Executive Spotlight: Steve Beaumont
President, EMEAASkyWare Global
Mr. Beaumont is the President of EMEAA (Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia) of SkyWare Global. Steve has over 25 years experience as an energetic, focused executive in technology, media, telecommunications, consumer goods and manufacturing, and has worked with some of the worlds most distinguished companies, including the UKs BBC, ITV, BBSat, Spains Telefonica, Globecast, Gillette, and Parker Pen. Steve has most recently worked for EMC UK, where he served as an Executive-in-Residence focused on turnarounds and business development.
Prior to this, Mr. Beaumont served in CEO and Managing Director roles for companies in the video-over-the-Internet space where he was heavily involved with sales, marketing, operations and business development. Early in his career, Steve served as General Manager for Gillette Corporation, running the worldwide brand as Group Marketing Director, and eventually becoming Managing Director for all of Gillettes stationery product groups for Africa, Eastern Europe, Middle East and India. In these management roles, Steve was not only responsible for direct sales and the management of distribution partners, he also oversaw research and development, and manufacturing operations.
How did you become interested in the communications industry, SATCOM specifically?
A fascinating question; in reality I have always worked in the communications industry. I started my industrial career in the writing instrument industryitself a form of communication. Here I was fortunate enough to build my career through finance serving as Finance Director for Parker Pen, moving into running the UK plant (employing 1200 people at the time), into marketing and then completing this phase of my career running Eastern Europe, Africa, the Middle East and India.
The second phase of my progression was also in the communications arenavideo over the Internetfor Narrowstep, Inc, which was later successfully merged with Kit Digital. At the time this was an embryonic technologypre-YouTube. Having proven the technology we set about gaining customers and in the first year of my tenure we were able to take a fledgling company from almost zero sales to an annual run rate of $15m.
Following a couple of other roles, the opportunity to join Skyware Global arose. I felt that the Satcom sector offered another communications dimension, albeit one that was new to me. Having now worked in the industry for a number of years, I have to say it is a fascinating arena. Helping businesses to provide communication solutionswhatever their industryis incredibly rewarding. I am convinced that good communications is at the very heart of success and education.
How did you decide that Skyware Global was where you wished to develop your career?
Skyware Global combines engineering excellence with a truly global presence. Our ability to attract the best engineers in the business and use their skills in the design and manufacture of first class antenna and electronic solutions is a unique proposition. Skyware Global is an end-to-end provider of satellite solutions, and that is very appealing, not only to our global customer base, but also to me as an individualI like to be able to see an end product. The fact that we own and operate manufacturing facilities and are not merely sourcing product is a great advantage. It results in us being able to compete at different levels within the satellite food chain.
In addition to customer specific solutionsdesigned in-house alongside our customers engineering teamswe also produce standard products for both the DTH (Direct-to-Home) and VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal) markets.
In short, Skyware Global was a natural choice for me in that it manufactures to exacting standards, is home to arguably the best design engineers in the business, and offers opportunities to people like me to make a significant difference to the overall business.
As the PresidentEMEAA, can you tell us about your duties in this newly created role?
Our penetration across the globe varies by market. In the USA we are strong in the DTH and Broadband arenas. In the UK we are very focused on the DTH arena, and throughout the rest of my region we are significant players in the VSAT market. The beauty of the creation of our new strategic business unit covering Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia is that the region now has a championsomeone who wants to drive growth and deliver high-quality customer service, whether that is to the providers of DTH services, VSAT or via systems integrators. Over the years we have built up a strong network of reputable, professional distributors across this region and one of the roles for me and my team is develop these relationships further and to expand into countries where we might be less well represented. So, driving sales is the most important role.
Secondly, I am now responsible for our manufacturing facility in the U.K.a plant that has a strong reputation for both volume production and quality. It is my intention to build on this reputation and extend not only current production volumes but also introduce new products. While I am not at liberty to go into detail at this stage, I am able to confirm that we have a new product launch from our UK manufacturing plant starting in July this year.
Ultimately, my role is about delivering customer and shareholder value. Customer value comes in a multitude of deliverablesquality, on-time delivery, value added (design, engineering excellence), innovation, the services offered and price. If we can achieve the right blend of the above then the shareholder value is assured.
