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Industry veteran and consultant Dan Beaulieu, owner of DB Management, and I sat down at IPC APEX EXPO to reminisce on Beaulieu’s more than four decades in the business, the trend toward a more marketing savvy industry and how strategic consulting often plays out for companies in this industry.
Barry Matties: Here we are, Dan, at day two of the IPC APEX EXPO. What are your impressions so far?
Dan Beaulieu: Really good. I think it ended strongly yesterday. It seemed to start a little slow and then by the afternoon it felt really strong. I'm looking forward to today. A lot of action I think is going to happen today, the middle day.
Matties: You've been consulting in the industry for a number of years. How long have you been at this?
Beaulieu: Believe it or not, I've been in the industry 42 years, the last twenty as a consultant. It was in 1995 that we started DB Management. So this is the twentieth year, which I just realized the other day.
Matties: I think we first met back in Wisconsin. You were at Cadence.
Beaulieu: I was at Automated Systems, but yes, Cadence owned Automated Systems. I remember you guys came in, you and Ray and Barb, and we did an article on the technology and all of that.
Matties: Right, so here we are twenty years later. What's changed the most in that time that you’ve seen? Is it attitude, is it market, is it cases?
Beaulieu: I'll give you guys a compliment. It's a lot more marketing. The minds are open to marketing and I give you credit for that. Because even when you had the magazine [Circuitree], I know it was harder to get ads. People are more open to it now and when you had the magazine it was sure as hell harder to get ads from board houses. The vendors have always been there, but the board houses weren't and now I see a lot more of that. People are getting a little savvier, their marketing IQ is a little higher, and they want to be famous. I think that has helped a lot. I think putting the mic on people has helped a lot. They've gone from "I don't want to do this, I don't want to do this," to "when's my interview?" Three years later, they’re saying, "how many interviews do you have for me?" So I think these things have helped make them aware of needing to tell somebody what they do. Everybody's concerned about that now. I do this great stuff. That used to be my pitch. You do this great stuff. Why don't you go tell somebody? Now it's like, I need to tell somebody I'm doing this great stuff. I think that's the biggest difference.
Matties: When you're going into a shop, you're going in from a strategic point of view, to help the customers?
Beaulieu: Completely. Almost always, Barry, whatever we set up as my deliverables often get thrown out very quickly. It's not my choice, because I go in more or less like a personal trainer. You want to be famous and here's what we're going to do, and it's very basic. In March there's going to be two press releases, and an interview; talk to I-Connect007 about an ad package. In April it's going to be this: update the website. We do those things but along the way they realize—I've told you before I'm sort of a Mr. Haney—they need a piece of equipment, they need a sales guy, they need software. They need something to get better. I usually end up saying "I'm going to help you be better, whatever it takes." In some cases it’s as a personal adviser, a trusted adviser.
If you think about it, a lot of these companies—I'm not talking the giants of course—but the five, ten, 20 million dollar owners have no one to talk to. If they're unhappy with their chiefs of staff, their GMs, they can't talk to them or anybody lower than that, about it. They have conversations about that. Years ago, and I haven't seen it much lately, when they would have to do lay-offs, they needed endorsement. They needed, "Yeah this is the right thing to do," and a little push to help them understand that it's going to be an unpleasant Friday, but it has to be done to save the other 75% of the staff. I end up doing a lot of that kind of stuff.
Matties: Well, good. Congratulations on so many years in business, and thanks for spending time with us today.
Beaulieu: Sure, no problem.