Since taking over as CEO in December 2015, Jeff Benck has rung the changes at Lantronix, the specialist supplier of networking products. His new business strategy – targeting the expanding Internet of Things – has been accompanied by a swathe of management appointments and plans to establish an engineering laboratory in India, where initial staffing has already begun.

According to Benck, he was determined to make sure the company took advantage of the increasing demand for machine to machine connectivity.

“Lantronix has a very large customer base with a who’s who customer list that includes companies like Intel, T-Mobile and Verizon. We also have some amazing assets – a skilled workforce and a great range of exciting products.

“However, the company should have been looking to play a much bigger role in our customers’ evolving IoT strategies. The opportunities are immense but, up until recently, we have been focused on our legacy business. The IoT was seen as little more than an interesting opportunity – as a result we were missing out on a vibrant, growing market.

“We’re working to ‘de-emphasise’ our legacy businesses, which we felt were unlikely to show significant growth going forward.”

The company’s recent results flag up the challenges which Benck is facing, with quarterly results remaining flat and the company trading at a loss. But he believes the impact of his strategy is beginning to take effect.

“During the third quarter of 2016, sales of our SLC 8000 – an advanced console manager – more than doubled over the same period in 2015. Sales jumped by 36% sequentially from the second quarter of fiscal 2016,” he says.

Level of support for making changes

Despite the scale of the changes he’s been making, Benck says that he’s been surprised at the level of support he’s received for making them, as well as the plans he’s outlined for the future.

“People have accepted the need for change in a company that hadn’t been taking advantage of the opportunities available to it, nor maximising its potential. The team has been very receptive, I think the employees were waiting for someone to provide them with a sense of direction – that specific direction being in the IoT market.

“In my opinion, as a CEO, you have to roll up your sleeves and be hands on – you need to lead from the front. I’ve met most of our leading customers to find out about the challenges which are confronting them, and have sought to better understand IoT networking and the trends that are driving the enterprise networking space, whether that’s software defined networking or cloud enablement.”

Benck has surrounded himself with a new team to help realise his ambitions for the company.

“In February, we appointed Sanjeev Datla as our chief technology officer. He was CEO and founder of Moxtreme, a Silicon Valley-based startup technology company focused on the development of a cloud-based application defined IoT and virtualised real-time messaging platform. He’s also had technology development roles at Emulex, Broadcom, ServerWorks and NEC Electronics,” Benck says.

“In March, we appointed Kevin Yoder as vice president of worldwide sales. Yoder had been vice president of sales for the Americas for Avago Technologies (now part of Broadcom).”

Benck admits some quiet satisfaction with the progress to date, but accepts there’s still much to do.

“We’ve just completed a restructuring of our businesses in the Americas and Asia Pacific Japan regions. So, having rationalised our product roadmap and refocused our investment plans to IoT solutions, we are finally generating some real momentum.

“We’ve certainly achieved a degree of stability here and have now put in place the building blocks necessary for future success.

“We were playing in a lot of segments,” he suggests, ”and we needed to rationalise the portfolio and become more focused. That meant we needed to pull out of certain markets.

“Our decision to end further developments in mobile printing, for example, was a tough call, but I think we realised that it wasn’t a big enough opportunity going forward and that it had been consuming resources and time that would be better used elsewhere.”

The decision making process saw Benck call for input from across the entire team at Lantronix.

“Out of those meetings, we distilled a common strategy that focuses on three key areas – the IoT space, IT management and mobile printing, although investment in that space will be scaled back significantly going forward.”

Earlier this year, Lantronix unveiled PremierWave 2050, an embedded IoT module.

“That module, designed specifically for applications where enterprise grade security and robust networking capabilities are mission critical, represents the type of product on which we will now be focused. Our objective has to be to help OEMs by reducing the complexity associated with wireless IoT and reducing development and solution deployment risks,” Benck explains.

“Over the past few months, I believe we have moved with a sense of real urgency to address a whole set of new objectives. The company is more stable as a result and I believe we are well placed to achieve substantive growth in the IoT market,” he concludes.

Jeff Benck was appointed president and CEO of Lantronix in December 2015. Prior to that, Benck served as president and CEO of Emulex, a supplier of networking, monitoring and management solutions. His other experience includes president and chief operating officer of QLogic, as well as 18 years at IBM, where he held a variety of executive roles, including vice president of xSeries, BladeCenter and Retail Store Solutions development.