What do you see as Skyware Globals competitive advantages?
Engineering, both electronic and antenna; product offering; manufacturing; my colleagues commitment; product quality; and a global presence all combine to create Skyware Globals unique proposition. We know how to manufacture in high-volume and therefore competitively. Having a strong, reliable and professional distributor base for markets where we do not have a company presence is also important. There is an old adage that I am sure all of your readers will recognizepeople buy from peopleand this principle, alongside the fact that sales in our industry are generally a process rather than an event, makes it very important that we devote time to our customers and build strong business relationships with them; this we do and do well.
Product range combined with consistently high standards of quality is a must. A famous entrepreneur (George S Parker, 1888) once said: Make something better and people will buy it. This remains true today in any industry and it is certainly a standard that we operate to in Skyware Global.
I mentioned earlier our engineering capability. We have extensive research and development facilities in Scotland, England and Germany. I almost hate to think how many combined years of service our engineering teams have in the industry but I know it is significant. These groups provide innovative solutions to help meet the requirements of our customer base as well as design new generic products. Doing sales calls with any member of this group is a real pleasure.
What changes do you foresee for the company?
Change is essential. Not just for Skyware Global but for any business. Its why we have senior managerstheir role is arguably to design and effect change. Yes, its great to have a winning formula, but if you stay too long in the same position the competition will adopt and adapt your formula and steal your market share. Change has to be thoughtful, in-line with a strategy and work toward goals, as well as being implemented at a speed that your organization can cope with.
Skyware Global will evolve as it has done over the past four years, it will innovate, it will invest and it will continue to be successful as a result. We have just undergone a significant change in structurethe setting up of two distinct strategic business units. In each region, we have to play to our particular strengths, consolidate our respective positions and then push forward.
For the EMEAA region, we are in the process of defining our strategic goals, enforcing the strong customer relationships we have and defining how we can improve our service to these customers through improved service offering, new products and geographic reach. This inevitably will bring about some changes and will deliver on the expectation of customer and shareholder value.
What changes are you planning with your teams to better accomplish your product plans?
We started this interview discussing communication. Communication is the single most important element of education. It is how, after all, that we learn. My approach in terms of the teams I work with is to communicate openly. Allow open discussions, encourage input and create an atmosphere whereby individuals can perform. Each person has a specific task to accomplish and together we can accomplish far more than on our own. Sometimes it is easier to adopt the blinkered approach just head in a direction ignoring the impact a direction has on others, not appreciating the ramifications one set of actions has on another. While sometimes this can be a necessary path to take, generally it creates chaos.
The need for communication is not just an internal demand. True customer service requires us, as a company, to listen to our customers and suppliers. To truly hear what they are sayingor in some cases what they are not sayingwill help us develop the right strategic solutions in a timely and valued way.
How do you keep a check on overextending yours and your companys services, i.e., being all things to all needs?
Good question! I guess the short answer is with difficulty. It is very easy, especially in front of a customer, to want to say yes. This is where a good strategic business plan is of the essence. I dont mean that we have to blindly follow a plan without recourse to reality, but knowing which direction you drive a company is essential, if you are going to get there.
Knowing what you are good at is also an essential part of staying on track. We have carved out the markets we wish to operate in and those are the ones we are focused on. If opportunities arise, as they do, that are outside our core competence, we review them within the management team and decide if it is beneficial to both our customer and shareholders value proposition.
Even where we see a value, the next action is to evaluate the proposal on an opportunity/costs basis. Will the new demand prevent other projects being delivered-on in a timely manner? Are we able to adequately resource the new demand? Is the investment worthwhile? What happens if we do not accept the new opportunity?
It is this justification process that keeps all of us in check.
Do you plan to keep selling components?
We will continue to support our core product range. We have a clear warranty provision and spares policy. Our distributor base maintains good inventory holding of the core items in order to support local demand.
The Company had been concentrating its efforts to the commercial arena. However, last June, Skyware Global entered into the tactical satellite market. Could you explain the reasoning behind this decision and how such is aiding the Companys efforts? And, given the broadening scope of the Companys efforts, what sort of customer is Skyware Global targeting now? Could you explain the reasoning behind this decision
Its not only the tactical and military markets that we are expanding intobut also those with broadly similar needs, including homeland security, first responders and commercial broadcasters. While these markets have not traditionally been core to Skyware Global, we couldnt ignore what we were witnessing: increased demand in spite of decreasing budgets. We viewed these sectors as a niche in which we could exploit our core strengths, namely in-house design and manufacturing capabilities and our market-leading expertise in Ka-band.
