NF: This is the second recent executive transition at Rohde & Schwarz. From the top down, what kind of company is being put in place in terms of culture, goals, etc.?
SB: Our company has a rich, 77-year history of product and technology leadership in the various business fields we participate in including test and measurement, broadcasting, radio monitoring, and secure communications. The management team believes strongly in the mission to achieve growth and capture the number one or two positions in every market in which we participate.
NF: How do you take a good company like Rohde & Schwarz and make it better?
SB: From a culture perspective, it is pretty hard to top the day-today feeling at Rohde & Schwarz. As a private family-owned company with a clear long-term view, we focus on solving our customers' applications 100 percent of the time and are not distracted with the short-term demands of public-market investors and public-company requirements. At our company, a long-term technology roadmap is exactly that, and we spend the time and resources to create the most comprehensive leading-edge products and services without regard to quarterly conference calls and investor conferences. The sheer performance advantage so evident in our products is directly related to allowing innovation to occur at the right pace.
NF: The firm successfully entered the oscilloscope market last year. Are there plans to branch into other new areas?
SB: To date, our success in test and measurement has been largely focused on radio communications and general-purpose frequency-domain instrumentation. There are large markets inside the T&M universe to which we believe we can add significant value for our customers. Oscilloscopes are a good example and, over time, there will certainly be others. Outside of test and measurement, we have significant investments in a variety of other business areas that we hope to bring to market soon. The radiomonitoring market in particular has some very exciting growth opportunities ahead.
NF: Even in the tough economy over the last few years, Rohde & Schwarz has kept investing in R&D. Did that decision come at a price?
SB: We believe we did the right thing by holding onto our employees and increasing our investment in R&D throughout the past two years. We emerged from this downturn with happy and motivated employees and a product roadmap that saw continual investment while others in the markets we serve cut back. We believe that share gains will be a direct result as the results of those investments come to market.
NF: Are decisions such as where to focus R&D funding and when to enter new markets driven by customers, internal goals and vision, or a mix of both?
SB: We spend a great deal of time as a team discussing investment strategy. Rohde & Schwarz is a very collaborative environment and the management team is very focused on growth and growth opportunities. We enjoy a very close partnership with our customers due to the strategic nature of many of the products we make. And they guide us with some internal strategy decisions to enter markets where we believe we can clearly differentiate and add value. A large part of the Rohde & Schwarz brand equity is product performancewhether that is accuracy, low noise, high bandwidth, or other specification attributes of the products we offer. The market-leading update rate and accuracy of the new oscilloscope products is a great example of how we enter markets. We typically try to change the playing field with performance improvements.
NF: Your personal history includes stints with USbased companies like Tektronix and LeCroy. Has it been difficult to move to a German-based company?
SB: Well, in my time with Tektronix as the US Communications Test Sales Manager in the '90s, I was responsible for bringing Rohde & Schwarz products to the US market as part of our joint development and distribution alliance. I continued to work with Rohde & Schwarz closely when I took over as VP and GM of the Communications Business Unit at Tek, so the folks at Rohde & Schwarz have known me for 17 years now.
After all that time, they still cannot understand why I can't speak German. I can't tell you how many meetings I attend in Munich where the presenter switches from German to English when he notices me in the room. I am sure they silently wonder why I can't manage to do two things at the same time. Come to mention it, my wife probably thinks the same thing!
NF: How has your professional experience prepared you for this role?
SB: I have been very lucky to work in a variety of sales, marketing, and general-management roles in my 28 years in test and measurement and with some of the best and brightest people at Tektronix and LeCroy. My challenges at Rohde & Schwarz will require me to tap into that experience significantly to achieve the growth goals ahead of us.
NF: Does anything about your new job keep you up at night? If so, what?
SB: Since the introduction of Rohde & Schwarz test and measurement products in the US in 1993, we have achieved steady share growth against our competitors. Our goal is clear: to capture the number one spot in our addressed markets. We are up against some pretty great competitors with great management teams. This challenge certainly keeps me up, but it is an exciting and fun challenge because I believe we have good momentum along with great people and products.