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American Standard Circuits is a fun company to watch. They are always making moves—smart moves—to provide their customers with complete PCB solutions. In fact, they like to say that for an independent domestic PCB fabricator, they provide the most complete PCB solution in the market today. In keeping with this mission, they recently acquired offshore value-added provider Camtech Technologies, thus adding the ability to provide their customers with a complete offshore option. I recently sat down with Camtech Technologies founder and President Joe Nickerson, now the newly appointed American Standard Circuits’ VP of sales, to discuss Camtech and his new role with American Standard Circuits. It was an interesting talk.
Dan Beaulieu: Joe, thanks for taking the time to talk to me today. These are certainly exciting times for you, Camtech Technologies, and now American Standard Circuits. Please tell us a little bit about your background.
Nickerson: Well, like you Dan, I have been in the business for well over 30 years now. My dad was a sales manager and well as an independent rep—and I followed in his footsteps. I started as a customer service/inside salesperson for Continental Circuits here in the Phoenix area; I moved on as an independent rep and then formed Camtech Technologies in May of 2000. During my career, I have lived on the West Coast, primarily Arizona, and a couple of short stints in both Southern California and the San Francisco Bay area.
Beaulieu: Always in sales?
Joe Nickerson: Yes, definitely—starting with Continental Circuits, both inside and outside sales. I also represented many companies during my career including Pacific Circuits in Washington, CTS Interconnect, Unitech PCB, Gold Circuits and WUS PCB. Working with each of these world-class manufacturers, I learned a lot from each of them along the way.
Beaulieu: So, you’ve received a pretty classical education and experience in all facets of the sales process, haven’t you?
Nickerson: You could say that. Growing up on the streets and supporting our valued customers and partners for many years now.
Beaulieu: Those are the tools that every sales guy should have in his tool kit. Tell us about Camtech Technologies. When and why did you start the company, and what was its focus?
Nickerson: I started Camtech 17 years ago because I saw a need for some good offshore sourcing. I had gained great experience with Continental Circuits and felt we could take the business opportunity to a higher level and really expand it throughout the world. The key was certainly partnering with great companies both here and in Asia, and learning from them as well. I honestly believe you learn much more from listening versus talking. I see this every day—people we deal with—just talking and never listening. It drives me crazy sometimes! I also felt that I had a very good understanding and knowledge of the PCB and electronics industries and what it would take to be successful—and to do it on my terms.
Beaulieu: And you wanted to make some money.
Nickerson: Yes, that too, but if you treat your customers as you would like to be treated, over time you will gain their trust and it all works out in the end. So, we developed a strategy where we wanted to provide our customers with the right PCB solutions—which entailed having relationships with both domestic and Asian-based PCB companies. I believe it all comes down to the execution of processing their quotes and orders and delivering a high-quality product on-time. The devil is in the details!
Beaulieu: Joe, what do you mean by the right customers?
Nickerson: Those customers who would see the value in what we were providing. Companies that would appreciate the complete solution and service that our company was bringing and providing them.
Beaulieu: And what is that service? What do you do that others are not doing?
Nickerson: Our strategy was straightforward. We always want to make it as easy as possible for customers to purchase their PCB requirements from our team. Our goal is to turn the initial quote around for them as quickly as possible—and as detailed as possible—providing them with the technical specs to ensure what we are quoting is exactly what they were looking for in their PCB design. I have seen this for years. When we are presented with a target price—and upon review of our competitor’s quote—it’s not even close to what the customer is looking for; thus, our quote holds up and we are awarded the business.
Beaulieu: And how do you do that?
Nickerson: (Laughs) By working our butt off. Typically, 6−7 days a week—and I seem to be much more productive in the evening hours due to the limited distractions. Long hours are normal—and we are on the phone with our key suppliers in China each evening and early in the morning. If we can get the pricing and responses back from our suppliers the same day, we can provide our customers with a timely quote response. We really try to be there for them whenever they need us. And one of the most important things is being viewed as an extension of their purchasing team. Understanding their needs and requirements is crucial. They gain our trust over time and believe and feel comfortable with us that we have their best interest at heart. I believe that all business is about trust and reputation and that’s what we emphasize in all our business transactions and relationships.
Beaulieu: What services and products do you offer your customers?
Nickerson: Now with the partnering with the ASC team, we are in position to support both domestic and Asian manufactured PCBs, aluminum extrusions, cable harness assemblies, custom battery packs and metal parts. Whatever our customers’ need, we try to find a way to support them as our partner.
Beaulieu: Yes, I like that. I agree that it’s the right way to go. Why limit yourself when you can provide your customer with everything they need? You’re already spending all that time, effort, and money to see them, so why not sell everything they need and get the most from your sales dollars?
Nickerson: If they ask us—and we believe we can help them—certainly we are going to do what we can to support them! That’s the way I look at it.
Beaulieu: You recently merged with American Standard Circuits. What was the reason for getting together with Anaya and his team?
Nickerson: First, the ASC team are great people and have built a great reputation in the industry. I’ve worked with and known Anaya since the ‘90s from our days at Continental Circuits. While we didn’t work directly with each other, we respected each other—and when we first started our discussions, it was very comfortable and we felt the synergy immediately. In fact, a few months ago we had a flood in our warehouse and I asked Anaya and his team for some assistance and they really came through. It made me think that these are the kind of people we want to collaborate with. So, when we started talking about coming together, it all was very easy.
Beaulieu: I agree. You’ll certainly be able to offer a wide menu of printed circuit board products now that you are all one company.
Nickerson: That’s the thing; we can now offer our customers a true, full solution, from engineering support to prototype support and then take the project right into production without any issues. All the engineering has been completed and we have the Asian factory match our working files and away we go! I also like the U.S.-based engineering support which new we can provide to our customers. Our veteran engineering and manufacturing teams are very talented and an asset to our sales team. We can really rely on them to support us when it comes to servicing our customers the way we think they should be serviced.
Beaulieu: They are not afraid to try new things either.
Nickerson: That’s right, there are times when we might have to take on what we call a “science project” to get the business and with the folks at American Standard Circuits in West Chicago—we can count on them to do that for our customers.
Beaulieu: Not to mention the fact that you also will be able to take advantage of their existing sales team.
Nickerson: Absolutely. Like I said earlier, by combining our two companies I believe that we are now offering one of the widest selection of PCB products in North America today. And that’s a very good thing for our valued customers!
Beaulieu: Yes, it is, Joe. Once again, congratulations on the merger and good luck in the future.
Nickerson: Thanks Dan, very much appreciate it and we certainly look forward to the future.