... and how such is aiding the Companys efforts?
While the specific markets are relatively new to us, we believe a) that our core values and processes are transferrable, and b) that there is a marked opportunity to exploit our skills in the aforementioned sectors. Were investigating organic growth, potential partnerships and acquisitions and the development of completely new productsnot to mention re-engineered and re-packaged versions of existing, commercial products.
And, given the broadening scope of the Companys efforts, what sort of customer is Skyware Global targeting now
Skyware Global is targeting those in the industry that seek a high-tech, lower-cost terminal provider. A good number of our existing customers also have an interest in such adjacent markets so it is not a complete standing start. We are also going through an intensive period of relationship buildingspecifically with military contractors, system integrators, satellite operators and modem suppliersto better understand how we can best service these markets. Its an ongoing process, but one that is so far proving profitable.
From your first Channel Master antenna in 1949, to being the worlds only complete ODU provider on three continents, what is your game plan for maintaining your product leadership?
Innovation, quality and an ability to consistently remove costs from our manufacturing processes to retain our competitive edge. We are looking at some value-added services around the supply of our products but ultimately we come back to the ability to make something better.
We can only achieve this consistent leadership through our ongoing investment in our engineering resource and manufacturing capability. Its strange that a few years ago the trend was to get out of manufacturing. I strongly believe now that being able to manufacture as close to your market place as is economically feasible is a strong advantage.
I have made several customer visits this year and being able to offer local production, secure in the knowledge that the product will be manufactured to high-quality standards, has, and is, helping us win new customers.
How do you see the current EU financial challenges as affecting both your Companys efforts in this region of the world, as well as the SATCOM industry in general?
Clearly, the economic conditions are difficult. However, we can demonstrate sales growth through 2011 and are working hard to deliver growth again in 2012. We can point to customers that have struggled: most, that fortunately have survived and a small number that have not. The number of projects that are becoming visible is not diminishing. In fact throughout the broader European arena we have seen an increase. Satellites are still being launched, governments want to be re-elected and have a need to demonstrate activity and the expansion of, particularly, broadband services to the more remote areas. Customers based in Europe are working around the globe just as we are.
If there is going to be a negative to this industry I suspect it will be a few years out as initial investment projects become caught in the multitude of cost-cuttingnon essential investment programs.
Given the previous questions, how do you currently locate the candidates necessary for the increasing number of engineering positions at Skyware Global?
So far we have been fortunate in that we have access to seats of learning specializing in RF engineering. I acknowledge that it is difficult to find the right blend of professional engineering skills alongside a commercial understanding. We are also fortunate to have several PhD recipients, strong leadership in our engineering functions, and great engineers across all of the relevant sectors.
When discussing employment issues, we note that Skyware Global received an award as Employer of the Year. Congratulations and could you tell us about this award and its significance?
Skyware Global was been named Employer of the Year by the Disabled American Veterans and Auxiliary of North Carolina. The prestigious award recognises the companys peerless record in hiring both veterans and disabled veterans in line with its mantra: Talent has no boundaries: Workforce diversity includes workers with disabilities.
Over the past year, Skyware Global has distinguished itself to become the number one ranked employer of veterans in the state. Of the 175 employees hired this fiscal year, 12 percent were military veterans and of that 50 percent were disabled veterans. Over 10 percent of its total employees are disabled veterans a statistic that was particularly noted by the judging panel.
Looking back over your career, Mr. Beaumont, would you reflect and tell us about the projects that have brought you the most satisfaction?
This is truly a difficult question to answer. There are many memorable occasions all attracting satisfaction; introducing a limited edition writing instrument with a marketing programme whereby we asked hundreds of global celebrities to autograph a special book which was subsequently auctioned for UNICEF generating $100,000 for that organisation being one. Launching a complete product range in India for the first time and generating over $6m in sales in the first year is another.
It will sound minor to most but going on a sales call and achieving an order is always a buzz. Taking one of our customers at Skyware Global and doubling sales from $5m to $10m in one year is up there with the best.
