Unlike most CEOs, Glenn Smith focuses on the small things.
Since joining Mouser Electronic Inc. in 1973, Smith has raced to deliver the latest circuitry – sometimes as small as a grain of pepper – to electronics designers.
“Our thing is enabling their designs,” said Smith, greeting employees while strolling the aisles of the company’s 492,000-square-foot distribution facility in Mansfield.
Within the cavernous building beats the heart of a distribution hub gaining customers ever day. But the ability to equip the IPad of tomorrow was not achieved overnight.
Mouser was the brainchild of Jerry Mouser, a California physics teach who was seeking components to strt a high school electronics program. Finding no such parts, he rolled up his sleeves and founded Mouser Electronics in 1964.
By the time the San Diego company relocated to Mansfield in 1983, about 103 full-time employees filled its payroll.
Employees now total 1001 in 17 offices worldwide. But the lion’s share, 898 employees, works in Mansfield.
Rail and airport access helped lure the company to Texas.
“both of those were important,” said Smith, who also credited an educated workforce and cheaper real-estate prices in the decision to move.
The modest operation would grow and narrow it fouces thanks to Smith, who was hired as a warehouse operations employee and worked his way up to president and CEO of Mouser.
“At one time, we didn’t have focus,” Smith explained. “Our focus was, “Everyone ought to be a customer of ours.’ That’s not really a focus.”
So when TTI Inc., a passive component and connector supplier, acquired the firm in 200, Smith made supplying design engineers his raison d’etre. Mouser would fill any order, no matter how small.
“A lot of companies were focused on getting the big orders,” Smith said. “We thought, ‘What if you focused on trying to get the little order?’ That’s what we did.” The priority paid off.
Mouser’s latest sales results saw the company enjoy a 24 percent surge in global sales. Those second-quarter results helped Mouser achieve a 27 percent sales increase for the first half of 2011 compared with the same period in 2010. Its sales for that year totaled $498 million.
Component distribution may fly under the radar in terms of public awareness, but it’s a hotly competitive industry. Among Mouser’s primary competitors are Digi-Key Corp., Futurelec and Electronix Express.
Those companies and many others feed booming demand. Semiconductor sales alone generate $300 billion annually, according to the Semiconductor Industry Association. Driving the demand for electronic components are business and consumer purchases of computers and other equipment, according to First Research, a division of Hoover’s Inc., a corporate research firm.
Another Mouser executive acknowledges the competition but touts his firm as superior.
“Digi-Key doe a wonderful job of branding themselves, but are they the best at distribution? No, we think we are better,” said Larry Johannes, vice president of strategic marketing.
Exactly what does Mouser do to achieve success? It neither manufactures nor sells its own product line. Rather, it warehouses and distributes a dizzying array of electronic components.
Among its stock are semiconductors, integrated circuits and circuit protection devices.
The company fills large orders and ones seemingly invisible to the human eye.
“Some of these parts are the size of a grain of pepper,” Johannes said. “We’ll send you that grain of pepper overnight.”
That “overnight” aspect has been vital in establishing and maintaining a growing clientele, Smith said. So has keeping pace with online commerce.
The company’s website features more than 1.9 million products and is updated daily with parts from more than 400 suppliers. Those include Texas Instruments, Dallas Semiconductor and NEC.
“One of the reasons our system worked is because we discovered that design engineers were delivering a design, but it wasn’t necessarily the design they wanted to deliver. It was the one they could deliver,” Smith said. “They really wanted to build it ‘this way’, but could not becasue certain products were not on the shelf.”
By stocking its shelves even as the national economy sputtered, Mouser build a reputation for reliability that Smith believers benefited its bottom line.
Such success did not go unnoticed, Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. acquired the firm in 2007.
“We’re there, but are hidden from our competition,” Smith said of Mouser’s publicly owned status. “That why Berkshire was so appealing rather than doing an IPO (initial public offering).”
Customers can find Mouser at any of its 17 office locations.
“The local offices really do differentiate us in this industry,” Johannes said.
So does Mouser’s customer service policy.
“When I became president in 1988, we weren’t really good at customer service,” Smith said. “The customer service people didn’t understand that they were there to solve problems.”
Smith subsequently implemented a philosophy underlying every customer transaction and every decision made within the company.
“Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest,” said Smith, still inspired by the Mark Twain quote.
The company has acquired 18 acre abutting its Mansfield property and has added 350 employees in the past year. So, is more expansion or hiring imminent?
“We’re not going to build anything until we need it,” Smith said. “And we’re not going to hire people until we need them. Our goals right now are to continue delivering the best product and providing the best service we can.”
More information on Mouser Electronics Inc. is available by visiting www.mouser.com.