The Player: Robin Saxby, Chief Executive of ARM Holdings: CEO who switches off the glamour of a global game
Wednesday 24 February 1999
ARM Holdings designs and licenses high-performance, low-cost microprocessors and system chips for mobile phones, computers, automobiles and almost anything else you care to mention. Its ambition is to make its technology into a global standard. Mr Saxby wants ARM to be to microprocessors what Windows is to personal computers.
An electronics graduate, he spent the early part of his career in design and development before moving into sales, marketing and engineering management. "The electronics business is a truly global business. So a great feature of my life is travel", he says. "Last week I was in the US, this week the UK and next week might be Japan. I don't believe in a head-office concept. It's an out dated notion. We're running a global business: 97 per cent of ARM's business is outside the UK.
"Running a hi-tech business is very different from running a traditional business. The only key thing I have to do every day is read my e-mail and identify issues that need attention. I also need thinking time and usually that's when I'm driving the car or in an airplane.
"I'm fortunate in that I've a lot of energy. I like skiing and play tennis so I try and have prime time which has nothing to do with work. I literally switch my brain: `This is worktime, this is playtime.' I get very little play in the week. I usually have my dinner and start working again. I'll log into my e-mail about midnight.
"At different stages of your corporate life there are different responsibilities. In my early life I was a design engineer and working with things rather than people. At the end of the day, though, physics is physics and perhaps now I'm chief executive things are more intangible.
"Somebody once said that the chief executive's role is to do what can't be done by anybody else. When ARM was only 12 engineers and me, I personally closed the first business deal, but now ARM is 355 people I work more through an executive summary of things.
"We now have 11 geographical locations and I can't be involved to the same level of detail as when the company was smaller. I'm out and about with investors and with the company, so there isn't a typical day. But as I am the most significant public face of ARM and we're in demand at the moment, it is a very active day.
"The head of the communication company we work with recently sent me an e-mail saying I'm difficult to get hold of. Well, that's one of the features of my life - it's very full, so planning and scheduling is a challenge.
"I am in e-mail contact all the time. I have a mobile phone, a Psion Series 5 and an HP Jornada - all of these things have our chips in them! I shuffle very little paper. Going into my office in Maidenhead, the first thing I'll always do is go through the e-mail that came in when I was asleep. I expect 50 to 60 a day.
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