines. They were innovators in high-speed amplifiers. They were purchased by National Semiconductor and then span back out. Their products fit wonderfully into the instrumentation customers we are selling to. Their products are used extensively by all these customers. We are very excited to have them on board.