JimPinto.com - Connections for Growth & Success™
No. 212 : 28 June 2006

Keeping an eye on technology futures.
Business commentary - no hidden agendas.
New attitudes, no platitudes.

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12.5 mins.

MTL has crossed $100M with independent growth & success

In the "Corporate Culture Series" (published by Automation.com) I continue to examine leading industrial automation companies, providing comments and analysis that you won't find anywhere else.

The latest article in this series (June 2006) is a review of MTL - the UK-based company that has already crossed the significant $100M barrier. I've known MTL CEO Dr. Graeme Philp for many years and he participated personally in the writing of this review.

Measurement Technology Limited is recognized as a world leader in Intrinsic Safety products for hazardous areas. Growing beyond this niche, MTL is now a multi-national group of companies with a strong position as an automation infrastructure hardware provider.

MTL now employs over 800 people worldwide. Revenue in 2005 was 74M ($120M) with good profit margins and growth. The stock has been publicly traded since 1988, with a recent P/E ratio of about 16 and market-capitalization of 80M ($130M) (about 1X Revenue) pretty good in a flat market.

MTL was founded in Luton, England in 1971 by Ian Hutcheon and a group of engineers who were "made redundant" from Kent Instruments which was bought by Brown Boveri, now ABB . The formation and development of MTL is described in great detail by Ian Hutcheon in his 1996 book, "Amateurs Can Do It The MTL Story" (weblink).

Incidentally, I first met Ian Hutcheon in 1965 in the board room of Kent Instruments when they were considering acquisition of my startup company Kent Electronics (located in Tonbridge, Kent with a confusing name). I remember the imposing Directors' Dining Room, and old Commander Kent who personally poured my glass of Sherry before lunch. Ian and I met again in Feb. 1998, when I was visiting MTL after my company Action Instruments was acquired by Eurotherm. When we sat down to reminisce, he gave me a copy of his book, with the inscription: "To Jim Pinto, fellow amateur". From Ian Hutcheon, that was high praise indeed.

After MTL went public in 1988 at about 9M revenue, Ian Hutcheon was advised to hire a "professional manager", which he did with disastrous consequences (from his viewpoint); this kind of mismatch often happens with founders.

Ian Hutcheon then looked in the Kent "nursery" for young talent and found Graeme Philp who was then 33 and just completing his Ph.D. Graeme joined in 1991 when MTL was about 15M. He was appointed Managing Director in 1991 and CEO in 1995, a position he has held ever since. This represents a significant and successful management transfer from the founder to a new breed of professional manager.

MTL now has four primary Divisions: Hazardous Area Products, Surge Technologies, MTL Open System Technologies (MOST), and Visualization (2005 acquisition).

Markets: Primarily where flammable materials are handled. Oil & Gas & Refining (56%), Pharmaceutical (14%) Chemical (10%), Utilities (4%) Wireless & Industrial Networks (8%), and Other (8%).

Sales Channels: Major sales operations in the UK and USA, with sales offices and representatives in more than 50 countries worldwide.

Geographical: In 2005 the UK represented 13% of sales, N. America (USA, Canada, Mexico) 44%, rest of Europe, Africa and Mid-east 20%, Australia and New Zealand 3%, Asia 16%. The relatively small UK revenue ratio shows the MTL commitment to global operations.

Growth Strategy: Hazardous Area and Surge Protection leadership will grow into closely associated areas. Positioning as a leading supplier of networking and interconnect components for the process industry. Growth will be supplemented through strategic acquisitions.

Corporate Culture: MTL started with founder Ian Hutcheon's push to stimulate flair and entrepreneurism. His "Keep it Simple" mantra is still an acid test for overblown marketing plans, and reflected in an ethos that expects the company to be run by engineers.

I asked Graeme Philp whether MTL, with widely held stock, could be acquired by a larger company. His response: MTL is clearly a niche player, and supplies several major automation companies; the competitive position would be adversely affected by close alignment with any one supplier. Because of this, MTL have never had sustained interest from any corporate acquirer and expects to remain independent.

Having been with MTL for almost two decades, as CEO for much of that time, Graeme Philp has a good understanding of the successive growth phases and the changes that are necessary for growth. In the final analysis, continued growth and success always stems from the top.

Click Automation.com - More detailed article on the MTL Story

Click MTL Instruments Group - Overview (includes several links)

Ian Hutcheon - Amateurs can do it Book: "Amateurs Can Do It: The MTL Story" - Buy from Amazon.com

Click Automation.com - Corporate Culture Series

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The Immigration Deadlock

It's very frustrating. Some people mistakenly think that I support "illegal" immigration because I took part in an Immigration march. I wrote that borders between rich and poor countries are impossible to close; again, some people mistook that as my suggesting that borders should not be closed.

I keep following the endless debates and confused responses from all sides. Let me try to summarize my views again, helped by an email that came recently via Dick Morley's prolific list.