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Building Transceivers + A New Division
The Company has a new Ka-band transceiver production line and testing facility in Cabuyao, Philippines.
The test system was commissioned, designed, and built entirely in-house by the companys RF Electronics group. The production line consists of seven independent test systems; each tester combines state-of-the-art test equipment with hardware and software custom designed by Skyware Global engineers to maximize testing throughput and ensure product quality.
Test data from each station is automatically stored to a local database and simultaneously streamed off-site to a remote redundant database located in Skyware Globals facility in the U.K. This approach guarantees data integrity, maximizes up-time and facilitates real-time yield monitoring and statistical process control. Traceability of individual transceiver sub-modules (i.e. filters, printed circuit boards and base castings) is built into the test data handling system, allowing sub-module test results for a given finished product to be immediately recalled.
David C. McCourt, Chairman of Skyware Global, said, This cutting-edge facility reinforces our position as the worlds leading Ka-band terminal supplier by ensuring high-quality and excellent value for both current and future Ka-band products.
David Geen, Vice President, Tactical Ground Systems, Skyware Global, added, In anticipation of our new Ka-band platforms having advanced functionality such as switchable polarization, band-switching and increased M&C capability, these high levels of testing and traceability allow Skyware Global to provide exceptional quality, reliability and performance to all our customers.
Initial production is focused on Skyware Globals latest high-volume Cielo platform, a fully integrated Ka-band VSAT transceiver that offers a unique combination of performance, cost and flexibility to Ka-band system operators worldwide.
The test systems were transported by sea to the Philippines in October of 2011 and successfully commissioned in the last week of 2011. Mass production is scheduled to start in Q1 2012 with a testing capability of more than 2,500 transceivers per month.
And, as we learned in the interview with Steve Beaumont, the Company has recently established the Tactical Ground Systems (TGS) division to enter the tactical satellite market. This division will exploit the companys existing in-house antenna and RF electronics design capabilitiesas well as its high-quality, high-volume production and low-cost credentialsto offer affordable solutions for fixed,
motorized and mobile tactical terminals for Defense, Homeland Security, Intelligence, First Responder, Emergency Services and other government and stringent commercial applications.
The TGS Group is rolling out a portfolio of products focusing on turnkey solutions for vehicle mounted, FlyAway and ManPack platforms in sizes ranging from 45cm to 2.4m and operating at C-, X-, Ku- and Ka- frequency bands.
David C. McCourt said, Skyware Globals long-term objective is to exploit our in-house antenna and RF electronics design capabilities to offer a truly holistic, integrated design approach which, in conjunction with our low-cost manufacturing and production methods, is unique in this industry. In a world of decreasing budgets and increasing demand, we intend to offer a portfolio of affordable solutions to the tactical community. We see this market as being underserved and, given the financial climate, believe we are well positioned to take advantage of this opportunity with our high-tech, low-cost credentials. Our expanding research and development department and the recent opening of a facility in Washington DC demonstrate our commitment to the industry.
Heading up the new division will be the newly appointed Dr. David Geen who will be the Vice President of Tactical Ground Systems alongside Mr. McCourt. Dr. Geen has more than 15 years experience in the design of communication systems for both terrestrial and satellite operations and has spent the past nine years managing the companys development of VSAT, broadband and DTH antenna terminals.
Dr. Geen said, By establishing the TGS division, we have the vehicle to deliver affordable innovation in what has traditionally been a high-cost market. We are already developing unique technologies in reflector deployment and transceiver electronics at Ka-band that will provide game-changing differentiators to our customers. Our proven track record in offering deeply integrated solutions, including third-party modems, will also appeal to the tactical market. With the drive to provide enhanced communications across the tactical edge, our intention is to offer significantly improved volume breaks to facilitate the rollout of communications equipment to more users.
Skyware Global has also appointed Ian Felkner as Senior Product Engineer for the TGS group. Mr. Felkner has more than 12 years of experience in the defense/aerospace industry, comprising specialism in flight hardware and avionics, armored military amphibious assault vehicles, secure tactical military communications products and experimental UAV vehicles. He will work out of the companys new engineering facility in Washington DC and will report directly to Dr. Geen.