How CEO Rich Templeton is Reinventing Texas Instruments
He's betting big on a new direction for one of the world’s leading semiconductor companies. Indications are that the wager is paying off.
Every year, he and Mary visit for a few hours with at least one of the agencies supported by the United Way. Last year, at the Trinity River Mission, they met a 13-year-old girl who was ready to take on the world because of the mission’s edict that she would attend college.
“Her world is changed forever,” Templeton says. “That’s when you get it out of the concept and it jumps to life pretty quickly.”
Templeton is accelerating his involvement this year as the new chairman of the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas Campaign for 2012. In February he accepted the “silver spurs” from AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, who was the first global CEO to take on the job. The companies raised more than $4 million apiece in the 2011-12 campaign.
“Chairing the United Way [campaign] was a simple decision,” Templeton says. “It’s an important cause, we care about it as a company, and it’s our turn.”
Jennifer Sampson, CEO of United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, says Templeton is the ideal person for the post because TI has a long history of UW involvement, and he understands what it means to give back.
“Rich sets the tone within his company, and he doesn’t ask his employees to do anything he isn’t willing to do himself,” Sampson says. “He’s an engineer with a really big heart. Rich has done an extremely good job at creating a culture at TI where giving back is a priority, and he’s very passionate about it. I guarantee he will knock it out the park this year.”
Another cause close to Templeton’s heart is the promotion of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (or STEM) education. The TI Foundation has donated millions of dollars to support STEM development, including a $5 million gift last year to the Plano Independent School District to advance STEM education and help launch and develop the district’s first academy in 2013.
These analog chips, among TI’s smallest, help manage cellphone batteries, for example.
“The word philanthropy gets used, but I look at it more as an investment,” Templeton says. “STEM is right at the heart of what we do. A high percentage of us [at TI] are enjoying this work and what we do because we love math and science. We had a great math and science teacher or multiple teachers. [We want to] make sure kids have that same opportunity today, in what turns out to be an even more technologically demanding society. Those used-to-be-nice-to-have skills are on their way to being a baseline of skills you need to have.”
The CEO, who calls himself “an adopted Catholic,” says he and his wife understand that education initiatives strengthen society. So they’ve been big supporters of local Catholic institutions such as St. Marks Catholic School, Ursuline Academy’s French Family Science, Math and Technology Center, and John Paul II High School, where they donated $2 million for an endowment fund.
Templeton has also encouraged research and innovation in his own backyard, which will help to keep the talent pool full for years to come.
University of Texas at Dallas President David Daniel says Templeton was a driving force behind creation of the Texas Analog Center of Excellence, the first and largest international, university-based analog technology center, in 2008. The center is a $16 million collaboration among the Semiconductor Research Corp., the State of Texas through its Texas Emerging Technology Fund, The University of Texas System, UT Dallas, and TI.
“TxACE came to be because Rich was on the board for the Semiconductor Research Corp., and they agreed that analog research was important,” Daniel says. “He convinced them to create the research center at UT Dallas. It enabled us to build a significant space, attract millions of dollars of resources, start the research, and hire people.”
Daniel says Templeton is a frequent UT Dallas visitor who not only visits him, but enjoys talking to and mentoring UTD students.
TI has also been successful in the realm of work/life-friendly culture, garnering a number of awards for that over the years. This truly seems like a place where diverse employees and working families are embraced and allowed to, well, have a life.
Templeton recalls negotiating deals from behind the backstop while coaching his kids’ baseball teams. He understands that children are only young for a short time, and he doesn’t want his employees to regret missing out on activities because of work.
“If your kids are younger, and I did it with mine, and you want to coach their teams, you schedule the practices like they’re a meeting and you get out there,” he says. “You can find a way to get your work done later at night and still do that. We’ve got a good set of people who are modeling that today. The best way is if a leader is standing up and leaving at 4:30; people know that a son or daughter has ballet, baseball or whatever it is. The behavior is now modeled. I don’t know if everybody feels balanced, but they’re encouraged you’ve got to feel good at both.”
