Gimme Five – Ken Millar

He lives in Hertfordshire, has three children ranging from 11 to 25 years old and is a strong Liverpool FC supporter. A keen swimmer, he also enjoys yoga and cycling as a fun way to keep fit. He is an officer in the RAFVR(T) supporting the Air Cadets, a youth organisation sponsored by the Royal Air Force. When time allows, he also likes to write and is a lapsed member of the Clint Eastwood Appreciation Society.

1. What can customers get from a good distributor that they could not get by going direct to the manufacturer?

The ability to get a kit of parts. We can only supply Microchip but a distributor can supply a whole bill of materials, and the customers like that. They can offer choice, they can be more flexible on payment terms and they can have more local knowledge. That can be good and bad for us. Distribution represents a big area of our business. We have thousands of customers globally with a very broad customer base, and a large part of our business is through distribution, so it is something that we very much value. But they also have our competitors’ lines, so our job is to convince them to go with us. It is about convincing the distributor that we do a better job.

2. There are many microcontrollers out there. How does Microchip distinguish itself?

We have a portfolio that goes from 8 through 16 to 32bit. In 8bit, we have a very strong brand with Pic. I watched an old Have I Got News For You last night and in the part where they blank out newspaper headlines, there was a reference to Pic chips. It is a long established brand.

On 32bit, we have a different battle because we went down the Mips route rather than the Arm route. We like to be different. We were different originally when we went with the Pic. We think Mips is a strong architecture to go with. It is a good architecture.

3. Whether a cowboy or a cop, doesn’t Clint Eastwood basically play the same role in every film?

No, no, no. As a cowboy, he is silent and deadly. In his first film as a cowboy, he only said about ten words. He does a lot more in the cop films. Maybe it is the same role of good guy versus bad guy, but done differently.

I have been a fan for many years, since I was a teenager. I was too young for the first Dirty Harry film. He has very simple characterisation and the bad guy always gets his comeuppance. There are a lot of things about him that I like; Clint is a strong character with a simplistic approach to life, and the good guy always wins. If only real life was that simple.

My all time favourite film though is the original Get Carter with Michael Caine.

4. Liverpool have reached the final of the League Cup. How important is that in Kenny Dalglish’s attempts to turn the team round?

I don’t think it is as important as getting a strong position in the Premiership. We have to do better in the Premiership. The cups are important but not as important as getting into the Champions League places. But getting to the final was a fantastic achievement. This time last year we were hovering above the relegation places, so Kenny has turned the team round. We love Kenny.

Liverpool was my local team and it is important to support your local team, even though I no longer live in Liverpool.

5. You have worked for Japanese and American companies. Is there much difference?

Yes. The contrast between Japanese and American companies is the way that the planning is done. Japanese companies are more focussed on long-term objectives whereas American companies focus on short-term revenue. In the ones that I have worked for, it has seemed that the Americans are less formal, with Microchip very much so. I can approach the CEO. The culture in Japan is much more formal in terms of hierarchy. You have to go through a chain of command, but here if I want to talk with the CEO, I ring him.


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