The Silicon Review
“The key to our growth is keeping old customers – we have many who have been with us since we launched 32 years ago – while bringing in new ones.”
The semiconductor industry has created a tremendous, lasting significance on society and our daily lives. Every technological device that houses a microprocessor or transistor—from the smallest calculator to cell phones, or even microwaves—contains semiconductor science and microchips. In a day where we’re all powered up, plugged in, and connected using technology constantly, the IoT semiconductor market is substantial and projected IoT semiconductor spending in 2020 is estimated/expected to be $34B.
In light of the foregoing, we’re thrilled to present Linear Integrated Systems (LIS).
LIS is a third-generation, full-service semiconductor manufacturer providing high-quality discrete components. Its product line consists of Ultra-Low-Noise N-Channel and P-Channel Dual and Single JFETs, High-Speed Lateral DMOS Switches, Bipolar Transistors, BIFET Amplifiers, Current-Regulating Diodes, Low-Leakage Diodes, MOSFETs, PhotoFETS, and Voltage Controlled Resistors.
The company offers improved and direct replacements for over 2,000 current and discontinued small signal discretes from Fairchild, Vishay-Siliconix, Analog Devices, Interfet, Intersil, Motorola and National Semiconductor.
LIS serves a wide range of markets including automated test equipment, professional audio, medical electronics, military, and test and measurement.
The company was incorporated in 1987 and is headquartered in Fremont, California.
Timothy S. McCune, Linear Integrated Systems President, spoke exclusively to The Silicon Review. Below is an excerpt.
Q. Why was the company set up? How did you select the vertical and decide to be a part of the global platform?
Our company’s founder, John H. Hall, was one of the pioneers of the semiconductor industry and had set up operations in Europe and Asia prior to Linear Systems’ founding, so being global is in our DNA.
Mr. Hall brought with him a group of electronics industry customers who had worked with him in the past, and initially, we focused on building parts those companies needed. These were a group of low-noise, high-performance, and small-signal discrete semiconductors. We still have almost all of those customers 32 years later, but we’ve expanded into a range of ultra-high-end components that support the “world of a trillion sensors” and the IoT.
Q. What were the grounds on which you have expanded your company and its offerings over the years?
New products and new customers are often targets of opportunity. We’ve come up with new products that we thought offered valuable capabilities, sometimes they’re successful and sometimes not. But if someone comes to us with a problem that isn’t met by our current offerings, coming up with a new device or adapting an existing one can be the best way to grow our business.
Q. What kind of responses have you received from your consumers over the years? How have they motivated you to shape your offerings/grow the company?
When your customer base builds products at the high end of the market, by nature they’re demanding a lot of performance out of your components. Our transistors sell for perhaps a hundred or more times what those at the low end of the market do, and the quality of the parts has to live up to our promises. Sometimes that means a lot of calls between their engineers and ours to figure out why a finished product isn’t doing what it’s supposed to. Teaching our customers how they get the best out of our parts is as important as achieving the design and production levels we have.
Q. If you have to list five factors that have been/are the biggest asset to your organization, what would they be and why?
Understanding what your essential market value is, i.e., what you have to offer that other companies will pay you for. Many companies try to be something they’re not, and that’s a quick path to failure.
Avoid distractions, anything that takes away time, money and other resources from focusing on the company’s core market offerings. Side projects are fine for big, established companies but a laser-like focus is key to startup success.
Find people who are capable and committed to making the company a success. Getting the right mix of skill sets is key to being able to deliver any product. Commitment is also key – you don’t need people who live only for work, but if they’re glancing at their watch starting at 4 p.m., then they’re not going to be a big part of your future.
Don’t neglect the optics of what you’re doing. Startups don’t need impressive, expensive offices, but facilities, people, products and documentation need to look professional. Many startups fall into the trap of thinking their core technology is so impressive they don’t have to deliver it according to industry standards of professionalism. Few customers take chances on flaky businesses to be a long-term part of their business.
Customer service is key. Getting accurate feedback from customers can help transform an unsuccessful product into a successful one, and convincing customers to stick with you will give you a lease on life that you otherwise wouldn’t have. Often companies hire entry-level people for customer service or otherwise give it short-shrift when investing in a more capable person would pay off quickly.
Q. What do you feel are the reasons behind:
Your product popularity – No one ever gets fired because they chose Linear Systems’ semiconductors. Our popularity is due to our consistent high performance and excellent customer service. If a problem does arise, the company dedicates key staff members to ensure it’s resolved quickly and to the customer’s satisfaction if at all possible.
Your consistence growth as an organization – The key to our growth is keeping old customers – we have many who have been with us since we launched 32 years ago – while bringing in new ones. We’ve kept our focus on making the best products in our very narrow segment of the market, but also have worked to find new, important uses for them.
Q. Are there any trigger factors/events/individuals that have played key roles in shaping your organization’s road map?
In any industry, there are many external factors that shape our way forward, e.g., competitors going away, components becoming obsolete, new markets opening up. Internal factors can range from the death or retirement of key personnel to bringing aboard someone with new ideas and energy. The key factors are being aware of what’s happening and being open to change.
Q. What drives/inspires you to excel in your field of business?
Most costs in the semiconductor business are fixed, so when things are good, margins and cash flow are good. When sales are down, there’s a lot of pain. It’s more fun to hand out bonuses and hire new people than it is to have to make cuts.
Q. Do you have any new products ready to be rolled out into the market?
We add two or three new products every year, all related to our existing line of products. Aside from that, much of our innovation and market expansion is in finding ways to find and drive more performance out of our existing product line.
Q. Where do you see your company a couple of years from now?
At our current growth rate, we’ll double every five years. Our goal is to retain core quality and customer service while looking for ways to expand even faster.
Leadership | Linear Integrated Systems
Timothy S. McCune, President: Tim is a former journalist and business analyst who led Linear Systems’ sister company, Integrated Wave Technologies, Inc., from 2004 to 2014. During that time, it was named the 200th Faster Growing Company in the US by INC Magazine. In 2014, he was named president of Linear Systems and elected to its board of directors.
Cindy L. Johnson, CEO: Cindy is a four-decade semiconductor industry veteran who spent the first part of her career at Micro Power Systems, Inc., working directly with the head of that company, John H. Hall. When Hall founded Linear Systems in 1987, Cindy was a co-founder, general manager, and member of the board of directors. In 2014, she was named CEO of the company.