These days, with his children grown, Templeton spends about half of his time away from the office, traveling across the globe to visit with some of the company’s 90,000 customers. He’s a big believer that if you want to know what’s going on inside a big company, then spend time outside of it. And, yes, customers are sometimes surprised when the big cheese shows up for a visit. But Templeton points out that he’s not the only one checking in with the customer.
“We’ve got a lot of guys doing that,” he says. “You go around at the senior and intermediate levels; their mail arrives in Dallas, but they spend a lot of time in the world with customers. If you can’t be in touch, it’s going to be tough.”
Inside TI, he schedules regular employee roundtables to learn more about what issues are on their minds. TI has about 35,000 employees in all, 9,100 of them in North Texas. At these roundtables, Templeton says, “you get to the heart of what’s not working, quickly.”
Not surprisingly, Templeton also takes a disciplined approach to his personal fitness regime. A triathlete for 15 years, he tries to work out daily and schedules his competitions to stay on track.
“I’m a big believer if something is on your calendar, it will force you to actually stay active and be in shape,” he says. “The best part of it is training and getting ready for it. In some ways, the parallels [to business] are high. For people willing to put in the investment and the preparation, the race is the easy event.”
He counts former Dallas Cowboys quarterback and commercial real estate mogul Roger Staubach among his friends—but the two don’t
work out together. “I work out a lot, too, but I know I couldn’t keep up with him,” Staubach says. “He’s in great shape.”
Every Thanksgiving morning, Staubach hosts a flag football game in different locations around Dallas, and the Templetons always join in the friendly competition. “They’re a great family and real active in the community,” Staubach says.
Several times a year, Templeton makes the trek to Washington, D.C., for Semiconductor Industry Association board meetings, where some of the country’s most influential industry CEOs preside. He also meets with policymakers to ensure they understand the issues facing his industry.
“Rich has an incredible ability to explain our innovations as an American innovation story that is unique and credible,” says the association’s Toohey. “He’s likeable, and his straightforward way is welcome in Washington.”
Templeton’s discussions often center around the idea that America can out-innovate and out-produce—if U.S. companies are given a fair playing field on trade issues, with competitive tax structures and R&D credits, Toohey says.
The U.S. has some of the finest research universities, but Templeton is frustrated that while the best minds come here to study, employers are limited by high-tech immigration policies.
“Using a sports analogy, these are the best athletes in world. You’ve brought them, you’ve trained them, and then we get wrapped up in a dysfunctional immigration debate as opposed to literally stapling a green card to every masters or Ph.D. in engineering,” he says. “We’ve
got to get that straightened out. It’s a dangerous policy long-term.”
By attracting and keeping the best minds and encouraging U.S. companies to be global leaders, Templeton says, good things will happen here.
Although most CEOs have been busy navigating choppy economic waters, natural disasters are obviously harder to forecast. The Japanese earthquake and tsunami last March created production setbacks for TI by damaging two of its factories, cutting into first-quarter 2011 income, and affecting second-quarter growth.
Templeton says he realized two things during that time. “The first is the culture,” he says. “In moments like that, you couldn’t be more proud of the way people reacted. We had a plane heading to Japan [to TI factories in Miho and Aizu] 15 hours later with volunteers with the right expertise to go and get involved. You just watched the energy of the organization rise up.”
Secondly, the TI team was prepared. It took food, water, and other emergency supplies to the Japanese employees and their families and set up assessment and recovery operations. Wafer production resumed in Aizu within two weeks; production at Miho, which suffered more damage, resumed within a few months.
Because TI owns the 1.1 million-square-foot plant called RFAB in Richardson—it’s the first in the world to churn out analog chips on 300 millimeter, instead of 200 mm, wafers—the company was positioned to respond quickly to the crisis, taking up the production slack.
“You can’t anticipate where those problems will be, but you can design your systems to be more resilient to absorb the impact when those things happen,” Templeton says.
That’s also one of the benefits of TI’s workplace longevity, he believes.
“This is a very experienced team, and we’ve seen the ups and down,” Templeton says. “The organization is not intimidated or distracted by ups and downs. Typically you find yourself able to make the best decisions when you look through those, as opposed to staring at what’s happening here and now. There’s a great benefit of the wisdom of people working here, and the experience of time.”