Electronics Industry Loses a Champion in Paul Andrews
Connector Supplier remembers Paul Andrews, TTI’s founder and CEO, who had a wide-ranging impact on the electronics industry, from distribution to education.
Apple famously started in a garage. But Paul Andrews did it first. In 1971, Andrews started an electronics distribution company, Tex-Tronics, in his garage in Austin, Texas. Under his energetic guidance, that humble startup grew into TTI Inc., an international electronics distribution powerhouse that has supported the development of technologies in every market and served as a guide to the greater electronics components industry. Andrews died on February 28 at the age of 78. His impact on the industry and the many people he encountered during his decades of leadership is immense and will live on as part of his legacy.
“He just wanted to be the best distributor of electronic components,” said Manuel Lozano, territory manager at AirBorn Inc. Lozano worked with Andrews as corporate product manager at TTI for 23 years. “He developed his own ‘software’ — although nobody called it that in the late ’70s — for TTI’s internal inventory management system. He just knew he needed it to manage those tiny resistors he was selling for less than a penny. That lead him to buy a mainframe computer. If you have a mainframe, you need programmers, so he hired them to write code and maximize that mainframe computer. He was just way ahead of his time.”
Lozano says that training across every department of the company, from warehouse to sales, was a key part of Andrews’ vision. “Quality was another biggie. He held mandatory quality meetings for all senior managers every month. They dissected the business from every angle. He probably attended 90% of those meetings, if not more. But it sent a message that quality was important to the company.”
When the company outgrew Andrews’ garage, he sought an unusual space in which to base his operations. Unlike other electronics distributors, who had their offices in industrial business areas — most often in Dallas — Andrews purchased a vacant department store in a strip mall in Fort Worth, accessibly located off major crossroads.
“What made this facility memorable was that you could easily visit TTI, and just a couple of doors down was a Woolworth’s Five & Dime,” said Lynda Nolen, director of databases, markets, regions, and connector products at Bishop & Associates, Inc. Nolen met Andrews in the mid-1980s, when she was the distributor sales manager for TRW Electronics, the parent company of Cinch Connectivity Solutions. At the time, Andrews had just started adding connectors to his line card.
“Paul knew that to succeed in the electronic distribution industry, particularly in connectors, you had to know the products and you had to be able to offer quick turnaround,” she said. “He had already seen how important having stock was when selling resistors, but having stock in connectors, because of their many variations, meant you had to be able to physically assemble them. To accomplish this, Paul hired some of the industry’s early connector gurus, people like Terry Diedrich, Ken Tillery, George Knower, Jerry Walker, and the head guru of circular mil-spec connectors, Mike Dent. He also went after some of the best connector lines around, from companies like Molex, Amphenol, and Amp. His perseverance, eye for detail, dedication to his employees, and relentless focus on training, quality, and the need to offer competitively priced, high-quality products in a reasonable time frame became the beacon of TTI’s success.”
TTI marks its 50th anniversary in 2021. The company now has more than 7,000 employees in over 133 locations around the world. Its subsidiaries include Mouser Electronics, Sager Electronics, and the TTI Semiconductor Group. In 2007, TTI was acquired by Berkshire Hathaway. Andrews remained CEO.
In addition to his business acumen, Andrews made a deep impression on a personal level in his interactions across the industry. “He genuinely cared for all the employees at TTI. He didn’t know them all, but he cared like he did and that was part of the TTI culture that no one can duplicate. He always talked about investing in the employees. He knew that if he took care of them, they would work harder to be the best,” said Lozano. “Mission accomplished, Paul.”
“The business world knows that Paul Andrews grew TTI from a peanut into a billion dollar enterprise. Certainly that’s a big deal. However, the really big deal is the type of person that Paul Andrews was,” said Ron Bishop, president and founder of Bishop & Associates, Inc. “He was Texas kind, honest to a fault, and fun to be around. He made time for you and he listened. Paul Andrews was a wonderful man, a man without pretense or agenda, and he was a role model for many of us on how to conduct a business life with integrity.”
The Electronics Representative Association (ERA) honored Andrews with its 2021 Lifetime Achievement Award. His acceptance speech, recorded for the March 2 virtual ERA Conference, is a fitting farewell to the industry.
In addition to his professional achievements, Andrews championed many causes through his significant philanthropic efforts, including the development of future innovators through educational initiatives. In 2007, he established the Paul E. Andrews Jr. Foundation, which focuses on education and healthcare. He also helped establish the Dr. Bob Woods Chair in Automotive Engineering at UT Arlington, the Paul and Judy Industrial Distribution Conference Center on the Texas A&M campus, and the Andrews Institute of Mathematics and Science at Texas Christian University, among many other notable gifts.
Andrews leaves behind his wife Judy, three children, and eight grandchildren.