The Business Elite - CEO of the Year - Texas
From being a law enforcement officer based in California to CEO - William J. Clough, Esq explains to Corporate America his achievements and his contributions to the success of technology company CUI Global, Inc.
CUI Global, Inc. is a publicly-traded company dedicated to maximising shareholder value through the acquisition and development of innovative companies, products and technologies. We specialise in the development, commercialisation and distribution of new and innovative electro-mechanical and natural gas products. Just a couple of examples of what we provide include Orbital Gas Systems’ advanced GasPT2 analyser platform which targets the energy sector and also CUI’s digital power platform which serves the networking and telecom sectors. These are just two examples that showcase our diverse portfolio of industry-leading technologies touching many markets.
Because we are a publicly-traded company, shareholders can participate in the opportunities, revenues, and profits generated by the technologies, products and market channels of CUI Global and its subsidiaries. However, and most importantly, we have a commitment to conduct business with a high level of integrity, respect and philanthropic dedication. This then allows our organisation to make a significant difference in the lives of its customers, employees, investors and the global community.
As Chief Executive Officer and General Counsel, my role is to handle the day-to-day operation of our international facilities in North America, Europe and Asia. I also develop and implement the corporate vision, mergers and acquisitions strategy, product development, marketing and legal matters which can arise from operations. This is just a snapshot as to what I do at CUI Global.
I never thought I would become the CEO. My time at CUI Global started as an investor in 2006. I invested quite substantial money into the company and I originally came into the company as General Counsel, primarily to protect my investment. As things continued to deteriorate, I assumed the role of Acting CEO in late 2007. I was then appointed CEO full-time in early 2008, which fell in line with my targeted acquisition of our electro-mechanical division, CUI Inc.
I began my career as a law enforcement officer in California and I remained in that career for 16 years. During my time in law enforcement, I served as a Municipal Police Officer in California, a Command Officer (Division Commander) in Hawaii and two-years as a U.S Federal Air Marshall flying in Southern Europe and the Middle-East.
I had many varied roles whilst working in law-enforcement. These included being a SWAT Fire Team Leader, an Undercover Narcotics Officer, a Robbery-Rape-Homicide Investigator, a Patrol Supervisor and a K-9 Operator amongst others. After gaining a large and varied experience in this profession, I changed professions in the mid-80’s.
Having graduated with honours from the University of San Francisco, I got accepted into the University of California, Hasting College of the Law in 1987. I graduated from Hastings, cum laude, in 1990, passed the California BAR and opened my own California law firm with offices in the San Francisco-Bay area, Los Angeles and Honolulu. Whilst I was a California trial attorney for a busy 17 years, I argued cases at all levels, including before the U.S. Supreme Court. As a litigation attorney, I was also responsible for multiple jury verdicts, including several multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements. This varied background was extremely useful and prepared me for my position at CUI Global.
Most particularly, my experience in law enforcement makes me a strong believer in the ‘team approach’ to management and operations. I try to bring the same principles to my company and management team I used to motivate the highly specialised SWAT officers in the field. This was crucial, especially in situations which involved high stress and often life or death situations. I have found that these motivational principles work just as well at CUI Global as they did in managing these small, specialized tactical teams. The pillars of trust, loyalty, respect, shared objectives, communication and team cohesiveness all work just as well in the business environment. I try to employ all of these on a daily basis here at CUI Global.
Of course, I have had to face challenges whilst in my present and past positions. I have learned to adapt quickly when it comes to reacting to both unexpected and expected information and occurrences. It goes without saying that I have overcome many adverse situations in both of my past careers. However, my biggest challenge at CUI Global was when I first became involved with the company. At the beginning of my time with CUI, the company was making approximately $19 million in annual revenues, but had more than $40 million in debt. This was in 2008, when the world was entering the most devastating economic recession since the 1929 stock market crash. I and my team took on the momentous task of turning these figures around and last year we produced almost $90 million in revenue and had more than $7 million in ‘free cash’ - with effectively no debt. This dramatic turnaround has put the company on the path to a much brighter future.