  • We cannot keep all illegals out
    No matter what we do, desperate people will find ways to enter. They come to find employment, to improve their lives. Walls, fences and troops will keep some of them out, but not all. What we must do as is to help those who wish to come legally and reduce the jobs available for illegals. This applies not only to Mexicans, but also immigrants from Asia, the Caribbean, Africa, Canada, Europe and elsewhere.
  • Prosecute those who hire illegals
    American companies that hire illegals should prosecuted for breaking the law. Very few companies are actually prosecuted.
  • Stop complaining about costs
    Illegal immigrants contribute more than the cost of social services they use. Some people argue that illegal immigrants cost lots of money for education, health care, social services, etc. That's NOT true. Most illegal immigrants pay taxes, but don't collect any benefits for fear of being found out. In California, the State gains 10:1 through uncollected benefits.
  • Mixed families are a major issue
    An estimated 20 million illegals live in the US. Their minor children cannot be forced to leave if they are citizens. Yet they cannot stay if their parents are deported.
  • Constitutional Rights
    Most immigrants' children are American citizens, born in America. 90% speak English fluently and make positive contributions. Stop lumping them with a few freeloaders. They are entitled to health care and education on the same basis as any other Americans.
  • Who will deny hospital care?
    If the child (regardless of citizenship) shows up at a hospital Emergency Room desperately sick, can anyone turn that child away because his parents are illegal? I think not. A sick kid is a sick kid and no responsible caregiver would deny care.
I wholeheartedly agree that illegal immigration is a major problem and any sovereign state has the right to control the flow of non-citizens across its borders. But let's stop trying to deal with the problem with simplistic nonsense like walls and troops. These politically-motivated "solutions" will NOT solve the problem.

In future issues of eNews, I'll publish solutions that I think have merit. Those that simply suggest "higher walls and military response" will quickly be subjected to my "delete" button.

Click CBS 60-minutes - Dying To Get In

Click In Focus: The Immigration Debate

Click Immigration, the unsolvable problem

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Bill Gates quits to run Charity - Warren Buffet donates $35B

Think what it's like to be Bill Gates. At 50, he's the world's greatest geek, its richest man, and its most ambitious philanthropist.

Bill Gates is accustomed to focusing his considerable intelligence and energy on whatever he chooses, knowing that it will have enormous impact. And he's evidently balanced enough to recognize that he (like all of us) has only limited time in which to do something really worthwhile. His recent decision to "shift priorities" and focus full-time on philanthropy is clearly the result of much soul-searching.

The world's two richest men, Bill Gates & Warren Buffett, are good friends. Bill and his wife Melinda credit Buffett with inspiring their thinking about giving back to society. Now Warren Buffet too has come to a momentous decision. He is giving most of his fortune, worth well over $40 billion, to charity - most of it to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the world's largest philanthropic organization. Clearly, the two friends have helped to balance each other with humanity and rationality that is completely atypical of the ultra-rich.

Consider what happens to other amassed wealth. Part of Conrad Hilton's fortune was wasted on the profligate Paris Hilton. And one wonders where the spoils of Enron and Worldcom and Tyco's Koslowski will eventually be dissipated. And stay tuned for the fights over deceased TV Producer Aaron Spelling's fortune.

You know, I wrote two whimsical poems, published by Upside magazine in 1998, about the devil and Bill Gates:

    "You are filthy rich, Bill, and it's time to fulfill,"
    Quoth the devil, "So let's not delay.
    You sold me your soul; you must pay the toll,
    And I've come now to take you away!"
And then Bill pleads with God to save him:
    "Thanks for seeing me, dear God!" said Bill Gates with a nod,
    "Do you mind if we chat for a while?
    That Lucifer chap has me in a trap,
    Now I need You to help reconcile."
You might wish to read the poems (weblinks below) to see what transpires. Hey, I know Bill read those poems - because both Upside and I sent him copies (smile).

Click Bill Gates reboots

Click Warren Buffett gives away his fortune

Click Pinto poem - Bill Gates & the devil

Click Pinto poem: Bill Gates pleads with God

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Podcasting popularity soars

Podcasting is the automatic downloading of files, tracked by XML files which are regularly updated to reflect new content. These are usually audio or video files, but could also be images, text, PDF, or any file type.

Like Radio, the term podcast can mean both the content and the method of delivery. The host or author of a podcast is the podcaster. Podcasters' web sites may offer direct download or streaming files; but a true podcast offers the ability to be downloaded automatically using software capable of reading standard RSS or Atom feeds.

The publish/subscribe model of podcasting is "push technology" in that the podcaster chooses which files to offer in a feed, and the subscriber chooses among available feed channels. The receiver is free to subscribe to (or unsubscribe from) a vast array of podcasts.