How did we do it? That turnaround included the initial acquisition of CUI Inc. in May 2008, the subsequent acquisition of the proprietary natural gas metering technology (GasPT®) from DNV GL, the acquisition of Orbital Gas Systems Ltd, which is a highly respected natural gas integration company based in the UK and which we identified, pursued and negotiated in April 2013. Since the acquisition of Orbital, based in the UK, we have, among other things, secured a $3 million contract for the delivery of gas quality and metering stations within the UK Gas Distribution Network; been awarded a contract for delivery of 3,300 units of our proprietary GasPT analysers by the Italian pipeline company, Snam Rete Gas; sold trace element detectors (i.e., mercury (Hg)) to a Fortune 100 energy company for a large LNG project in Australia; and more.
The list of accomplishments/milestones continues with the opening of Orbital-N.A. in Houston, Texas – our North American gas integration company in January 2015 and, finally, the acquisition of Tectrol, now known as CUI Canada, which is a highly-respected Toronto-based electronic manufacturer in March of last year. Needless to say, I have had my hands extremely full since starting at CUI Global in 2008.
During my eight years at the company, I have also spearheaded two equity raises. The first being in February in 2011 for $15 million, which was in conjunction with our up listing to the NASDAQ. The second equity raise was for $48 million in April 2013, which allowed us to acquire Orbital Gas Systems Ltd. in the UK.
Most recently, CUI Inc. has expanded the agreement as the Exclusive Hardware Design Partner for Virtual Power Systems (VPS). We announced the news earlier this month as the exclusive third-party hardware and development provider for VPS. VPS is a cutting-edge Software Defined Power® company which transforms how data centres and server farms provision, and also managing and utilising power capacity. Briefly, VPS enables data centre operations to double their power and server utilisation. They also aim to cut costs and improve availability. We previously announced a limited exclusively agreement with VPS, but this new agreement expands it further. With this new agreement, we are confident that we will set a new standard for an efficient power infrastructure.
I believe that top individual performance is just as important as, and results in, better sales revenues throughout the business. Such performance is achieved by empowering and motivating our people to operate at the best and most efficient level. That is accomplished by driving down responsibility, accountability and authority, and strategically delegating responsibility throughout the organization, while at the same time rewarding our staffs’ outstanding performance at every turn.
Our products remain innovative due to employing the best and most qualified individuals to work as part of our team. We cultivate key customers as strategic and technical partners, who share their specific needs and requirements. I like to use a hockey phrase for our strategy in addressing industry needs; to wit: we ”skate to the puck” – which means we are hyper-responsive to our customers and thereby the industry needs. By being embedded with these customers, we can predict and address their needs almost before those needs arise. This is just part of what sets us apart from our competitors, as this is the way we keep up with industry trends.
Being an award-winning business leader, I would have to say my best attribute is undoubtedly my enthusiasm for the company, its products and the opportunities it presents. I believe that this enthusiasm, along with my commitment and loyalty to my team members enables me to build the vital trust, confidence and loyalty that is necessary for a management team and then a company to succeed in the fast-paced and high-technology arenas in which we operate and compete.
Whilst it is important to keep the team motivated, it is also just as important to keep myself motivated and positive-minded. To be honest, I am very fortunate to be in the position where I can say I have never worked in a job I did not enjoy. This was the case with my law enforcement and legal careers, right up to my current position. I take joy in what I do and I have been able to surround myself with very competent, high-performance individuals who are all positively motivated to succeed. These attributes are infectious and are what makes CUI Global a competitive and highly-motivated company.
In terms of the future and the current economic climate, it is difficult to predict exactly where we will be in five years’ time. However, we have an outstanding technology portfolio which in many ways, is industry shifting. I expect the next several years will be explosive in terms of both the growth of the company and the associated market penetration.
The most recent (and by far largest) award we have received is a contract for the deployment of 3,300 of our GasPT analysers across Europe’s largest natural gas pipeline transmission company. This tens-of-millions of euro opportunity is just one example of the type and size of business that CUI Global will generate over the next several years.
I believe that as CEO, my role is to motivate, educate, and develop my team to be the best they can possibly be. With that in mind, I am constantly searching for new and unique methods of enhancing the work environment, whilst also motivating and empowering my managers to increase their responsibilities, improve their efficiencies and in turn, allow their subordinates to grow and improve, as well. Being the CEO of CUI Global is an enormous task which involves tremendous work, but it is very rewarding. In the end, it is both enjoyable and exciting – In short, well-worth the effort!!!
Company name: CUI Global Inc.
Contact: William J. Clough, Esq
Address: 20050 SW 112TH Avenue, Tualatin, Oregon 97062
Telephone: 1-800-275-4899/ 1-503-612-2300