I now regularly podcast audio summaries of eNews, as well as InTech's weekly Pinto's Points. My audio podcasts are not "hi-fi" recordings (large files take time to download). File size is typically 100K per minute (10-15 minutes for an eNews summary, 3-4 minutes for Pinto's Points). Most people can download fast with a DSL or cable-modem, and it's still manageable for those who are tied to telephone-modems.

Many people say they listen to audio summaries of eNews as they commute to work, or as they travel, via CD-recordings or MP3 downloads to iPod or equivalents; they read the text later.

Pinto Podcasts are registered them with several podcast "aggregators" - the primary one being Apple iTunes, if you have an iPod. And hey, I've got cover-art and meta-tags and all the niceties which make the difference.

Let me assure those who don't listen to podcasts that the good, old-fashioned text (or web) versions of JimPinto.com eNews will still be available. So hey! Read the text or web versions as you used to. And, those who'd like to hear an audio summary, just download the MP3 audio. For podcast feeds, click on the links below. The "PodBots" are constantly checking for updates and the Pinto podcasts will show up automatically in your computer.

Click Wikipedia - On Podcasting

Click Apple iTunes - Pinto Podcasts

Click Jim Pinto Podcasts at Podfeed.net

Click Australia - The Pod Lounge

Click InTech eNews - Pinto Podcasts - RSS link

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JimPinto.com website Advertising

The JimPinto.com website generates a lot of regular traffic (some 2,000 visits and 25,000 hits a day) and many people have suggested that I should include some carefully targeted advertising.

Well, I recently changed webpage formats to 800-pixel width; some have suggested that is too wide for a single-column reading format. So I thought - why not keep the 600-pixel-wide format and include some judicious advertising in the remaining width?

Take a look, and tell me what you think? I'm considering inclusion of selected advertising on the home page (Amazon.com and some reading suggestions for now, as a test). Rick Zabel of Automation.com has suggested Google AdSense to provide useful, topical links for subjects covered.

I must mention that this text-format email version of eNews will not include any advertising. You don't need to be ambushed with a sales pitch while you read my commentary. But, the 600-width web-version of eNews will include some topical advertising in the right column.

What's your opinion? Please let me know what YOU think. Thanks much.

Click Look at the JimPinto.com Homepage & give me some feedback

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Doug Burgan [dlburgan@marathonpetroleum.com] comes up with an idea to leverage the cost of the Iraqi war:
    "In the world of economics, the price signal is the strongest mechanism for adjusting supply and demand. Why don't we use the price signal to test the country's appetite for waging foreign police actions?

    "According to a recent MSNBC article, the Iraq (undeclared) war is costing the American Treasury $200 million per day. At the same time America is importing about 10 Million barrels-per-day of Crude Oil.

    "If we wanted to make the cost of the war transparent to the American taxpayer, congress could levy a tax of $20/Barrel of imported crude oil to pay for our foreign adventure. This tax could be adjusted quarterly to cover the cost of any foreign military involvements.

    "If the Middle East wars are truly to protect our access to Middle East oil, such a direct tax would be appropriate. A number of outcomes seem possible. We might:

    • Shorten the war.
    • Reduce crude oil imports.
    • Accelerate the implementation of alternative fuels.
    • Encourage more fuel-efficient vehicles.

    "We would definitely encourage the production of domestic crude oil. We might even discourage the politicians' appetite for waging ill-conceived wars (although that is unlikely)."

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Dan J. Trudeau [dtrudeau@prausa.com] provides some additional job hunting suggestions:

    I'm a Staffing Consultant, specializing in control technologies, so the job-search tips in your latest newsletter grabbed me.

    "One thing I tell anyone on the job hunt is never put yourself in a desperate mindset, even if you really are at the end of your rope, because you set yourself up to be taken advantage of, or to accept what would really be an unacceptable position.

    "Also, when working with recruiters like myself, make sure they have an interest in your real needs in a new position and aren't just throwing jobs at you. If they aren't doing their homework with you, it's probably a sign that they haven't with their clients either.

    "This is especially important if they want some time to represent you exclusively. You could find yourself wasting a lot of time talking to people about bad fits."

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Mike Marullo [MAM@InfoNetrix.com] on the discussions about women & leadership:

    "I, for one, am tired of hearing all this nonsense about whether or not we're ready for a woman president. It isn't about whether we're ready for A woman president; it's about whether we're ready for a particular woman to be president, whoever that may be!

    "Why do we think we have to make everything a class-action? Are we ready for a German president? A blond president? A blind president? (Okay, let's not go there...); A 7-foot-tall president?

    "Why not put aside what class, race, religion, party, (species?) our leaders belong to and start focusing on leadership - assuming, of course, that anyone is still interested in that quality and it hasn't become completely mutually exclusive with political service (though I fear that it has).

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Book Choice
Ian Hutcheon - Amateurs can do it
MTL Founder
Ian Hutcheon
Amateurs can do it

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